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Heels could be top ranked team on game day

Carolina upset #1 ranked Denver 12-10 on Friday in Chapel Hill
Courtesy GoHeels.com

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Fourth-ranked North Carolina went on a five-goal scoring run in less than three minutes in the third quarter to surge ahead for good in an eventual 12-10 victory over top-ranked Denver in men’s lacrosse action Friday afternoon at Navy Field.

In an early-season battle of Top 5 foes, Carolina recorded its first victory over Denver since February 14, 2009. The Pioneers had knocked UNC out of the NCAA Tournament each of the past three seasons. The game was originally scheduled for Fetzer Field but two snowstorms in Chapel Hill this week necessitated the move to the Turf Field facility at Navy Field. A crowd of 1,722 fans braved the elements and the game was also televised nationally on ESPNU.

With the win, UNC improved to 5-0 on the season while Denver fell to 3-1. This is Carolina’s first 5-0 start to a season since the 2010 team began the year 10-0.

The Tar Heels spent the entire day peppering shots at the Denver goal. UNC outshot the Pioneers 57-35, forcing tempo the entire game. And while UNC’s shooting percentage was not stellar (12 for 57), UNC engineered the game plan to be played more on its preferred tempo. Chad Tutton, Joey Sankey, Peyton Klawinski, Jimmy Bitter and Luke Goldstock combined to take 48 of Carolina’s 57 shots.

Chad Tutton recorded a hat trick to lead the Tar Heels in the goal category. Jimmy Bitter had a goal and four assists. Bitter’s four assists were a career high. His previous career high was three in a game on six occasions. Bitter has 12 assists this season after having only seven in his junior year in 2014.

Peyton Klawinski and Luke Goldstock each scored twice for UNC and Tate Jozokos had a goal and an assist. Joey Sankey failed to score a goal for the first time since May 11, 2013 but he had a pair of key assists in the third quarter when UNC outscored the Pioneers 6-2. Carolina also got single tallies from Jake Bailey, Ryan Kilpatrick and Walker Chafee.

Wesley Berg, who had three goals, paced Denver in the scoring column while Connor Cannizzaro had two goals and two assists. Brendan Bomberry had two goals and an assist for Denver while Zach Miller had a goal and two assists. Tyler Pace and Sean Cannizzaro had the other goals for Denver.

North Carolina finished with a 57-35 edge in shots and a 30-26 margin in ground balls. UNC senior attackman Jimmy Bitter had a career-high seven ground balls in the game while sophomore midfielder Tate Jozokos had five ground balls and Joey Sankey had three. Wesley Berg and Mike Riis led the Pioneers with four ground balls each.

Both teams played two goalkeepers. Ryan LaPlante played 58:34 for Denver and made nine saves while allowing 10 goals. Joey Gigantiello went in for 1:24 when LaPlante was assessed a penalty in the fourth quarter and made two saves while allowing one extra-man tally by Carolina.

Bryan Balkam played the first half for the Tar Heels, making two saves while allowing five goals. Kieran Burke came on in the second half and made five saves while allowing five goals. He had three key saves in the final five minutes of the third quarter while the Tar Heels were protecting a precarious lead.

Both teams won 12 face-offs. UNC’s Stephen Kelly was 12-for-24 with three ground balls. Trevor Baptiste was 11 for 22 at the X with three ground balls.

The Tar Heels had a season low seven turnovers and failed on just one of eight clearing attempts. After committing five turnovers in the opening 15 minutes of Friday’s game, the Heels committed only two turnovers the rest of the way, including none in the fourth quarter.

Although the Tar Heels outshot the Pioneers 12-4 in the first quarter, UNC trailed 2-1 at the end of 15 minutes. The Tar Heels hit three pipes in the first quarter and ended with six pipe shots in the game. Denver went ahead on Tyler Pace’s unassisted goal at 12:47 of the first quarter, converting on a UNC turnover. The Tar Heels equaled at 4:23 of the opening period on an extra-man goal by Walker Chafee, assisted by Jimmy Bitter as UNC capitalized on a cross checking call against Denver’s Colin Woolford.

The Pioneers then went on a three-goal run to seize a 4-1 lead. Wesley Berg scored off an assist by Zach Miller with 2:24 left in the first quarter. Connor Cannizzaro scored unassisted a little over three minutes into the second quarter and then Brendan Bomberry scored off a Cannizzaro assist at 9:46 to put the Pioneers up 4-1.

