PNC ARENA—The ruthlessly positive coach wasn’t feeling particularly positive.
“We were light tonight. We got pushed out of the game. They played a heavier game than we did.”
Penguins rookie Jayson Megna scored his first NHL goal and added an assist while looking like the best skater on the ice for much of the night. Sidney Crosby added a pair of assists and defenseman Brooks Orpik tallied helpers on all three Penguins goals in front of Marc-Andre Fleury’s 20 casual saves.
Nathan Gerbe, playing in his 200th career game, scored the Canes’ lone goal on a 5-on-3 power play in the first period. Taking the starting goalie role during Cam Ward’s month-long injury absence, Justin Peters put in a solid performance in stopping 26 shots. Not even a terrific early fight between Brett Sutter and Joe Vitale could spark the homers.
It shouldn’t be hard since the Blue Devils are 7-6-4 (4-4-3 ACC) and Pitt 4-12-1 (0-11). But Duke had to fight very hard to beat a struggling N.C. State team 1-0 with a second-half goal Thursday night.
Today there will be an extra advantage because of the Senior Day sentimentality, with eight players playing their last home game for the Blue Devils. The game is shown on Fox Sports Carolinas.
Pitt will start freshman goalie Taylor Francis, who played last year at Panther Creek High.
Duke does take care of business this time, scoring half a dozen first-half goals en route to a 6-3 win.
That’s going to be the situation for UNC this afternoon, when the Tar Heels (1-5, 0-3 ACC) host Boston College (3-3, 1-2) at 3:30 p.m. at Kenan Stadium (Fox Sports Carolinas).
If UNC is the victim of an upset, the Tar Heels will have to win all five remaining games to get a sixth win and the bowl trip they missed out on last year because of the NCAA probation.
All six remaining games are winnable, but if the Tar Heels are going to save their season it HAS to start today.
UNC is the only Triangle Division I team at home this weekend. And the two other local ACC teams will be road underdogs.
N.C. Central (3-4, 1-2 MEAC), which is all but out of the MEAC race, will be favored to get to .500 when the Eagles visit Savannah State (1-7, 0-4) at 2 p.m. It’s a must-win game for NCCU interim head coach Dwayne Foster.
Oddly, all three local ACC teams are playing at the same time. Duke (5-2, 1-2), which needs one win to will look to pull off a shocker at No. 14 Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0) in an ESPNU game. Meanwhile N.C. State (3-3, 0-3) will look for its first quality win under Dave Doeren and possibly the national upset of the year in a visit to No. 2 Florida State (6-0, 4-0).
Duke (6-6-4, 3-4-3 ACC) is still on track for an NCAA bid barring some late-season disaster as the Blue Devils host N.C. State (6-11, 1-10) in their annual cancer awareness game. The Blue Devils will wear pink and the “D” in the center circle is also pink as they raise funds for the family of 6-year-old Morgan Blazek of Apex, who is a survivor of the eye cancer retinoblastoma.
The Wolfpack is in its first season under Tim Santoro.
The Blue Devils get one second-half goal against State’s 4-4-2 attack, prevailing 1-0 in the absolute must-win contest.
So even with the addition of a Final Four team to the mix, the Blue Devils still command plenty of respect in the conference.
ACC media day was on Wednesday and Duke was picked to finish first by both the conference’s Blue Ribbon Panel and the coaches, followed by Notre Dame, Maryland and UNC in the top four. N.C. State, under new head coach Wes Moore, was picked 10th.
The Blue Devils, who had the No. 2 recruiting class in the country led by forward Oderah Chidom, placed seniors Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston along with junior Elizabeth Williams on the preseason all-conference team. Blue Devil freshman Kendall McCravey-Cooper was named to the panel’s newcomer watch list.
UNC, deemed to have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, will begin the season with Hall of Fame head coach Sylvia Hatchell sidelined as she battles her recently diagnosed leukemia. Her career-long top assistant Andrew Calder will coach the Tar Heels in her absence.
Tar Heel sophomore Xylina McDaniel made the all-conference team, while Diamond DeShields is on both newcomer watch lists.
But the defending NCAA champion Tar Heels will be exactly that today.
UNC (13-2, 7-2 ACC), currently ranked No. 4 in the country, will take on Virginia (15-0, 9-0), which is ranked No. 1.
Steve Swanson’s Cavaliers have allowed only nine goals all season. They have had four one-goal victories, the last of those a 3-2 overtime win over visiting new ACC member No. 5 Notre Dame on Oct. 10.
UNC has given up only seven, including one apiece in its back-to-back losses to the Irish and Florida State in mid-September.
Each team will be missing its best player, as UNC senior midfielder Crystal Dunn and Virginia junior midfielder Morgan Brian are both with the U.S. Women’s Senior National Team.
Virginia will be seeking its third straight win at Fetzer, which would mark the first time any visiting team has done that. And the Cavaliers will seek to become the first team to beat all four North Carolina ACC members in women’s soccer in the same year. Ever.
And the Tar Heels have a chance to get a big-time upset and turn their season around.
UNC (1-4, 0-2 ACC) will take on surprising No. 10 Miami (5-0, 1-0) in an ESPN game that over the summer was supposed to have a lot to say about who won the ACC’s Coastal Division title.
The Tar Heels are 9½-point underdogs, but they won 18-14 on the road last year.
UNC is billing the game as “Zero Dark Thursday,” wearing black helmets, jerseys and pants with Carolina Blue trim.
UNC generates 500 yards total offense, but the visitors produce 556 and score on Dallas Crawford’s three-yard run with 16 seconds left for the 27-23 win.
But for UNC, the time to start winning is now. Urgently. Now.
The Tar Heels (1-4, 0-2 ACC) are going to have to win at least five of their last seven games to qualify for a bowl game, and it won’t be an easy task. That stretch run begins tonight at 7:45 at Kenan Stadium, when they host surprisingly good No. 10 Miami (5-0, 1-0) in an opportunity for a major upset — if they play by far their best game of this season.
The UNC-Miami showdown is one of three games involving Triangle squads this weekend. The other two games are Saturday.
N.C. Central (3-3, 1-1 MEAC) will look to get its ship righted when the Eagles host Morgan State (1-5, 1-1) at 2 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
Duke (4-2, 0-2 ACC) is on the road at Virginia (2-4, 0-2) for a 3:30 p.m. contest on Fox Sports South, and if the Blue Devils can win it they’ll be on track for a second straight bowl game and their best season since 1994.
N.C. State (3-3, 0-3), which is licking its wounds after back-to-back ACC losses in winnable games, is idle until next Saturday’s trip to Florida State.
RALEIGH, PNC ARENA—The Hurricanes made way for the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks tonight. Tomorrow they’ll make way for prizewinning cattle, pig races and anything you can put in a deep fat-fryer.
Coach Kirk Muller had the road trip in his sights before the season began, treating the first seven games leading up to the trip as the first chapter of the 82-game novel that is this year. After an offseason of changes, he’d know what he had at the seven-game mark.
What Muller takes on the road is a middling 2-2-3 team with seven points in seven games, but also a team that’s competing in the Metropolitan Division since the Rangers, Devils, Flyers and Capitals have started so poorly. It’s a team that’s shown some of last year’s bad habits—starting games flat, giving up late leads, failing to get the extra point beyond regulation time—while showing hopeful new flashes of secondary scoring and improved special teams, too.