The Irish and the Tarheels had a history of close games, and this one was no exception. The average margin of victory by the winning team in the last six contests between these two opponents had been about 2.18 goals and today the Irish prevailed 9-7. Carolina entered the Loftus Center 6-0 and ranked No. 3. Notre Dame, meanwhile was ranked No. 7 and brought a record of 3-0 but many had questioned the strength of the Irish given what many perceived as a soft schedule of Loyola, Penn State and Dartmouth. Whatever “soft” thoughts anyone may have had about Notre Dame were out to rest with a strong defensive effort and a stellar first half performance by Irish netkeeper Scott Rodgers, who improved his mark to 4-0. Many had also questioned the ability of Rodgers, back-up to Irish all-star Joey Kemp, given his limited minutes. Rodgers had shown that he can be a stopper in the opener against Loyola, but Loyola was not North Carolina, a team that had pummeled Detroit Mercy with 71 shots last week. Rodgers dispelled any doubts and stepped up big, stopping more than a handful of point blank shots in the first quarter and finishing the game with 16 saves..
Notre Dame came out shooting trying to put it in three times jumped out to the first goal with three tries that went wide, and covering the shot to retain possession. Both teams were particularly stingy in the midfield above the restraining line and pressing the ball carrier. This effort by both teams kept the scoring low and it wasn’t until 1:38 left in the quarter that Grant Krebs took a feed from Peter Christman and shot from the top left on the Irish’s first man up opportunity. Notre Dame converted on two of their four extra man situations, while their defense denied the Tarheels any score on their one opportunity. Carolina answered 32 seconds later with a low roller by Billy Bitter to the left corner as he neatly crossed in front of Rodgers from right to left. Carolina took the lead 2-1 at 0:05 when Billy Bitter notched his second point, feeding Jimmy Dunster who used a modified quick-stick to beat Rodgers and Carolina lead at the quarter 2-1. Notre Dame’s Zach Brenneman went untouched on a solo shot right up the middle at 14:23 to tie the game on the first possession of the second quarter.
Peter Christman put Notre Dame in the lead at 10:34 off a feed from Grant Krebs, 3-2. Carolina midfielder Sean Delaney notched back to back goals being fed first from Jimmy Dunster and then Sean Burke. Carolina took a 4-3 edge into halftime and then Neal Hicks for the Irish tied it up at 10:49 of the third quarter as Notre Dame scored the first of four goals to take a commanding lead of 7-4 into the fourth quarter at 11:16. Ryan Hoff followed Hicks with a feed fro Duncan Swezey at 3:05 to put the Irish up 5-4 at the end of the third.
Hicks found the net again at the beginning of the fourth during a line change, as he moved on a curl from the right side to beat Zimmerman. 6-4. A slashing penalty on Carolina gave the Irish another extra man opportunity and Christman found Krebs to make it 7-4. Breschi’s charges did not falter and pressed at every opportunity to score. However, the Irish defense was effective at denying the any high percentage shots and Carolina was hurried in their attack and 24 of their 47 shots were wide.
At 4:22 things got interesting with Sean Burke using a crossing pattern and shooting at top right to beat Rodgers to narrow the lead to two, 7-5. Ryan Hoff retaliated at 3:05 off a feed from Swezey to keep the lead at three, 8-5. Carolina took the ball down and Billy Bitter ran behind and worked a dodge to roll the right side and then used an inside roll to come right at Rodgers and covert to make it 8-6 at the 2:52 mark. Eight seconds later Hoff took a feed form defender Andrew Irving and beat Zimmerman and put the Irish up 9-6. Bitter once again took the ball from behind at 2:17 and rolled inside from the right side to score and make it 9-7. Carolina twice stripped the ball from Notre dame but couldn’t convert. Rodgers stood still on Gavin Petracca , standing 5 yards off on the right and calmly stoned a hard overhand that left Petracca stunned.. The next possession by Carolina after a strip was muffed by a bad pass and the Irish recovered the ball and squeezed out the remaining time.
Notre Dame’s defense proved today that it is ready to make a run for the big dance come May. This was a quality win that will help them come selection time. The Irish next take on Bucknell.
|Peter Christman||(1, 3)|
|Ryan Hoff||(3, 0)|
|Grant Krebs||(2, 1)|
|Neal Hicks||(2, 0)|
|Duncan Swezey||(0, 2)|
|Andrew Irving||(0, 1)|
|Zach Brenneman||(1, 0)|
|Scott Rodgers||16 (0.696)|