RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina State IcePack couldn’t be happier to be back in the rink.
“There’s a lot of pride that goes into playing for your school,” said IcePack junior forward Riley Johnson.
That pride is on display in the team’s locker room at the Wake Competition Center. Championship banners hang from the wall, with plenty of room for more. Club hockey may not be Division I, but this team and this program are the closest thing to it.
“We have a real coach. We have real facilities. We have everything,” Johnson explained. “We’re the closest thing to an NCAA team. We play a real schedule. We’re on a bus. We’re staying in hotel rooms.”
Unlike most club hockey teams that rely on students from Canada or northeastern states, the IcePack doesn’t have to look far for its talent. Youth hockey in the Triangle exploded once the Carolina Hurricanes put down roots. It’s helped provide a pipeline for the IcePack.
“Most of the guys in the program, they came through Raleigh,” said N.C. State head coach Tim Healy. “There’s such a high level of coaching with the Junior Canes and the Eagles when they were part of the program, too. So, you have really well coached players that are coming up.”
Those players now are sharing the same ice and the same facility as the NHL team they grew up rooting for. And, like the Carolina Hurricanes, the IcePack is enjoying success.
Two years ago, the two-time defending ACC champions went all the way to the Nationals. Last year, they lost in the regionals. This program is used to winning, and it’s not about to take a step back.
“We look at it as more than a club sport,” said IcePack right wing Chris Solomon. “We’re trying to grow it and get bigger. We really want that so I think that helps us push on and become better.”
It’s with the help of local kids who wanted to stay home and build something special right here in the Triangle.
“We take a lot of pride in being a place with North Carolina developed kids as our primary base,” Healy said.
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