Just when it looked as though the Hurricanes were turning the corner in the recovery process, the team reverted back to its old tendencies in back-to-back smarting losses against the Phoenix Coyotes, 4-0, and more recently, the Boston Bruins, 5-2. The Bruins looked like a hungry team barely hanging on to eighth place in the Eastern Conference while the Hurricanes looked like a bunch of guys that thought, hey, it might be nice to beat the Bruins tonight maybe…if it doesn’t take too much effort. Carolina sank to ten points back from eighth, in other words, not exactly mathematically eliminated but circling the drain.
Despite these dramatically different outlooks on the rest of the spring, the ‘Canes kept it close through two and a half periods, largely thanks to Erik Cole, who scored goals seven and eight of the year to keep Carolina within reach. But the Bruins cracked the game open midway through the third and never looked back.
“There were a lot of uncharacteristic things that we haven’t been doing the last several games,” Cole said. “It feels as bad as it did early in the year at the moment, and it’s a feeling we haven’t had in this room for quite a while.”
Carolina lost its second straight on home ice after rattling off eight in a row in Raleigh. Saturday night, it was clear the ‘Canes really missed center Brandon Sutter, who sat out the game while nursing a “lower body injury.” Indy was at the game and probably should have posted a game recap, but honestly, it would have been really short and pretty boring, something along the lines of four paragraphs describing each of Phoenix’s goals and one about how listless Carolina was beneath the headline “Bryzgalov 4 Vezina!!!” Even starting goaltender Justin Peters, who absorbed the 4-0 loss, called it a boring game. He would know.
The ‘Canes have fallen back into that bad habit of letting in a few deflating goals early and it happened again Tuesday. Patrice Bergeron deflected a puck past Manny Legace 23 seconds in with assists from two ex-Hurricanes, Mark Recchi and Dennis Seidenberg.
DURHAM ATHLETIC PARK/DURHAM N.C. Central hosts yet another challenging baseball battle with an ACC foe, this time an N.C. State team that's looking for its first road win of the season.
The Eagles are looking for their first win anywhere, and really haven't kept more than a couple of games competitive so far this season.
Because the weather forecast isn't good, the game will have a 3 p.m. start - sort of - instead of the regularly scheduled 6 p.m. starting time. It's the first of their two scheduled meetings this season, as the Eagles will visit Doak Field at Dail Park on April 13.
Jeff Citero (0-1, 9.82), a junior out of Southeast Raleigh, will be on the mound for the Eagles while the Wolfpack sends big sophomore Mike Russo (0-0, 6.14).
It's competitive from the start, but the Wolfpack scores in every inning, hitting five homers in a 24-6 romp.
BACKYARD BISTRO/RALEIGH Kellie Harper couldn't remember exactly when she had been in such a situation before.
Back when the N.C. State women's basketball coach was a point guard at Tennessee the Lady Vols - who won three NCAA titles during her career - were pretty much in the NCAA Tournament before the season started. Then during her five seasons as head coach at Western Carolina and three seasons as an assistant at Chattanooga before that, Southern Conference teams knew they had to win the conference tournament or they might earn a bid to the WNIT.
But the Wolfpack (20-13) has been on the NCAA "bubble" ever since losing the ACC championship game to Duke eight days ago, although most of the bracketologists had N.C. State in the field.
Harper and her team gathered with about 300 fans on Monday night to watch the Selection Special on ESPN that announced the 64 competing teams.
DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK/DURHAM Duke has pulled the same feat twice, this time in Durham.
Last year, Duke lost the first game in the Tobacco Road series in Chapel Hill, but won the series by winning the last two games. This year, the series is in Durham, but the same result comes out on Sunday as Duke wins the finale 5-3.
For the first time in the series, there are no runs scored in the first inning. The first run is scored in the top of the third on of a two-run homer by UNC's Jesse Wierzbicki.
ACC champion Duke (27-5) is going to be one of the 64 teams on the board when the NCAA Women's Tournament field is announced tonight at 7 on ESPN.
N.C. State (20-13) and UNC (19-11) think they're in, but won't be sure until they see their names on the board tonight.
The Wolfpack and Tar Heels are two of about eight ACC teams who will be waiting with baited breath, first to make sure they're in the field and then to see where they're headed.
Duke and Florida State (26-5) are both hosting first- and second-round games, so it's a certainty the Seminoles are also going to get an invitation. It would also shock the women's basketball world if Georgia Tech (23-9) or Virginia (21-9) doesn't get the thumbs-up.
The Wolfpack, under their first-year coach Kellie Harper, and the Tar Heels, under veteran Sylvia Hatchell, likely sealed their invitations with recent wins.
State had to avenge a regular-season loss by beating Clemson in the first round of the ACC Tournament, and the Wolfpack got that done and added two more wins to boot.
