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North Carolina runs out of time against Wake Forest


Fans gather at the deacon statue outside of McCreary Tower prior to kickoff. This is the first game North Carolina and Wake Forest have played since the 30’s that does not count in-conference.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.- Time runs in short supply for a lot of football coaches. And it’s something North Carolina Tar Heel fans might tell you they had one more second of before falling to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 24-18 on Friday night.

“I saw the official wave one finger in the air, saying one second, and the next thing I knew they were running off the field,” Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown said after the game.

But whether or not Michael Carter gave his team one second to work with or not, North Carolina simply ran out of time to complete a comeback.

“It’s on me,” Carolina quarterback Sam Howell remarked, “everybody was playing hard on offense and I’ve got to be better.”

Howell and the Heels took 18-and-a-half minutes to secure the team’s first, first down, and the offensive struggles continued as Carolina went only 2-16 on third down.

In stark contrast, Wake worked quickly– surgically even– every touchdown-scoring drive taking five players or fewer.

Jamie Newman led the charge for the Deacons, carrying the ball 19 times for 78 yards and adding 214 yards through the air. The redshirt-junior from Graham (NC) was a part of every touchdown-scoring play, rushing for two scores and completing a 51-yard pass to Sage Surratt for another.

Surratt notched career highs in catches (9) and yards (169) in the game as the Deacons cruised to an 21-0 halftime lead.

Meanwhile, the Wake Forest defense rushed the true-freshman Howell, sacking the Carolina quarterback six times. Carlos Basham led the way with 2.5 sacks and senior Justin Strnad added another of the half-dozen takedowns.

“We brought great tenacity to that game, I was proud of our guys,” said Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson.

However, the Tar Heels mounted a fourth-quarter charge.

“Win the second half, win the fourth quarter, win the game… it’s what we preach on the sideline,” said Tar Heel running back Michael Carter, “and we really believe that.”

Howell found Carter in the endzone to bring Carolina to within two scores and, after a Wake three-and-out, hit Dyami Brown for another six points. UNC converted a two-point play to make it 21-18 with 6:09 to go in the fourth quarter.

“We should have been able to put that game away in the fourth quarter, but that’s what they do, they come back, they come back, they come back,” said Clawson.

Wake Forest responded with a five-minute drive that ended in a Nick Sciba field goal giving the Heels only 69 seconds to work with.

“That drive was huge for us… we forced them to use their timeouts and they never got a shot at the endzone,” said Clawson.

“I would have loved to have had that hail mary,” smirked Brown, but Carter stepping out of bounds as the clock hit triple zeros never gave Carolina the chance.

The Tar Heels will face Appalachian State (2-0) of the Sun Belt in Chapel Hill next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Wake Forest will stay in Winston-Salem to face Elon (1-1) in their homecoming matchup Saturday at noon, looking to finish non-conference play at a perfect 4-0.

N.C. State hockey is the best show on ice

RALEIGH, N.C.- “Hamel scores it, Hamel scores it… five to four!”

It’s a call that is burned into my brain ever since I delivered it on February 14, 2015. It was the goal that sent the University of North Carolina to their first A.C.C.H.L. Admirals Cup championship game. More importantly, it was the goal that sent archrival N.C. State club hockey packing– again, short of the title for the third straight season.

The real heartbreak came a year later, in an 8-7 loss to George Washington in the title game for the Wolfpack. Disappointment followed in 2017 with a 4-1 loss to Virginia in the championship matinee. State didn’t even make the final last season.

In fact since winning the Admirals Cup in 2011, N.C. State made four championship game appearances and four times they lost.

And yet– here we are.

Amidst the previous heartbreaks of years past, N.C. State hockey, undefeated, is going to Frisco, Texas for the 2019 A.C.H.A. Men’s Division II National Championship tournament. The Wolfpack are, unequivocally, the best story on ice.

At 26-0, N.C. State is perfect, having won the conference title and achieving the highest in-season and end-of-season ranking in school history. Furthermore, the Wolfpack defeated the third, fourth and fifth-ranked A.C.H.A. Southeast division teams in the course of their run.

While that might not seem like much, consider this. The Southeast division gets to send four teams to the national championships every year. Two teams make it as being the two highest ranked, eight teams then play in a regional tournament with the teams winning two games taking the final slots.

George Washington, Virginia and Charlotte all lost their opening round matchups as A.C.C.H.L. champions in the regional championship in the last three years, squished by the upper echelon of the southeast.

Not only did the Wolfpack win two games at regionals, but they defeated (5) Rider 7-6, and then had to play the host school (3) Liberty, a team State had never defeated in school history. In 2016 and 2017, N.C. State lost to Liberty in Lynchburg, 14-1 and 15-1 respectively.

N.C. State, as only the eight-seed, dismantled Liberty 4-1 with Sam Banasiewicz, Alex Robinson and Parker Szarek scoring for the Wolfpack. Joey Hall was tremendous in net, especially during the third period.

