On February 2nd, NC State hosts rivals UNC at PNC Arena. This is our Cardiac Cane preview of the Backyard Brawl.
The Carolina Hurricanes are off until Friday when they face off against the Edmonton Oilers. Until then, Canes fans should tune out of the NHL for a bit and shift their focus to some other hockey happening in the community. That means it is time for a little college hockey. It’s time for NC State versus UNC.
It may surprise some people that college hockey has some relatively deep history in the Triangle. Long before the Hurricanes moved down to the Carolinas in 1997, club hockey teams had been skating in the Triangle for two decades. NC State started its program in the late 1970’s and UNC first dropped the puck in 1974.
Once the Canes got going in North Carolina though, the sport has seen a ton of growth since then. With heroes like Ron Francis and Rod Brind’Amour inspiring young kids in the Triangle, youth hockey has become a big part of the sports landscape here. That has begun to show itself in college hockey as well. More and more, teams like UNC and State are being populated with kids from Raleigh and Cary and Durham. This has really begun to turn this match up into something special.
Currently, these two teams play in the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League (ACCHL), which is part of the larger ACHA Division II. This conference also includes Duke and Wake Forest, as well as a combination of other regional schools like Virginia, Elon, and Georgetown. Within the conference there are three divisions. UNC is in the Central, NC State is in the Carolina (yes, Carolina isn’t in the Carolina division), and lastly there is the Capital division. As these are club teams, they cannot qualify for the Frozen Four held every April. However, that doesn’t stop these teams from turning classic football and basketball rivalries into new hockey ones.
That brings us to tonight’s match up. Over the last 6 seasons in the ACCHL, few teams have been as impressive as the Wolfpack. They have finished as regular season champion 5 of the last 6 years and won the end of year conference tournament in 2011. While State remains a powerhouse within the conference, UNC has recently been making up ground. In 2015, they managed to win the ACCHL tournament.
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Given the two programs’ recent success and the proximity of the two schools, the NC State and UNC hockey rivalry has been able to grow the last few years. So much so, that the latest edition is to be held at non other than PNC Arena. That’s right, an NHL venue is booked for college hockey. Except, instead of it being in Minnesota or Boston, its in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Labelled as the #BackyardBrawl, these two teams will be playing for more than just points in the standings. Serious bragging rights are on the line. Given the scale of this game, it should bring out the best in the NC State/UNC rivalry. With a few thousand fans from both Raleigh and Chapel Hill expected, it should be a great atmosphere as well.
So, if you’re a Canes fan looking for an inexpensive night of hockey, we at Cardiac Cane encourage you to come out. Same goes for basketball fans waiting for the Pack and Heels to return to the hardcourt. Come out and support your school on the ice. The game starts at 7 pm. For those interested, we recommend reading UNC’s press release below for more information.
For more updates about the game, keep it locked @CardiacCane on twitter. Also, we’d recommend giving the two clubs and follow as well.
NC State: @NCStateHockey