The NC State Icepack showed off its new digs in style as it defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons by a final score of 5-1.
With an original Big-4 ACC matchup on NC State hockey’s Heritage Day, the Icepack (12-3-0, ACCHL 6-0-0) met with the Deacons (9-1-1, ACCHL 5-1-0), one of the original four college teams in the state and the team it had been tied with for the lead in the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League.
The Deacons came into the game as the top-ranked team in the Carolina West division in the ACCHL with the same 5-0-0 record in league play as NC State.
The first period featured a lot of chances for the Icepack, however, strong goaltending from Wake Forest’s Kal Maier kept the game scoreless after one. The Icepack struggled in the offensive zone to create passes as the Deacon’s defense mucked up the middle of the ice and held the usually potent NC State offense off the sheet.
“We kind of have this thing, where we do start slow, and then we pick it up,” said head coach Mike Gazzillo. “I know the guys have enough juice in them to go three hard periods because we’ve seen them do it against other teams.”
However, the second period saw a different story. Freshman Chris Solomon opened up the scoring with a wicked wrister from the right circle. Breaking into the Deacon’s zone and streaking down the right side, Solomon released a heavy wrister from the circle, ringing out bar-down.
The Icepack grabbed a second a few minutes later off a bit of a sneaky play. Senior Laythe Jadallah won a faceoff back to senior captain Ryan Kinney who put the puck on net through heavy traffic and it was in across the goal line before Maier even noticed it was gone.
NC State extended its lead to three with a great sequence of passing capped off by a stunner of a shot by Solomon from the slot for his second of the game on the power play. Setting up the play was freshman Victor Hugo and Jadallah who put together a few one-touch passes that put it right on a tee for Solomon.
“Chris [Solomon]is a beast, right?” Gazzillo said. “He definitely is a welcome addition to the team.”
The team kept surging and it came together for another power-play goal as Jadallah once again set up the play with a spot-on pass, this time to sophomore Alex Robinson who blasted it past the Deacon’s netminder.
“Laythe [Jadallah] is a big part of the team, there’s no question about it,” Gazzillo said. “We talked in practice the other night about some things he might want to do, or try to do, a little different. We padded him with a couple of different guys tonight and he went out and played well. Made some really good passes and made some really good decisions with the puck.”
Wake Forest ended the shutout bid for NC State as it picked up a goal early in the third period, cleaning up a rebound left out front by NC State senior goaltender Josh Cannon.
While at that point the game was effectively over, it wasn’t quite done for sophomore Riley Johnson. Set up on the power play, Johnson found himself behind the net where he made the play. Reversing on a defender near him, Johnson put the puck onto his tape and lifted it up and around, over the shoulder of Maier and in. Johnson pulled off the Michigan/Lacrosse goal that very recently Carolina Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov had accomplished.
“A shot went wide and Parker [Szarek] set a nice pick and gave me a little bit of space,” Johnson said. “Touched the puck to me and I had a chance to scoop it up. I’ve been practicing it for a little bit and just glad it finally paid off.”
The Icepack finished out the game with no extra additions to the scoresheet as it easily handled the Demon Deacons. NC State will return to the ice next week as it travels to Wake Forest for a rematch on Friday, Nov. 22 before the Backyard Brawl the following Monday, Nov. 25 against UNC-Chapel Hill.