‘Icehawks’ hope to skate off recent skid

Brian Carpenter, Staff Writer

After the UNC Wilmington club hockey team lost both games to North Carolina and North Carolina State, the ‘Icehawks’ will return to action this weekend. The team will play a road game against the College of Charleston Friday night and then return home to play Coastal Carolina Saturday night at the Wilmington Ice House.

Finding motivation in a tough situation

To say it has been a tough season for the Seahawks in Division II would be an understatement. UNCW is 2-10-2 which is not a season the hockey team is used to having considering their major success in Division III. For starting goaltender Ryan Besemer, finding motivation at this point in the season is something he has really struggled with.

“I feel like at this point in the season it is really hard (to stay motivated). If we come out with a good two games that is huge because it would help get myself going. Mentally, I am just out of it and it is hard as a goalie to stick with it when you are being scored on and facing so many shots each game.”

A closer look at UNCW’s opponents

College of Charleston and Coastal Carolina are both Division III teams in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) which means these are both winnable games for the Seahawks. The Seahawks played two games earlier in the season against a familiar Division III opponent in Christopher Newport, dropping both of those games by finals of 4-2 and 2-1 (OT) back in mid-November.

Charleston comes in with a 0-13-2 record on the year and this will be the last game of their season. The Cougars leading scorer is Peter Sarath who comes into this weekend with 15 points (12 goals and three assists) in 15 games. On the surface, goaltending seems to be a major problem for the Cougars, as their two goaltenders each have a GAA (Goals Against Average) of 4.80 and 6.79 with save percentages of .845 and .690.

Coastal Carolina comes in with a 10-6-1 on the season following two losses to Christopher Newport last weekend. Just like NC State, the Chanticleers will bring a well-balanced attack to the game Saturday night. Currently, six of their players have at least 23 points with the overall leading scorer being Brenden Eng Tow with 40 points (21 goals and 19 assists).

A rivalry renewed

 UNCW and Coastal Carolina have become extremely familiar with each other over the past five seasons on the ice. Since the 2013-14 season, the Seahawks and Chanticleers have played each other a total of eight times, with UNCW winning seven of those meetings (one of those wins coming by forfeit).

Despite the dominance UNCW has shown, one of the more unique elements to this rivalry is the battle for home ice. Both teams call the Wilmington Ice House home, even though Coastal Carolina’s campus in Conway, South Carolina is a little over an hour and a half from the rink. Forward Will Tooke and the team understands how much this means to the team to defend their home rink.

“We are all pumped to play Coastal Carolina. They have been a rival for a long time and even the new players know that it is the battle for home ice. We are all going to take it seriously and know that it is a very beatable team. We can’t leave anything on the ice.”

Discipline is key 

In a season where the team has been trailing in games more than they have been leading them, discipline can sometimes fall by the wayside. However, the coaches continue to preach to the players that they need to stay out of the penalty box and play smart.

“It’s tough because we get down a couple of goals and it’s tough to get that momentum back, especially for this team with a bunch of new guys,” said Tooke. “It’s definitely a lot of emphasis on discipline and staying calm with the puck and not overthinking or jumping too soon.”

Following Friday night’s game which is now set to start at 9:15 PM, Saturday night’s home game at the Ice House will start at 10 PM. Tickets can be bought at the door and prices remain the same at $8 for adults, $5 for students and $3 for kids 10 and under.