NC State Wolfpack vs UNC Tar Heels: Wolfpack Steal a Late Victory over Rivals

At PNC Arena, NC State defeated Carolina 3-1. Regardless of the score, the night was a successful showcase of how far hockey has come in North Carolina.

This match up was hyped up on Twitter and on our own website, but wow, that was something special. In truly dramatic fashion, North Carolina State defeated the University of North Carolina by a score of 3-1. For a game played at the college club level, it provided one of the best atmospheres and some of the best entertainment seen at PNC Arena this season.

Although not officially announced, a crowd of likely over 5,000 people showed up for the Backyard Brawl between the two schools. The hype was building as more and more people showed up to PNC Arena. Thankfully, the fans were not disappointed. They were treated to a magnificent game.

Carolina started the game on the front foot and was rewarded with a 1st period goal. Senior AJ Hamel was able to jump on a loose puck and storm in on goal, scoring with a quick move to the forehand. The Heels held their lead into the 2nd period.

In the middle frame, Carolina lost their composure. It seemed as though every 2 minutes the Heels were penalized. After numerous power plays, State finally converted. A beautiful goal was scored by Sam Banasiewicz, who cut inside and roofed it in close.

As the period was drawing to a close, the play got extremely chippy. Penalties were levied back and forth for both sides, creating some really open hockey for the 3rd period. UNC nearly took the lead from a backhander on the rush, but it wrung the crossbar with about 8 minutes to go in the game.

The tie was finally broken late in period 3. Banasiewicz did all the work himself as he split the defense and rifled a wrist shot against the grain of the goalie, winning the game for the Pack. State forward Jack MacDonald added another goal on an odd man rush to seal it a minute later.

Despite starting strong, UNC’s downfall came when they began to take penalty after penalty. From that point on, they were always behind the eight ball. If it wasn’t for a great goaltending performance from Gabe Harousseau, it could have been a lot worse. On the other end, State net minder Calvin Stone was equally incredible in this game. For long stretches of the game, both keepers were making amazing save after amazing save.

Although the game itself was great, the real star tonight was the fans. As some of our readers may know, I currently attend UNC as a sophomore, so I joined up with some of my friends from State to watch this game. Sadly for me, my beloved Tar Heels lost in the last couple minutes, but it was well worth it. Being part of that rowdy crowd was something special. Carolina fans travelled in solid numbers and has their own section, where the stood the whole game and taunted the Wolfpack faithful. On the other side, State’s fans were just as into it. Their marching band led them in chants that inspired their team on the ice. Even as a Tar Heel, I was impressed by the roar of the crowd when State took the lead late in the game. It was one of the better crowds I have personally been a part of.

There are already calls to make this game an annual tradition. It should be. Based off of what was on display tonight, this game brought out the very best in the sports culture of this area through hockey. Half of the lower bowl was packed for this game and there is certainly potential for it to grow from that. Also, opening up this type of rivalry game to both Duke and Wake Forest as well could make it even greater. Like the Triangle’s own Beanpot tournament.

This all comes back to a larger point. For the last 3 years, relocation rumors have dogged the Hurricanes and their fans to annoying degree. Attendance for Canes games hasn’t helped stop the rumblings. However, if anyone wants to know why hockey is staying in Carolina, this game is why. On a Thursday night, somewhere close to 6000 people turned up to a second division club hockey game between UNC and NC State at an NHL venue and were treated to an exceptional hockey game and atmosphere. Oh, and this was in Raleigh, North Carolina. It really says something about the growth of this sport that a night like this was able to happen. Just because the Hurricanes have struggled doesn’t mean this market isn’t passionate about the sport. This night proved the passion is still here and is very much alive.

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