DENVER. COLO. – The sixth-ranked North Carolina men’s lacrosse team was led by a career performance from goalkeeper Brian Balkam as it defeated top-ranked Denver 13-9 at sold out Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium Saturday afternoon. Balkam made 17 saves and Luke Goldstock had four goals and an assist to pace the Tar Heel offense in capturing a signature win for the UNC program.
UNC led from start-to-finish and it posted a win over a #1-ranked team for the sixth straight season, a streak which began against Johns Hopkins in 2012. UNC has now defeated seven top-ranked teams since April 1, 2012 and is 7-3 against top-ranked teams over the past six years. Prior to the win over Johns Hopkins in 2012, UNC had gone 16 years without recording a victory over a #1 team.
Balkam’s 17 saves exceeded his previous career high totals of 14 he had against both Denver and Notre Dame in his sophomore season in 2016. The Tar Heels needed all of Balkam’s saves as on paper the Pioneers had a statistical advantage, outshooting Carolina 43-34, winning the ground ball battle 25-19 and having a slight edge at the face-off circle 14-10. The Pioneers were 9-for-9 on clears while UNC was 13-14. Carolina finished with a season-low eight turnovers while the Pioneers had just six.
Balkam allowed two goals and made two saves in the opening period as UNC moved out to a 4-2 lead. Over the final three quarters, he made five saves in each frame, totaling 15 over the final three quarters and allowing only seven goals in that time. For Denver, Alex Ready allowed 13 goals while making just six saves as UNC’s offense shot with tactical precision against the Pioneeers.
UNC now leads the all-time series against Denver 10-5 and has won two of the past three games against the Pioneers after Denver had won the previous three contests in NCAA play.
Goldstock’s four goals and one assist led the Tar Heel offense while Chris Cloutier and Justin Anderson each scored twice for Coach Joe Breschi’s team. Andy Matthews had three assists, running his season total to 11. Both Michael Tagliaferri and Timmy Kelly had a goal and an assist for the Heels. William Perry, Brian Cannon and William McBride also scored for UNC. Denver’s Ethan Walker had three goals and an assist while Connor Cannizzaro had a pair of goals for the Pioneers.
The Tar Heels started well with a pair of goals in the opening five minutes of the match. Michael Tagliaferri scored 43 seconds into the game, assisted by Luke Goldstock, and then Goldstock scored a goal of his own off an assist by Andy Matthews with 11:01 left in the first quarter. Neither team scored for almost eight minutes before there was a flurry of four goals, two for each team, in the final 3:39 of the period. After Denver pulled within 2-1, Brian Cannon scored for Carolina with an assist from Timmy Kelly at 2:37. Danny Logan scored just 12 seconds later for Denver but Chris Cloutier’s unassisted goal made it 4-2 in favor of the Tar Heels with three seconds left in the opening period.
Denver’s Connor Cannizzaro pulled the Pioneers within a goal at 7:42 of the second period before the Tar Heels ran off the final three goals of the half, all by Luke Goldstock. The senior attackman scored off an assist by Andy Matthews at 6:31, off an assist by Michael Tagliaferri at 5:38 and off the third assist of the game recorded by Matthews at 2:47. The last of those three goals put UNC up 7-3 at halftime.
The Tar Heels outscored the Pioneers 3-2 in the third quarter to carry a 10-5 lead into the final frame of action. Chris Cloutier scored a man-up goal 31 seconds into the period and William McBride and Timmy Kelly then each answered Denver goals before the end of the game's third 15 minutes. Kelly’s unassisted tally with 11 seconds left in the third quarter put UNC up 10-5.
Denver scored three of the first four goals of the fourth quarter. Ethan Walker’s third goal of the game pulled Denver within three goals with 3:32 to play but Tar Heel freshman Justin Anderson scored 41 seconds later and the Las Vegas midfielder scored again with 2:04 left into an empty net to salt away the win.
Stephen Kelly had a solid day at the X for the Heels, winning 10 face-offs against Denver's first-team All-America Trevor Baptiste and earn the Heels crucial possessions throughout the game.
UNC improved to 98-41 in Coach Joe Breschi’s nine seasons in Chapel Hill and will commence a five-game home streak at Fetzer Field with a game against Hofstra next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The Pride deafeated UNC 10-5 a yer ago at Fetzer and has started 2017 with a 4-0 mark.