Tonight at PNC Arena, local hockey takes the center stage when the UNC Tarheels and NC State Icepack face-off. The game starts at 7pm with free parking and a (recommended) $5 donation at the door.
The atmosphere was electric for this game/event last year and comes highly recommended for Monday night hockey entertainment.
This preview is the UNC Tar Heel side. Please also check out the NC State side which is HERE.
About the interviewee
Drew Blevins (Twitter=@DrewBlevins30) is the play-by-play voice for North Carolina Tar Heels hockey. He is in his first season with the Tar Heels and his fifth in the ACCHL. Blevins will call his 100th game in the ACCHL on Monday when Carolina faces N.C. State.
Check in on UNC Hockey heading into Monday’s match up with NC State
Canes and Coffee: How has UNC Hockey fared thus far in their 2017-18 season?
Drew Blevins: Carolina has dropped a few heartbreakers that ultimately could have shifted the outlook on this season as a whole. The Tar Heels have a respectable five wins, but only one of those wins counts in the ACCHL points total because of the way the league determines games that count toward playoff seeding.
UNC’s toughest loss came on Oct. 14 at the hands of Charlotte. Despite holding a 3-1 lead going into the third, the Heels watched Phillip Arnold tie the game with three minutes to go and Andrew Miller won it for the 49ers with 43 seconds left. Opponents have outscored Carolina 28-11 in the third period which is why Carolina has blown a trio of leads after 40 minutes.
The bright spot for the Tar Heels has been its goaltending and defense. Carolina has only given up an average of 3.6 non-empty net goals per game over the past eight contests, but the offense has not held up. If Carolina can find a way to put the puck in the net, UNC is a top-five ACCHL team, but with a lack of production, the Heels seem doomed to miss the postseason.
Canes and Coffee: Which players are leading the team right now?
Drew Blevins: Joe Baglio is the most dynamic player to watch and has been the most productive with 9 goals. Baglio played juniors with the Boston Jr. Rangers and is arguably the fastest player in the ACCHL. He is a graduate senior who is playing his last game in college against the Wolfpack on Monday.
Ricky Chen, Andrew Jordan, Jonah Graffius follow Baglio in terms of production, and they have always been steady reliable players for the Heels and will certainly get their ice time.
I look at Mason Regan as someone who could continue an immaculate first year with Carolina with a good performance vs. N.C. State. Regan has 5 goals this season and has scored in three of the past four games.
Jessie Aney has impressed too. She’s the only female on the team and has stickhandling moves, speed and tremendous vision.
Finally, Gabe Harousseau has been the backbone of this team. Harousseau’s .904 GAA might be the most impressive stat for a Carolina team hemorrhaging shots on goal. His play vs. N.C. State has been nothing short of tremendous over two years and he will be key in the UNC effort against the Wolfpack.
Canes and Coffee: Which newcomers are making an impact thus far in 2017-18?
Drew Blevins: Mason Regan and Jessie Aney as mentioned above are probably the most impactful to this point, but I think John Beeson has been sharp for UNC thus far too. Beeson has great speed and a nose for the net that can potentially lift the Carolina offense off the ground. I’d also give a nod to Justin Magin who played with the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes and is a solid defenseman for the Heels.
Canes and Coffee: Aside from the all-important bragging rights and rivalry, what does Monday’s match up against NC State mean to the Tar Heels hockey season right now?
Drew Blevins: This is the first time that Carolina and State have shared a division since the ACCHL went to the new standings system, so for the first time since 2015, these games count in the ACCHL standings. State can clinch the division (and a playoff spot) with a win, Carolina can nudge closer to the playoff picture with a win.
“We’ve got to win out,” Tar Heel head coach Jeff Volkman told me on Saturday. And he’s right, Carolina can post a maximum of 9 standings points in the ACCHL, that should be good enough to get into the field of eight, but anything less will most likely freeze the Heels out of the playoff picture.
I still think the “bragging rights” aspect of this is important though. The Heels have nipped the Pack on a couple of occasions in big spots and certainly Carolina believes that they are just as good as N.C. State (especially after beating the Pack en route to the school’s first Admirals Cup in 2015). But in a game of this magnitude a win means positive public exposure and a chance to really amp up the program, which at this level, sometimes trumps title wins.
Canes and Coffee would like to extend a huge thank you to Drew Blevins for sharing his insight into Monday night’s game from the Carolina Hockey side.