The NC State club hockey team won two out of its three games as it participated in the Liberty Showcase last weekend from Oct. 11-13.
The Liberty Showcase was one of a series of additions the Pack has added to strengthen the quality of its schedule after going undefeated last season all the way to nationals. NC State saw an outpour of scoring from a few key players, both new and returning, to help the team succeed.
The Wolfpack’s first game on Friday was against the MSU Denver Roadrunners. The Roadrunners came into the tournament with a 7-1 record in the Big Mountain Hockey Conference, and it was the first-ever match between the two teams.
While Denver initially broke the ice early in the first period, the Pack came storming back down the ice, finding the equalizer off sophomore Alex Robinson’s blade only a minute later. Sophomore Riley Johnson then put NC State ahead midway through the first with a power-play goal.
The Wolfpack rode this lead through the first and second periods, relying heavily on its penalty kill to keep the team ahead. However, early into the third period, the Roadrunners tied the game.
Denver exhibited much stronger control of the puck through the neutral zone and really pushed the Wolfpack back onto its heels, making it impossible to get its offense going. This wound up being the dagger for the Pack as the Roadrunners picked up a last-minute power-play goal to take the lead and the game from the Pack 3-2.
The loss was NC State’s first regular-season loss in over a year, dating all the way back to the 2017-2018 season.
The Wolfpack came out the next day, Oct. 12, matched against UMass Lowell, which holds a record of 1-2-2 in the Northeast Collegiate Conference. This was also the first match between the two teams.
NC State saw a dominant performance over the River Hawks. Freshman Chris Solomon got things going a little over a minute into the game, and Robinson and Johnson capped off the first period, adding a goal apiece.
In the second period, Solomon added a pretty goal to his total, sniping home a power-play goal midway through the period. UMass Lowell finally responded a few minutes later on an odd-man rush and cut the lead in half with another goal, this one shorthanded, only a few minutes later.
While it looked as if the River Hawks were mounting a comeback, junior Nikita Anistratov halted their pushback with a tap-in goal late into the second.
Solomon crushed any hope of a comeback by notching his hat-trick goal, the lone one of the third period, converting on a rush down the ice and sealing the game for NC State 6-2.
In its final game of the showcase, the Wolfpack saw a rematch against the Liberty Flames, whom the Pack beat last year to qualify for nationals.
Expecting a hard-fought battle, the Wolfpack completely shocked the Flames, opening the game with a three-goal first period. Robinson, Johnson and Anistratov all kept up their impressive weekend performances, notching a goal each in the flurry of the first.
Liberty got onto the board early into the second, but the Pack just kept coming. This time it was senior Laythe Jadallah who found the back of the net as NC State continued its dominant performance.
However, the Flames finally got to their game, and by the end of the second period, Liberty had pulled the game to within a goal, scoring two goals in the frame.
Heading to a crucial third period, the Pack fought a hard battle with the Flames, each fighting to come out on top. It was down all the way to the wire until sophomore Parker Szarek notched the empty-net goal to propel the Wolfpack to a 5-3 win.
NC State is now 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the ACC after the successful showcase. The team’s next home game will be Oct. 25 against Elon at the Raleigh Iceplex at 9:30 p.m.