Not many players have an opportunity to play at an outdoor game in front of a massive fanbase in their hockey careers. Victor Hugo, senior and team captain was able to do so in his final year at North Carolina State.
Hugo, the team Captain and Club President, scored two goals in a 7-3 victory over rival UNC-Chapel Hill in front of 24,000 fans on February 21. Utilizing the Stadium Series ice built for the NHL Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals game a few days prior, Hugo and his NC State teammates got to do something few players ever do. “Having an opportunity to play in this kind of environment, I never thought I would see it and I’m super excited for it,” Hugo said.
A 2001-born defenseman, Hugo was a standout player during his four years with the Washington Little Capitals, serving as a Team Captain, honored as an AYHL All-Star, and earning three consecutive bids to the USAH National Championships.
The NC State Icepack is a member of the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League (ACCHL) and competes in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) as a Division II program. The Icepack home facility is the Wake Competition Center and have their own locker room at Invisalign Arena.
Hugo, the aerospace engineering major, already has a job lined up with Northrup Grumman in Virginia in the tactical space systems division.
Our own Ryan Yoon caught up with Hugo recently to discuss his time spent at NC State.
How was your college hockey experience?
It was great. I couldn’t really ask for anything else. I’ve made some of my best memories from the team. We’ve been to nationals, lots of showcases in places like Florida, St. Louis, North Dakota, and all the guys on my team are some of my best friends. And to cap it all off with an outdoor game at my school's football stadium is really the perfect way to do it.
Could you tell us what playing in front of this fanbase was like? (Outdoor Game)
N.C. State fans are really something else. They’ve come and support us since my freshman year when we played in a rink with no stands. They’re really the best fans anyone could ask for. They come with energy and they come loud. In the beginning of the week there were some rumors we’d see maybe 10-15k, but to walk out to over 26k was surreal. The Wolfpack chants gave me chills when we first got out of the tunnel. It was a little nerve racking at first but once the puck dropped we were able to take that energy that they had and walk away with a win which was pretty cool.
What are you most proud of this season?
I’m most proud that we were able to get another bid to regionals. We’ve been to regionals all 4 years I’ve been at N.C. State and we’re 1/5 teams in ACHA to go 5 years in a row. We’ve been able to build something special here and I’m really excited to see if we can battle and get three wins this weekend to hopefully move on to nationals.
Is there a moment you will remember most from your college career?
One of my favorite moments happened in my junior year during the ACCHL Championship weekend. We were playing Wake Forest in the semi finals and were down 3-0 with a 1:30 left on the clock. At this point, we had been outplaying and outshooting them all game. I think the shots were something like 60-15, but their goalie had been stealing the show. We pulled out goalie and were finally able to get one past him, so it was 3-1. 10 seconds later, after a faceoff win and a good line rush, we scored again, making it 3-2. The puck drops and we get back in the zone but the goalie freezes the puck. Then, we win the Ozone faceoff, the puck comes back to me and i take a slap shot that goes top left to tie the game with a minute left. We ended up winning the game in overtime and then went on to win the ACCHL title.
WLC Alumni in the ACHA National Tournament:
All 3 divisions of the ACHA National Championships are being held in Marlborough, Massachusetts, this weekend. WLC will be represented well across all divisions.
Thomas Krisztinicz, Sean Ostrowski, and their United States Naval Academy teammates head to the Division 1 National Championship as winners of their conference and #19 seed. They'll face #14 Calvin University in single-elimination play on Thursday.
The Division 2 National Championship features three recent WLC alumni: Kyle Wilson (Northeastern), Colton Gehrt (Kentucky), and Drew Naylor (Kentucky). All three alumni report having a terrific freshman season-- balancing and benefitting from the lifestyle of a student-athlete and continuing to compete in the game they love. The two clubs are not scheduled to play each other until three-game pool play is concluded, so we're free to cheer for both squads until then!
And Jason Kleinhans leads the United States Air Force Academy to the Division 3 Championship this weekend. A current sophomore, Jason appeared in two games for the NCAA (D1) squad last season, and is the second leading scorer on the ACHA squad this year.
Good luck to all our WLC alumni this weekend!
(*Alumni we missed? Email Marketing@washingtonlittlecapitals.com)