The Tar Heels' signature victory was over Duke at Carmichael Auditorium on Senior Day - UNC's final game before the ACC Tournament - but they had to beat N.C. Central on Sunday to avoid seeing the bid slip through their fingers, and they got that done.
CARMICHAEL ARENA/CHAPEL HILL It's that unique final regular-season game that UNC is playing after the ACC Women's Tournament for the second straight season.
Today the Tar Heels take on local rival N.C. Central, which like the South Dakota team UNC played in this situation last year is transitioning from Division II and not yet eligible for post-season play.
Last season, the Coyotes put a huge scare into the Tar Heels at the Smith Center before falling 75-69.
This is of course the season finale for the Eagles, who have won 11 of their last 19 games after an 0-9 start. NCCU is 0-4 against the ACC this season, but did fall by only 76-63 on Feb. 22 at Wake Forest.
It's the third straight season in which they've played each other, and the closer of the two games was a 98-45 UNC victory last season in the Smith Center.
All the NCAA bracketologies heading into Monday night's selection show have the Tar Heels in the 64-team field, but a shocking home-court loss to NCCU would probably send Sylvia Hatchell's club to the WNIT.
UNC will have to play without freshman center Waltiea Rolle, who is out with a concussion.
It takes them a while to establish control but the Tar Heels avoid that disaster, eventually winning 88-66 in a pretty entertaining contest.
Eleven ACC women's basketball teams played their final game before the post-season tournaments at some point during the ACC Tournament last week.
Duke has, of course, clinched an NCAA bid as the conference's regular-season champion and three other teams - Florida State, Virginia and Georgia Tech - seem to be resting easy about their spot on the board when the NCAA Tournament bracket comes out tomorrow night.
Nearly half a dozen more may or may not be on a "bubble." Only one has something left to add to the argument.
That's UNC, which for the second straight year will play a home game on the same day as the ACC men's tournament final.
Last season it was against South Dakota, and although the Coyotes gave the Tar Heels a good scare at the Smith Center UNC didn't have to win.
It does today. Sylvia Hatchell's club is going to be a really big favorite in its 3:30 home contest against N.C. Central in the Eagles' final game of the season, but the Tar Heels absolutely have to emerge victorious to avoid giving any naysayers on the selection committee a lot of fodder.
Cetera DeGraffenreid (pictured) is the Tar Heels' assist leader, and has been their best player over the last few weeks.
DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK/DURHAM If you saw the box score from last night's game, you'd be in disbelief - #11 UNC beat Duke 21-9.
Fast-forward eighteen hours, and its Duke with an eight-run inning in front of the largest crowd in Duke coach Sean McNally's tenure, and possibly in Duke Baseball history - the attendance is at 2,572. The crowd cheers on the Blue Devils to win this one, 15-11.
Eric Pfisterer (2-1, 5.28 ERA coming into today) is on the mound for Duke at the start. Tar Heel starting pitcher Patrick Johnson (2-1, 1.42 ERA coming into today) starts the first three innings and allows UNC to take a 2-1 lead.
DURHAM BULLS ATHLETIC PARK/DURHAM The ACC baseball conference season starts tonight, and they seem to make schedules a lot differently in this sport than in most others.
Duke, which has moved 18 home games to the Durham Bulls' digs this season and is playing many of the rest at USA Baseball's Coleman Field in Cary, is hosting archrival UNC tonight in the opener of their three-game series. Yep, the weekend of the ACC Basketball Tournament.
And the rains seem to be ending just in time for the first pitch.
The Tar Heels, who are looking for their fifth straight trip to the College World Series, are 11-2 and ranked as high as No. 11 nationally. Duke, coming off its best season in 15 years last year, is 9-3.
The Tar Heels dominate a slugfest, winning 21-9 with their highest run and hit totals of the season as they snap Duke's eight-game winning streak and give the Blue Devils their first home loss.
For a half, North Carolina made everyone forget. Or, at least if one were inclined to forget, the possibility was open. The struggling Tar Heels held a 10-point lead at halftime against Georgia Tech in the opening round of the ACC Tournament, but they crumbled in the second half and fell to the Yellow Jackets 62-58.
The loss knocked the Heels out of the tournament and officially ended the Heels’ chances of earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament, though entering the weekend essentially no one expected them to win the ACC title.
Carolina’s primary issue in this game was the same one that felled the team all season: poor shooting. The Heels shot just 33 percent from the field, an excruciating number against a team that didn’t perform especially well on defense.
The Heels did get double-figure scoring games from both Deon Thompson (10 points, eight rebounds) and Tyler Zeller (17 points, 10 rebounds), but no one else was able to get anything going offensively.