The NC State Icepack defeated the Kentucky Wildcats for the second day in a row on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Wake Competition Center. Both sides scored in the first minute of the game, setting the tone for the high-scoring 8-5 contest.
The Wildcats figuratively punched the Pack in the mouth to open the scoring, slotting a low shot past junior goaltender Griffin Hunt after just 13 seconds of play. The Wolfpack wasted no time to respond as senior forward Colby Pederson netted the equalizer just 23 seconds later.
“Those first 36 sections of the game were wild,” said head coach Tim Healy. “We answered back right away. That was just a precursor of the wildness to come.”
The figurative punches soon became literal as the game became increasingly physical. After almost 10 minutes of bruising each other on the boards and chirping at each other in between plays, the tension came to an early head as Pederson got into an altercation with a Wildcat defender in front of Kentucky’s net. The two adversaries quickly wrestled each other to the ground and had to be forcibly separated by the referee.
“That's not really our game or the way we want to play,” junior forward Chris Solomon said. “So [the animosity] might have favored them a little in that category. But we made up for it with the power play.”
The two squads continued to go at it throughout the game, but the hockey itself was quite the spectacle as well. The first period ended with Kentucky up 2-1, but the Icepack came out of the first intermission with its hair on fire. After barraging the Kentucky net for several minutes, junior forward Matt Miller put the Pack level at 2-2 with 12:52 left in the second period. By the time the second intermission rolled around, the Icepack turned the scoreline in their favor at 4-3.
The third period saw the Icepack pull away. A visibly frustrated Kentucky team kept it physical on the ice and even attempted a comeback upon making it 7-5, but NC State scored four goals in the final period to seal the 8-5 win.
“It was a unique game, that's for sure,” Healy said. “In all seriousness, I think it's just one of those games where it is really unorthodox… it's not how we designed it; it's not how we would have wanted to play. But sometimes you have to play the hand that's dealt and I think our guys did that.”
After playing on back-to-back days, the Icepack will get a five-day break before it takes on the Penn State Nittany Lions at home on Friday, Oct. 29. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.