Carolina Hockey kicked off ACC play over the weekend with the Stephen Russell Memorial Tournament, an ACC tuneup with implications for the season ahead. The Tar Heels played in tight competitions, but fell in two of their three games. The Heels lost to St. Joe's and defending ACCHL Champions Virginia, but bested Georgetown in the shootout on Saturday.
The Hawks of St. Joe's came out firing on Friday afternoon in Raleigh, but Heels keeper Gabe Harousseau kept the game scoreless after 20 minutes of play. The Hawks wouldn't be denied, though. After an explosive second period, the score rested at 5-2 in favor of St. Joe's. Already up 4-2, they would add an insurance marker to their tally late in the second period while on the power play to clinch a decisive 5-2 lead. The third period ended with the same score.
On Saturday, the Heels took Georgetown to the brink in a thrilling shootout that swung back and forth between the teams. That day, it was the Millar-Chen-Jordan line's chance to shine. Ricky Chen stayed hot, netting the Heels' first two goals, only to have the Hoyas storm back and score a pair of their own. Ben Millar offered backup, though, scoring a third Carolina goal with just under five minutes remaining in the second period.
Georgetown's appropriately named George Brennan scored with just more than three minutes remaining in the third period to send the game to overtime. When sudden death play couldn't yield a victor, the teams went to a shootout. The Heels prevailed in the sixth round, winning the game 4-3 for the weekend's only victory.
The Heels played Virginia tight on Sunday afternoon, but the skillful Cavaliers capitalized on their chances to frustrate the Carolina defense. The Hoos poured it on early and held Carolina at a two goal deficit entering the third period. With a goal in the final stanza, Virginia sealed a 4-1 victory over the Heels. The Hoos, 3-0 over the weekend and 6-0 on the year, appear to be early front-runners for the ACCHL yet again.
The Heels looked solid throughout the weekend and played in contests much closer than the scores reflected on Friday and Sunday. The Heels will be back in action next Saturday against UNC Charlotte in Hillsborough.