Wolfpack Clinch Share of Division Title; Dominate Tar Heels 7-1
The 3-10 Tar Heels hosted Josh Cannon and the perfect 13-0 #6 Wolfpack Monday night at PNC Arena for the Governor’s Cup. Chapel Hill may have been host for the game, but it felt like a home game for NC State because it was right in their backyard as they pulled away for a dominating 7-1 win against their rivals to improve to a perfect 14-0 and clinch at least a share of the Carolina East division title. The Wolfpack were looking to build off dominate back-to-back 10-0 efforts against Georgetown and Wake Forest and they didn’t disappoint. The Tar Heels were coming off a 6-1 beating at the hands of the Elon Phoenix last Wednesday as their season long struggles continued.
The game started off pretty slow with the first scoring true scoring chance not coming until about 7 minutes into the game when Chapel Hill’s goaltender Alec Hardman (1-6, 4.11 GAA) turned away Trevor Merchant in the slot, who was eyeing his third goal of the season. The first goal of the latest Governor’s Cup came a few minutes later when NC State’s Alex Robinson scored his 6th goal of the year from a sick feed by Riley Johnson. Things started to get chippy after Josh Cannon stopped a hard shot from Chapel Hill’s Kyle Bullock. It was clear that UNC was frustrated after losing 4 straight games to the Wolfpack and 13 of 16 overall. The Wolfpack had some good opportunities at the end of the first, but couldn’t connect while Cannon, the senior from Raleigh, was solid between the pipes.
The second period began with the Wolfpack and Tar Heels trading scoring chances, but Cannon and Hardman were the only ones providing highlights. It was back and forth action until just over halfway through the frame when Owen Drugan of NC State made it 2-0 when he fired home a goal from center ice out of nowhere. It was his first goal of the season and it was assisted by Devin Halko. UNC’s Andrew Jordan had a quick answer after two Wolfpack players got tangled up at the blueline to make it 2-1. The Wolfpack quickly made it 3-1 when Laythe Jadallah fired home his 16th goal of the season on a one-timer from Ellis Rushford. The goals started coming in bunches when Parker Srazek’s shot went off a UNC defender on the powerplay to make it 4-1.
Four minutes into the third period, NC State’s Eric Todd thought it was time for a show when he dangled about half the people on the ice before giving it off to Merchant who finally potted home his third goal this year to extend the lead to 5-1. Chapel Hill looked to have score their second goal of the game ten minutes into the period, but it was immediately waved off because of a kicking motion. Szarek scored his second goal of the night less than a minute later shorthanded to make it 6-1. The game was effectively over after Matt Costigan made it 7-1, also on the penalty kill with under six minutes left. It was the Wolfpack’s 11th and 12th shorthanded goals of the season which is double the amount (6) that they’ve given up on the penalty kill.
The NC State Wolfpack won the game 7-1 (which actually lowered their goals per game from 7.77), but the story of this game, besides the usual dominance from this special Wolfpack hockey team, was the brilliance of Josh Cannon, who extended his impressive season record to 5-0 with a one goal performance.
The Tar Heels will try to stop their losing streak at 5 after Thanksgiving break against Elon again on December 1st. The Wolfpack look to extend their perfect season after the long break against Virginia Tech on January 11th.