Club hockey hosts Triangle opponents this weekend

Brian Carpenter, Staff Writer

After a two month break, UNC Wilmington club hockey (2-8-1) will return to the Wilmington Ice House to battle two of their Carolina East division opponents. On Friday night, the Seahawks will face North Carolina (5-11) at 10 PM and on Saturday, the team will play North Carolina State (15-0) at 4:30 PM.

‘Icehawks’ prepare for first home weekend of the season

 In what has been considered a very strange season for UNCW hockey, another oddity will commence this weekend. This weekend will be the first and only full weekend that the Seahawks will be able to play games at their home rink all season. The Seahawks had two weekends scheduled in September where they were set to play home games against Coastal Carolina and College of Charleston, but Hurricane Florence forced all of those games to be canceled.

“We’re pretty excited,” said sophomore forward Logan Young on returning back to home ice. “Obviously, the hurricane didn’t help out that much. We have two big divisional opponents coming up and hopefully, we can get the house packed and have two great games.”

This will be the Seahawks first home game since they opened the season on Sept. 7 against Wake Forest. Wake Forest would go on to win that game by a final of 4-2.

Taking a closer at UNCW’s opponents

UNC comes into this weekend having won their last two games, beating Elon by a final score of 5-4 in both contests. UNC simply outplayed UNCW in the team’s previous meeting back on Nov. 2, when UNC won the game by a final of 9-3. UNCW led that game 2-1 at the end of the first period but four goals scored by UNC in both the second and third periods propelled UNC past the Seahawks.

“I think we have the more talented team than them,” said head coach Matt Huestis looking back on the previous meeting. “That game specifically this year has been rubbing me the wrong way since it happened because, on paper, they might win a one or two goal game against us, but I really think we have better personnel.”

NC State, on the other hand, has consistently been one of the best teams in the entire southeast region in Division Two of the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association). They currently are the only undefeated team in the region and have already clinched a playoff berth. In the ACHA’s most recent regional ranking, the Wolfpack placed #6 out of 20 total teams in the Southeast region. NC State has outscored opponents 115-32 and has 11 players with at least 10 or more total points.

In the meeting between these two teams back on Oct. 19, the Seahawks trailed NC State by a score of 2-0 at the end of the second period. However, a four-goal third period pushed the Wolfpack to a 6-0 win, but the Seahawks kept the game close throughout the majority of the game. Assistant coach Peter Gilinson said following that game that the Seahawks just lost their legs by the time the third period rolled around which led to State pushing the lead so much in their favor.

Although Huestis doesn’t see many weaknesses at all when evaluating the Wolfpack, he does see something in his team that might allow them to pull off the upset. “If we can get an early lead on NC State, anything can happen after that. They might overlook us for a few minutes before they can get it together and hopefully, we can get that advantage.”

‘Icehawks’ eager to begin a new semester

After a fall semester that saw many in the UNCW community face challenges, the hockey team is ready to get back on the ice and start fresh. The team feels confident following a strong week of practices according to Young.

“We had two really good practices this week that had a lot of skating. We definitely had a good week and we are looking forward to coming out and playing hard,” said Young.

For Huestis, the message to the team remains simple. Move forward from last semester and focus on the challenges that lie ahead in the new semester.

“If we win five out of our last six games, we have an outside shot at making the ACC tournament which is our goal,” Huestis added that if the team puts the talent together that he sees in them for an entire 60 minutes, the team can get off to a 1-0 start in the new semester.

Tickets for both Friday and Saturday’s game can be bought at the door of the Ice House. As always, tickets for UNCW students remain at $5 with a One Card, $8 for adults, and $3 for kids 10 and under.