CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - No. 14-ranked North Carolina used a three-goal run in the final 5:11 of play to defeat No. 12 Denver 11-8 in men's lacrosse action Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 1,258 at Fetzer Field. The Tar Heels improved to 2-0 on the season before hosting Dartmouth Sunday at 12 noon at Fetzer Field. The Pioneers dropped to 1-1 with the loss.
UNC built a 6-1 halftime lead before Denver staged a huge third quarter comeback to tie the game at 7-7 going into the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels took an 8-7 lead on a goal by Gavin Petracca with 12:11 to play before Denver tied the game for the second and final time at 8-8 on a goal by John Dickenson with 8:03 left on the clock.
The Pioneers got the ball back with a chance to take the lead but Joey Murray was flagged for a cross check with 5:48 left as the two teams tussled for a loose ball.
The penalty was a key for UNC as the Heels converted for their first extra-man goal of the game in four chances. After some confusion at the start of the EMO opportunity, UNC's Matthias McCall ran onto the field late but it proved to be a fortuitous happening as the sophomore took a pass from Michael Burns who was stationed behind the goal and McCall buried his shot behind Denver goalie Jeb Hollingsworth with 5:11 left in the game. It was McCall's second career goal and it put the Heels up 9-8.
UNC won the ensuing face-off and after possessing the ball for two minutes, the Heels looked to freshman midfielder Sean Burke to make the big play. Burke split his two defenders and buried a one-on-one shot by Hollingsworth with 3:09 to play. Shane Walterhoefer won the following face-off and Brian Connors then beat a double team and scored into an empty net with 1:35 to play to salt the game away.
Walterhoefer was a key in the game as he won 16 of 22 face-offs, including all six draws in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels dominated the ground ball battle 53-36 with Tim Kaiser leading the team in pickups with eight. Walterhoefer had six ground balls, Bart Wagner five and Ben Staines, Grant Zimmerman, Jack Ryan and Kerry McCormick four each.
Grant Zimmerman had a solid game in goal for the Tar Heels as he made 12 saves while allowing only eight goals and scooping up four ground balls. Hollingsworth finished with 14 saves and 11 goals allowed for DU.
Offensively, the Tar Heels had 10 different players score goals as they avenged an 11-8 loss to the Pioneers in Denver last year. In that game Denver outscored the Heels 6-1 in the final 7:19 of the game.
Saturday's game had similarities to that encounter with another torrid Denver comeback but this year it was North Carolina who made the big plays down the stretch.
After a scoreless first quarter in which the Heels outshot the Pioneers 12-4, Carolina blitzed Denver with a 6-1 scoring run in the second 15 minutes. Both goalies were superb in the first quarter with Hollingsworth stopping six UNC shots and Zimmerman saving all four Denver shots.
Rob Driscoll broke the ice for the Heels with an unassisted goal with 13:21 to play in the second quarter. Michael Burns scored an unassisted goal a little over six minutes later before the Heels went on a 3-0 scoring run in just 1:05 of clock time. Ryan Walterhoefer scored off an assist by Brian Connors with 3:36 left in the half, long-stick midfielder Michael Jarvis scored his first career goal 12 second later off an assist by Ben Staines and Ben Hunt took a feed from Kevin Federico and scored with 2:31 to play to make it 5-0.
Denver's Joey Murray converted a fast-break goal off an assist by Brad Richardson to make it 5-1 with 1:40 left in the half but Ben Hunt scored his second goal of the opening half 54 seconds later to make it 6-1 Carolina at the half.
Denver closed the gap in the second half, scoring its first three goals on extra-man opportunities. Dickenson, who had three goals, and Murray, who had two, scored in the first 1:41 of the third quarter to make it 6-3 before Bart Wagner took a pass from Sean Burke and scored with 10:50 to play to make it 7-3 in favor of the Tar Heels.
The Pioneers dominated the rest of the quarter and ran off four goals in a row to tie the game at 7-7. Denver outshot the Tar Heels 14-8 in the third quarter. A three-goal run from 7:49 to 6:03 made it 7-6 before Richardson scored off an assist by Brett Koll with 27 seconds left in the quarter to tie the game for the first time.
That set up the fourth quarter heroics for the Tar Heels who outshot the Pioneers 11-4 in the final period and scored four times while Hollingsworth made on save. UNC also had 14 ground balls in the final period to nine for Denver. Denver was able to forge one last tie at 8-8 before the Heels ended with their game-winning run.
The game really picked up after the opening 15 minutes when the Heels and Pioneers combined for 11 turnovers and seven failed clears. From then on play was much less sloppy as the two teams settled into their offensive rhythms.
UNC will look to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 2002 when it hosts Dartmouth at 12 noon Sunday. The Heels started the 2002 campaign 6-0 before finishing the season 8-5.
North Carolina vs. Denver
|Bart Wagner||(1, 1)|
|Sean Burke||(1, 1)|
|Ben Hunt||(2, 0)|
|Brian Connors||(1, 1)|
|Michael Burns||(1, 1)|
|Ben Staines||(0, 1)|
|Kevin Federico||(0, 1)|
|Ryan Walterhoefer||(1, 0)|
|Gavin Petracca||(1, 0)|
|Matthias Mccall||(1, 0)|
|Michael Jarvis||(1, 0)|
|Rob Driscoll||(1, 0)|