Backyard Brawl III: A Testament to NC College Hockey Success

State defeats Chapel Hill in the final Backyard Brawl of the Season.

This game was much more than part two of the UNC Rivalry this past weekend for NC State. Over the course of the past year, attendance has risen dramatically for the Icepack’s semi-annual Backyard Brawl game against UNC, with 3500+ attending the January 29th showdown. Not to mention, both teams are getting better each and every time they play. From the first game where State obliterated the Heels 3-1, to the most recent back and forth contest where State barely edged UNC 6-5, these games have not only garnered the attention of students on both campuses, but the local media as well.

College Hockey in North Carolina isn’t something that’s marketed by professionals, so it's mainly up to the players on the teams, the fans of the school, and even the coaches to get the word out about the games. The fans that watch the game mainly get to see the Hockey played, but that only scratches the surface of everything that goes on behind the scenes. What most students and fans alike miss is the life experiences the players get out of this. Players in Division 2 club Hockey have to set up their game schedules, practice times, and fundraisers. Basically, the players run this like a business. And their best asset? The Marketing tactics in a Basketball and Football dominated University.

“We had really good turnout, as far as a Monday night goes, especially for Hockey,” said team Vice President and Captain Sam Banasiewicz. “The team was sharing everything they could on facebook, instagram, twitter… even the [Carolina Hurricanes] helped us out. We still got our awareness out about College Hockey in the Triangle area… and the entire Raleigh Hockey community. It’s not as much about the rivalry between State and UNC, it’s a celebration about hockey.”

Celebrations can be none better said than by the ever dubbed Sammy Banasiewicz, as he celebrated his 100th career goal in the game in style, as he brought the crowd to their feet with his bow and arrow celly. It was no surprise when the team made sure he took the puck home as a memoir of the night.

While his celebratory moment will go in the record books for the Club, this was a game of achievements for the team. Mainly, for the graduating seniors. While the team aspires to win the ACCHL tournament as a proper send-off for their soon-to-be alumnus, having the last game against the Heels in the PNC Arena to cap off their collegiate careers was huge, not to mention winning it as well.

“Luis [Giminez] is somebody that’s always going to step up and make big time plays in big time games,” said Banasiewicz, who will be seeing the ice for his final season of eligibility due to a change of major. “Chris [Wing] has been there since freshman year… all the seniors have stepped up leadership wise.” Head Coach Mike Gazzillo spoke highly of the seniors, adding that “I’ve known these guys for 3,4,5 years… you’ve seen the growth and maturity in them… personally, I hate to see them go, but this is part of life and this is what they need to do.”

The achievements from this game were much more than the 2 points in the standings and clinching the Carolina Division in the ACCHL. It was a testament to the success in all the years of college hockey in North Carolina, as more people every day are now associating hockey with the Tar Heel State. Even when the team goes through some bad days, like it’s most recent 2 game losing streak, Sam Banasiewicz knows exactly what to say to cheer the team up:

“Any day you can beat UNC is a good day.”

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