This herculean win came on the back of much doubt among the A.C.H.A. message boards and the 2019 Selection Show where the league all-but-gave a nationals slot to Liberty, a team who was a national-runner up in 2016 and 2017, and had appeared in five straight national tournaments.

And yet– here we are. The Wolfpack are going to Frisco instead.

Compared to N.C.A.A. division I hockey, and to the N.H.L. for that matter, this N.C. State team is doing something extraordinary because these aren’t scholarship athletes. They are students first, then hockey players. Every player is paying dues and buying their own sticks. They ride the bus, eat fast food, and practice into the wee hours of the morning.  It’s not cushy, but it’s the A.C.H.A. division II version of college hockey.

A lot of the schools that succeed at this level are either in the north and have guys that just missed making it bigger or they are destination schools, like F.G.C.U. or Liberty, that have an environment to attract the hockey talent it needs.

N.C. State thrives on passion. It’s not just the guys making the sacrifices to play the game either. Fans stand 10 rows deep in a frigid IcePlex to watch what this team does. These same fans will travel, cheer and buy merchandise for a club hockey team. The Wolfpack have a culture.

While N.C. State isn’t a destination school and is far from the hockey cities of New York, Detroit and Boston, but this team has proven that hard word and dedication to the game can get you a long way. That’s a type of inspiration rarely seen in sports anymore; it’s refreshing.

This team competes for the sheer love of the game.

The Wolfpack may not win the championship, but then again, the team has spurned the doubters time and again this season. It doesn’t matter. This season and this run are program-defining strides for the land-grant institution in Raleigh.

After the heartbreak of years past, the Wolfpack have already achieved unmatched success at this level, and what a badge of honor that is to wear. They aren’t supposed to be here.

And yet– here we are.

Bryan Bickell’s goal is the reason we love this game


Hockey is a game of moments.

It’s a game of big moments, precious fragments of time that are displayed on the mosaic of the game’s history- Bobby Orr soaring, Wayne Gretzky’s record-setting goal, Mark Messier’s guarantee- memories of the times the game changed forever.

However, there are small moments, moments that don’t shine as brightly as their seemingly life-altering counterparts. It’s amazing that the best stories of the game of hockey are found in those little moments.

In Philadelphia on Sunday night, hockey got to witness another one of those little moments.

Bryan Bickell has never been a superstar, his stats won’t wow you, but the effort, determination and strength will.

Bickell’s moment of fame was tying game six of the 2013 Stanley Cup final against the Boston Bruins. It wasn’t a highlight-reel goal, but not a lot of people remember it. The reason being 18 seconds later, Dave Bolland potted a goal off the end boards to seal a comeback win and another Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks.

He’d played a good career at that point, earning his ice time with Chicago since he made his NHL debut in 2006, but “Bicks” played three more seasons with the Blackhawks.

The business side of the game saw him traded with teammate Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes in the summer of 2016.

Again, Bickell was not the guy talked about. Canes fans buzzed with excitement about the youthfulness and speed of Teravainen, almost overlooking

Bickell completely.

He got tagged with the term “veteran leader,” a term that means a guy has played a while, probably won’t produce much and doesn’t have many years left in the NHL.

But Bickell got to prove himself as more than a “veteran leader,” during final NHL season. He showed what it means to be a graceful warrior, brave and determined.

In November, Bickell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that could have easily forced him into retirement in the days following diagnosis.

But Bickell fought back. Just as if he was taking a defenseman into the corner boards, he battled. For five months, he scratched his way back into playing shape and rejoined Carolina for the final four games of the regular season.

Prior to the last game in Philadelphia on Sunday, Bickell announced his retirement from hockey. As the final minutes of overtime waned into a shootout, Bickell’s career had one more moment left in it.

As sports reporters, we often talk about overcoming adversity in terms of beating a team that’s better than yours or rallying in the heat of the final seconds. But Bickell’s battle gives all in the sporting community a strong dose of realism.

At the end of the day, hockey is a game. There is a life behind every player that is filled with challenges that supersedes the game in every facet. Sometimes that gets missed. Regardless of whether or not he scored, just by getting to play a few more games, by fighting back, Bickell had already won.

Skating down the ice in only his second career shootout attempt. Bickell slowed at the slot, shot and scored. It wasn’t pretty; it wasn’t fancy, but it was Bickell.

In a parallel to times before, the goal didn’t win the game, but it set the table for Carolina to seal it minutes later. This time though, the spotlight belonged to Bickell, as the team rallied around the man who had shown grace, courage and bravery.

“He’s a man’s man and a pro’s pro,” Hurricanes head coach, Bill Peters remarked, visibly fighting back tears.

While Bickell only played eleven games in Carolina, he endeared himself to the blue-collar people of the Triangle who came out in droves to support Bickell’s “Walk to End MS” event prior to the final home game on April 8. And for a team missing the playoffs for a seventh straight season, Bickell became a hero. Not a hero for scoring a goal, but a hero for overcoming, for strength, for bravery.

“It wasn’t anything special,” Bickell said of his shootout goal, “It was a shot.”