RALEIGH – NC State’s strong play on the ice against Virginia Tech added to what has proved to ban eventful and successful weekend in the NC State athletics department. The Wolfpack were able to bring down the Hokies 7-1 in their first game of the Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament on Friday night. Despite a shaky start to their season, starting out the year 1-2, the team’s blowout victory could indicate a positive change in direction for the team.
Junior, Andrew Kristof, summarized his team’s efforts by stating, “I really thought it was a great 60 minute effort by all of our guys. I thought we played a great zone defense from the wings to the centers to the goalie. They had a hard time shooting the puck on our goal and we took away their second chances.” NC State’s strong defense and goaltending by senior Joey Hall, made it tough for the Hokies to enter the zone at all. Virginia Tech’s limited number of looks on goal was a big factor in their lackluster offense on Friday night. A failure to utilize some looks on the power play and a lack of physicality were ultimately other aspects that hurt Virginia Tech in the long run, specifically a failed opportunity on the 5-on- 3.
N.C. State was able to take control of the game from the get-go by capitalizing on a strong first period, and building off of that momentum for the remainder of the game. Jack MacDonald’s tip-in goal at the halfway point of the first period visibly energized the team, which was clearly evident to all fans in attendance, as “Wolfpack” chants rang constantly throughout the Raleigh Iceplex. However, captain, Sam Banasiewicz’s bank- in shot with around three minutes remaining in the first, ultimately ended up being the deciding goal of the game.
The Hokies were able to get one on the board, as they capitalized on a power play opportunity about seven minutes into the second period. However, the fact that the Wolfpack held the lead the whole 60 minutes clearly seemed to have an effect on the momentum of the game. N.C. State never took their foot off the gas, and they were able to add on an additional 5 goals throughout the second and third periods. The energy in the building was palpable, helping to contribute to the victory, and hopefully carrying on throughout the remainder of the season.
Despite the final score of the game, and the tension-fueled match-up that ensued, the main focal point of the game was the meaning behind the tournament as a whole. The annual Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament is held in honor of the late Stephen Russell, former goaltender for the N.C. State club hockey team. Russell’s family was invited out to center ice before the game to participate in a ceremonial puck drop with the team captains. The special moment definitely solidified the purpose behind the tournament and made the Wolfpack win even more significant and meaningful to everyone involved.
The Wolfpack return to the ice Saturday night at 6:00 PM in Raleigh to take on the UVA Cavaliers in their second match-up of the Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament.