College hockey in our community and our country

The Carolina Hurricanes are the only professional sports franchise in Raleigh and one of only three professional teams in North Carolina.  The Carolina Hurricanes being located in Raleigh has made them unique as one of the few Southern cities to not only have a good hockey team located there but to also have an incredibly large youth hockey ecosystem. These youth hockey teams can end up feeding into NCAA (National College Athletics Association) or ACHA (American College Hockey association) teams. Now you might be wondering, “How are there two different leagues for college hockey?” Well, the NCAA college hockey in the same sports ecosystem as college football and college basketball, so students can get full-ride Athletic scholarships to play hockey for a university. ACHA teams are club teams that are officially licensed to play for the university and can use its Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) on team uniforms, advertising, and merchandise. Therefore, the players on ACHA teams are paying to go colleges and are playing simply because they love the game of hockey.

There are many players from American colleges and universities, but the majority of them don’t play. and almost all of them are from northern universities like Providence, Yale, and Minnesota.  Many of these schools also lead the NCAA in college rankings with Minnesota being ranked number 1 with a 23-8-1 record and Quinnipiac with a 28-3-3 record at number 2 and University of Denver at number 3. The ACHA  does not have one  ranking for the top 25, so I will take the top ranked team from each division. In the Southeast Liberty University is ranked number 1 with a 26-5 record, in the Northeast UMass is ranked first with a 18-8 record, in the Central division Lindenwood is ranked first with a 26-5, and in the final division the West Mary University is ranked Number 1 with a 25-5 record.

The NHL and college have begun to work more closely with each other to bring hockey not only to more hockey fans but also to more college athletes with the Stadium Series. Whereas professional NHL teams play in larger venues, at the beginning of the stadium series games were only held in baseball stadiums. Over the past few years that trend has changed, and it has begun to be hosted in college football stadiums. In 2017 the stadium series was hosted in Falcon stadium, the US Air Force College football stadium. Then this year (2023) when the Stadium Series was hosted in Carter-Finley stadium,  the game was record setting, not only for the Carolina Hurricanes where the first goal of the game was the fourth fastest goal in NHL history with the Carolina Hurricanes scoring within three  minutes of the start of the game. But it was also a record setting for the NHL with the 2023 Stadium series game being one of the largest crowds ever for a hockey game with Carter Filey selling out with 56,000 people in attendance.  Then two  days after the Stadium Series game, the UNC frozen Tar Heels met the NC State Ice Pack at Carter Finley, and this game, even with no professional marketing, drew a crowd of 26,000 people. The Apex High Cougars also had four alumni playing in the game; for NC State, it was   2021 sophomore Zack Robinson , 2019 senior Matt Miller, and Zack Robinson’s brother and fellow 2019 senior Alex Robinson; for UNC, it was 2021 junior Michael . The NC State Ice Pack ended up winning; however this win was only symbolic as the UNC frozen Tarheels were already lined up to play in the ACCHL championship against Penn State.

Duke also has a hockey team. They are a division 2 ACHA team with 12 wins and 7 losses, and they haven’t played any big games so their team hasn’t been as widely publicized as NC State Ice Pack or the UNC Frozen Tarheels. But this weekend for college hockey was also huge as up north Michigan and Ohio state faced off in club hockey this match was played In FirstEnergy Stadium home of the Cleveland Browns, and this game drew the largest crowd for a college hockey game ever NCAA or ACHA with 45,233 people coming into watch #10 Ohio State best #9 michigan.

Going back  UNC Vs NC State: we had several Apex Cougars, myself included, at the game, and here is what they had to say about it:

Sophomore Boston Wahba: “I loved it, having hockey in a football stadium brings extra energy to the crowd. The game had as much energy as most professional Canes Games.” Former newspaper member Sophomore Logan Steinbeck: “I thought it was really fun and a really cool thing to experience. I’ve been an NC State fan my whole life, so it was exciting to get to see them play hockey at Carter Finley.”

And personally While I didn’t like watching NC State beat UNC as I’ve been a lifelong Tar Heel, I loved watching hockey in a large outdoor environment. I’ve been to several Canes games, and I’ve never been into a stadium with as much energy as Carter Finley had on Monday night. I hope that we see more college hockey on TV and that it starts getting the love college football and college basketball share.

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