INDIANAPOLIS, IND. - Fourth-seeded Denver outscored fifth-seeded North Carolina 5-1 in the fourth quarter to rally past the Tar Heels 12-11 in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Pioneers advance to the NCAA Final 4 and will play top-seeded Syracuse next Saturday in Philadelphia.
UNC saw its 10-game winning streak come to an end as the Tar Heels were unable to protect a six-goal lead, falling to a spirited Denver comeback. The Pioneers improve to 14-4 on the campaign.
Joey Sankey, Davey Emala and Mark McNeill each scored a pair of goals for UNC while Steve Pontrello, Chad Tutton, Evan Connell, Ryan Kilpatrick and Pat Foster each scored goals. Jimmy Bitter, Ryan Creighton, Marcus Holman, greg McBride and Sankey each had assists for UNC.
Wesley Berg led the Pioneers with four goals and an assist. Eric Law had three goals and three assists and he also had the game-winning goal with 13.4 seconds left. Colin Scott scored twice for the Pioneers while Cameron Flint had a trio of assists.
Denver outshot the Tar Heels 37-35 for the game and 16-5 in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels had a 24-22 edge in ground balls despite Denver winning 17 of 26 face-offs in the match. Chase Carraro took all 26 draws for the Pioneers, who beat Carolina in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
Kieran Burke made 10 saves for the Tar Heels including six in the fourth quarter as the Pioneers staged their furious comeback. Jamie Faus, who played the last 50:23 in the goal for Denver, had 11 saves.
Carolina jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 4:03 of the game. Davey Emala scored at 12:03 off an assist by Joey Sankey. Sankey was set up behind the cage and fed Emala on the left side where he scored on an eight-yard bounce shot. On UNC's next possession, Sankey scored an unassisted goal at 10:57 as he dodged from goal line extended on the right side to finish low past Denver goalie Ryan LaPlante.
UNC extended its lead to 3-0 on Ryan Kilpatrick's first goal of the year. On a give and go on the break, Kilpatrick fed Greg McBride. McBride delivered an over-the-shoulder pass back to Kilpatrick on the run and he score on a bounce shot at 8:44. A little over a minute later, UNC made it 4-0 on Mark McNeill's first goal of the year, assisted by Ryan Creighton. The Heels scored off a successful clear with McNeill finishing low from 15 yards out at 7:21 of the first quarter.
Chad Tutton scored the next goal for Carolina as he came in through the substitution box and scored on a low hard shot from 15 yards out with 6:36 left in the quarter. Evan Connell scored the next goal for the Tar Heels, the first of his career. The close defenseman forced a turnover, scooped up the ground ball and on a quick clearing attempt he scored from 15 yards out into an empty net. The goal came at 5:24. Denver scored its first goal of the game at 4:11 of the quarter as Colin Scott's first shot was saved by Kieran Burke but the ball bounced directly to Scott who finished on the rebound.
Each team scored three times in the second quarter. Wesley Berg scored at 12:29, assisted by Eric Law to cut the UNC lead to four goals. Joey Sankey answered for the Tar Heels with his second goal of the game on a bounced shot from 10 yards out in front of the goal at 11:04. Neither team scored for almost six minutes before Pat Foster tallied for the Tar Heels at 5:25, taking a feed from Marcus Holman out front, turning a firing a shot by Denver goalie Jamie Faus.
Denver answered with two quick goals in a span of 26 seconds. Wesley Berg scored at 4:30 after a failed clear by UNC and after Denver won the next face-off, Eric Law rolled the crease to score at 4:04. Carolina notched the last goal of the half as Steve Pontrello scored in a timer-on situation, stinging high heat from 10 yards out on the left side off an assist by Jimmy Bitter.
The Pioneers outscored the Tar Heels 3-1 in the third quarter. Gordon Koerber scored an extra-man goal at 12:39 followed 26 seconds later by a goal by Wesley Berg, assisted by Eric Law.
Mark McNeill scored his second goal of the game with 7:02 left in the quarter on a low shot after he finished off a one-man clear. It is McNeill first multi-goal game since his freshman year. The Pioneers then pulled back within three goals on a tally by Wesley Berg, assisted by Cameron Flint with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
The Pioneers scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter. Eric Law scored at 14:19 when Denver was two men up after a pair of slashing penalties in the last minute of the third quarter. Then the Pioneers pulled within a single goal at 8:51 as Jeremy Noble scored an acrobatic goal while falling to the ground with Law on the assist.
North Carolina regained a two-goal lead at 7:34 as Steve Pontrello's shot was saved by Jamie Faus before Davey Emala claimed the ground ball and scored on the rebound. Denver scored on the extra-man after a holding penalty on Marcus Holman. Colin Scott scored the goal off an assist by Wesley Berg. The goal came with 4:44 to play in the game and pulled the Pioneers within 11-10. Denver tied the game at 11-11 with an unassisted goal by Eric Adamson with 1:31 to play.Denver won the ensuing face-off an called timeout with 1:15 to play. Denver scored on a rebound to win the game with 13.4 seconds left. The goal credited to Eric Law. Carolina won the ensuing face-off but could not get off a shot and saw its season end at 13-4.