Just 14 seconds later, the Heels answered with a goal by long stick midfielder Ryan Kilpatrick, assisted by Tate Jozokos. Carolina then pulled within a single goal when Jimmy Bitter picked up a ground ball and finished on his own with 6:29 left before halftime.

Zach Miller answered for the Pioneers with 4:09 left in the opening half. Brian Balkam then made a big save right before the end of halftime on Brendan Bomberry, keeping UNC’s deficit at two goals going into the second half.

The second half began with a Gilman clear attempt by Denver goalie Ryan LaPlante whose field length shot was blocked by a UNC defenseman. But the ball bounced directly to Wesley Berg who scored into an open net 26 seconds into the third period. Joey Sankey hit the post on the net UNC possession but a turnover by Bomberry at 12:59 allowed the Tar Heels to seize momentum.

Thirty-one seconds later Peyton Klawinski scored the first of his two goals, cutting UNC deficit to 6-4 with 12:28 left in the period. Denver won the ensuing face-off but turned the ball over. Jimmy Bitter pounced on the ground ball, fed Joey Sankey and Sankey made one more pass to an unguarded Luke Goldstock on the crease for a quick putaway. Just 18 seconds after Klawinski’s goal it was now 6-5 Denver.

Tate Jozokos picked up the ground ball on the next face-off and at 11:45 Denver’s Baptiste was called for a slash. It took only 12 seconds for UNC to convert on the extra-man opportunity as Chad Tutton scored from Jimmy Bitter at 11:33. In just 55 seconds, UNC had erased Denver’s lead.

The Tar Heels took the lead for good 12 seconds later on a goal by Tate Jozokos, his second of the season after a face-off win by Stephen Kelly. That goal put UNC up 7-6 with 11:21 to play in the third quarter and Carolina never relinquished that lead. Carolina extended the lead less than two minutes later on Chad Tutton’s second goal of the game off an assist by Bitter at 9:36 of the period.

Denver answered with a goal by Sean Cannizzaro, assisted by Zach Miller, with 5:31 left in the third quarter. Later in the quarter the Tar Heels cashed in for their third man-up goal of goal to take a 9-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Christian Burgdorf was sent off for slashing at 2:16 of third quarter and UNC scored on the man up 19 seconds later with Tutton recording his third goal of the game, assisted by Sankey.

Wesley Berg answered with a goal for the Pioneers 1:15 into the final period, cutting UNC’s lead to 9-8. The Tar Heels retook a two-goal lead at 11:30 of the final period. Peyton Klawinski’s initial shot was blocked, but Klawinski pounced on the loose ball in front of the cage and scored past LaPlante for his ninth goal of the season.

Neither team scored over the next three minutes before LaPlante was sent off for a minute for unsportsmanlike conduct with 8:26 to play. Joey Gigantiello came in at goal for the Pioneers and he saved a shot by Joey Sankey 18 seconds into the EMO. Thirteen seconds later, however, Luke Goldstock scored for UNC, assisted by Jimmy Bitter. It was Bitter’s fourth assist of the game and Goldstock’s 12th goal of the season. The Tar Heels had their biggest lead of the game at 11-8 with 7:55 left in the final period.

The Pioneers were far from done, however, as any #1-ranked team would react with a comeback in that situation. Brendan Bomberry scored off an assist by Connor Cannizzaro at 6:16 to cut the UNC lead to two goals. On ensuing possessions, the Tar Heels were called for a pair of slashing penalties before Connor Cannizzaro scored on the man up with 2:47 to play in the game, his fourth point of the game.

Carolina won the ensuing face-off with Ryan Kilpatrick saving a ground ball in front of the UNC bench after a wild scrum. UNC called timeout with 2:20 to play and after three shots by the Heels sailed wide, Denver called timeout with 1:15 to play. Denver came out in an empty net setup before Jake Bailey scored with 1:03 left in the game on a bounce shot. It was Bailey’s third career goal and his second goal to clinch a win over a #1-ranked team. He also scored late in an 11-8 win over top-ranked Maryland on March 22, 2014.

Denver won the ensuing face-off but Wesley Berg’s shot with 41 seconds left hit the post and Connor Cannizzaro’s ensuing shot was blocked. UNC regained possession and killed the final 19 seconds to clinch the victory.




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