Icepack, Raleigh show out to cap off unforgettable weekend

From 247 Sports/Pack Pride

By R. Cory Smith


RALEIGH, N.C. — During a five-day span in the month of February, NC State and the city of Raleigh put on one of the most extraordinary and record-setting weekends in the history of the area. And the Icepack put the cherry on top Monday night with another blowout win over UNC to cap off a perfect week in the rivalry.

The NC State club hockey team poured it on late against UNC, going from a 4-1 lead to a 7-3 victory by the end of another big night in Carter-Finley Stadium. Had that happened alone, it would have given many Pack fans their fix. But we have to go back to last Thursday to get the true scope of just how remarkable the run for Raleigh and its University truly was.

The five-day extravaganza started off with the Wolfpack women’s basketball team hosting the No. 19 Tar Heels inside Reynolds Coliseum. After being down by as many as 10 points with 4:03 left to play — and nine points with 1:43 to go — State stormed back to tie things up, and win by 11 points in overtime to start the party with a bang.

On Friday, the Hurricanes kept things going with a Fan Fest that raged all afternoon and evening in Downtown Raleigh, while the NC State wrestling team traveled to Chapel Hill. The Wolfpack didn’t disappoint, emphatically blowing out the Tar Heels out by a final of 28-6, winning eight of the 10 bouts.

Then it was the Canes’ time to take the stage in the long-awaited “Stadium Series” matchup against the Washington Capitals in Carter-Finley Stadium. Not only did the Hurricanes jump out to an early lead at 1-0 after the first period, they curb-stomped the Caps with three goals in the second to alleviate any pressure and allow for the party to continue from the epic tailgating scene.

While that may not have seemed like an event that highlighted NC State, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In only the second Stadium Series game held in a venue solely meant for the use of college football, the Wolfpack left the rest of the country talking and UNC fans annoyed. The stars of the show were the Power Sound of the South, Dave Doeren screaming “Welcome to Raleighwood!” and ESPN’s own Marty Smith setting the stage for the Icepack by donning their sweater and leading the band. It was an atmosphere that left even a curmudgeon like Pete Blackburn of Bally blown away by the presentation and vibes in Raleigh.

On Sunday, it was time for Kevin Keatts and Co. to take the stage inside PNC Arena. And after a tight contest that went back and forth for the first 34 minutes, State turned it on late as Jarkel Joiner dropped 20 of his 29 points in the second half to propel the Pack to a 12-point lead before winning by a final of 77-69. It was the first win for the Pack over UNC since the 2020 season and the third during the Keatts era — matching the total by the previous two head coaches combined. Oh, and it led to Paul McNeil, the No. 26 overall player in the country, committing to the Wolfpack that night.

Of course, Monday night brought the aforementioned win for the Icepack over UNC, completing a four-game sweep that lasted over five days with a Canes victory sandwiched in the middle. That win was highlighted by a hat trick from NC State’s Zach Herman under the lights of Carter-Finley — a line I never thought I would write, but here we are.

Let’s not forget the other success for NC State. The Pack9 swept their opening series against Wagner in a renovated Doak Field, the Pack men’s swimming and diving won another ACC Championship, women’s swimming and diving finished in second place, the women’s tennis team took down Wake Forest, 7-0, and gymnastics went 4-0 over the weekend.

But it wasn’t just about the teams on the court, mat or the ice that stood out; it was Raleigh and the passionate fan bases. Reynolds was sold out for women’s basketball. There was more red in the stands for wrestling in Chapel Hill than light blue. The Stadium Series game was the fastest sellout in NHL history with 56,961 fans in attendance. The men’s basketball game vs. UNC was sold out for weeks. Icepack drew a crowd of more than 26,000 fans after anticipating only 10,000 through the doors.

It was a magical weekend for the entire market that showed how strong the programs and fanbases are across the board. And no, there won’t be any banners hung for regular-season wins or selling out four different events held on NC State’s campus, but it will be a five-day span that will be forever etched in the minds of Raleigh natives and Wolfpack fans alike.

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