Newark, Del. — With just 9.5 seconds left in regulation and a mere blink of an eye following a neutral-zone face-off, a Tyler Alfonzetti snipe from just above the left face-off dot lifted the North Carolina State University IcePack (11-0-0) to a 5-4 decision over the University of Delaware Division 2 men’s hockey team (12-3-0) on Friday night (Nov. 9) at Fred Rust Arena.
Directly out of a face-off just above the NC State blue line following an offside pass, Alfonzetti carried the puck up the left side of the neutral zone, found space to take aim from 30 feet out, and rifled a top-shelf goal — his second of the game — past Delaware goalie Chris Demas to seal victory for the undefeated IcePack after an evenly-matched game throughout.
With Andrew Marciniak and Dan Demas both out of the Delaware lineup due to upper-body injuries and Mike Hicken also sidelined after being assessed a game misconduct in the Hens’ 6-2 win over Keene State, the Delaware defence was depleted from the outset and a strong IcePack forecheck took advantage early. Ryan Kinney opened the scoring for NC State at 7:09, beating Delaware defenceman Spencer Ruthkowski into the attacking zone up the left wing boards and generating a breakaway for an easy net-front chip-in. Three and a half minutes later, Alfonzetti earned his first of the game with a net-front put-back off the rebound of a Trevor Merchant chance, lifting NC State to a 2-0 advantage.
Delaware wasted no time in responding. Just nine seconds after the Alfonzetti goal, Devin LeBlanc put the Hens on the board with a fast-break attack from the centre face-off circle, and leading scorer Ryan Morse potted his 16th of the year with a snipe at the top of the right face-off circle to tie the game at 15:09 following a failed Kyle Sapia breakaway.
Not two minutes later, IcePack defenceman Devin Halko took aim at the top right corner of the Delaware cage from the high slot to put them back ahead, 3-2, but the Hens once again rose to the challenge. With 1:20 left in the first period but up a man with NC State’s Ellis Rushford serving a hooking minor, the Delaware power-play unit responded. Jeremy DeWit punched the puck past Josh Cannon amid a net-front scrum just 13 seconds into the man advantage to tie the game back up.
The second period, while full of shots — NC State outshot Delaware, 14-10 — was devoid of quality scoring chances, save for a Kyle Sapia breakaway with 2:31 to go. After a first-period breakaway was foiled by NC State defender Brendan Seppey hustling back to angle Sapia off the puck, the Delaware fourth-liner stole the puck at the IcePack blue line, deked, and chipped the puck into the lower right corner of the net to give the Hens their lone lead of the game.
After giving up the short-handed goal and being silenced in all three power-play attempts in the second frame, the IcePack bounced back to beat the Delaware defence again twice in the third period while clogging their own zone and minimising chances effectively. NC State leading scorer Sam Banasiewicz potted his 16th goal of the season off an attacking zone face-off from the outside edge of the left circle at 6:37 to tie the game at four goals apiece, and then the IcePack defence held their ground to maintain the tie before Alfonzetti’s last-minute game-winning tally.
Both Cannon (3-0-0) and Demas (4-1-0) registered 24 saves in their respective performances.
Delaware hosts Liberty on Sunday afternoon (Nov. 11). Game time at Fred Rust Arena is 3:45 p.m.; coverage on Delaware Hockey Night Radio begins at 3:30 p.m.