Icepack Home Opener a Thriller

Staring down a three goal deficit after just the first period, Icepack Coach Mike Gazzillo didn’t panic and stuck with his netminder Joey Hall. “I thought as the game went on he got stronger. He kept us in the game,” Gazzillo said after his team rallied from being down 3-0 Friday night against George Washington University at PNC Arena. The Icepack went on to win game one of the Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament with a final score of 4-3 on a shorthanded goal in overtime.

After being kept off the scoreboard in the first period, the Icepack finally broke through when Senior winger and captain Sam Banasiewicz sniped his first goal of the season, just 46 seconds into the second period. Shortly after the goal, things started to get a bit chippy out on the ice when a skirmish broke out in the Icepack’s defensive zone. Freshman Cam Mazikowski of the Icepack was injured in what appeared to be a late hit after a whistle stopping play. He received stitches in the locker room but did not return to the game. Cam’s teammate, Junior defenseman Ellis Rushford, was ejected from the game due to his actions in the ensuing fight.

George Washington maintained a 3-1 lead after two periods. Then just 18 seconds into the third, Sam Banasiewicz (1G 2A), dished a cross-ice pass to teammate Nikita Anistratov (1G 1A). Anistratov buried the one timer, bringing his team to within one goal. Then with just under three and a half minutes remaining, center Laythe Jadallah capitalized on a Banasiewicz rebound to tie the game at 3.

The third period ended with the Icepack receiving a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that left them starting the overtime period shorthanded. With George Washington on the power play, the Icepack’s Riley “Superman” Johnson stole the puck from George Washington defenseman Alec Yerkovich at the blue line and stormed up the ice. Johnson got the goalie to bite on a pokecheck, which he missed, and he flipped the puck over the sprawled out netminder and into the net for the shorthanded goal at 1:44 of overtime.

When asked about his game winning goal, Johnson smiled and was happy about the fortuitous bounce the puck took up the boards. “The puck hit my skate and came to my stick. The goalie beat me to the post but thankfully the puck went in,” he said postgame after his team’s first win of the season. Johnson followed up his goal with a Superman celebration, and was later mobbed by his teammates at centre ice.

With the exciting overtime win over George Washington behind them, the Icepack can now win the Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament with a victory against James Madison University tomorrow night. The tournament, which is hosted annually by the ACCHL, commemorates former NC State Hockey Club goalie, Stephen Russell, who passed away in 2009. Opening puck drop for the game is tomorrow at 6pm at Raleigh Ice Plex.

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