CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - R.G. Keenan had a stellar game at the X and UNC's attack continued its potent performance as seventh-ranked North Carolina beat 20th-ranked Brown 18-12 Wednesday night before 1,145 fans at Fetzer Field an a national TV audience on ESPNU.
Joey Sankey scored four goals for the third straight game, Jimmy Bitter had a six-point night and Marcus Holman had eight points, including six assists, matching his career high in the latter category. Carolina finished the 2013 regular-season 3-0 against the Ivy League. The 30 goals in Wednesday's game fell one short of the combined total in Carolina's 16-15 win over Princeton on March 9. The 18 goals were also a season high total for the Tar Heels and the most since beating Michigan 19-5 on May 5, 2012.
Carolina won for the third straight game and improved to 6-3. Seven of Carolina's first nine games this season have come against Top 20 teams and its next three opponents are also ranked. Brown saw its five-game winning streak end. The Bears are 5-2 on the year.
R.G. Keenan was a key factor in the game for Carolina as he helped keep the ball away from the potent Bears' offense. He won 19 of 31 face-offs, had 11 ground balls and also assisted on two goals. He was one short of his career highs in both face-off victories and ground balls and matched his career best for assists and points in a contest.
Carolina needed to be good offensively to overcome some difficulties in the clearing game and its turnovers total. And good it was with the ball in the attacking end. UNC's shooting accuracy was top shelf with 18 goals on 38 shots, a shooting percentage of 47.4 for the game. The Bears used two goalies against the Tar Heels with freshman Jack Kelly making nine saves and allowing 15 goals in three quarters while Will Round played the last 15 minutes and made two saves while allowing three goals.
Kieran Burke started for the Tar Heels and went all the way in goal, making 14 saves, just one short of his career high, and allowing 12 goals. He also had four ground balls.
Carolina's starting attack combined for 19 points with Marcus Holman scoring two goals and passing for six assists, Jimmy Bitter scoring three goals and adding three assists and Joey Sankey scoring four goals and adding an assist. Holman's six assists equaled his career high set against Air Force in the season opener and his eight points were two short of his personal best. Bitter matched his career high of three assists for the fourth time this year and he was one short of his career high for points. Sankey scored four goals for the third straight game as he has set and now twice matched his career high in the past nine days.
A pair of Brown attackmen had monster games for the Bears as Henry Blynn scored five goals, all in the second half, and Nick Piroli scored four times. Seven different Brown players recorded assists in the game.
For Carolina, Davey Emala had a hat trick, the 11th of his career, as he matched his season high goal total after scoring thrice against Princeton. Sankey's hat trick was the eighth of his career and Bitter now has six career hat tricks. Also scoring for the Tar Heels were attackman Patrick Kelly, midfielders Chad Tutton, Pat Foster, Ryan Creighton and Jake Matthai and defenseman Kieran McDonald.
Sankey now has 46 career goals and Bitter has recorded 45 career tallies. They shortly will become the 49th and 50th players in UNC history to score 50 or more times in their careers.
Holman's eight points give him 176 for his career as be moved past Billy Bitter, Mac Ford and Jed Prossner on Wednesday night into seventh place in all-time scoring at Carolina. His six assists give him 70 for his career, the ninth highest UNC total. His 106 career goals are sixth best in Tar Heel lore.
The teams traded goals through the first 21:40 before the Tar Heels ran off four goals in a row to take an 8-4 lead late in the second period. After Marcus Holman scored an unassisted goal at 7:39 of the period to give the Tar Heels the lead for good, Davey Emala, Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey scored in succession to make it 8-4 with 3:21 left in the half. Holman assisted on both Emala's and Bitter's goals to give the Tar Heels separation.
Brown notched the final goal of the first half and then scored again on Henry Blynn's first of five goals to make it 8-6 with 13:47 left in the third quarter. The Bears then got an extra-man opportunity with a chance to cut it to one and won the ensuing face-off but Kieran McDonald intercepted a pass by Johnny DePeters 36 seconds into the one-minute opportunity for the Bears. That proved a key play as Carolina then ran off three straight goals, five of the next six and seven of the next nine as momentum shifted decidedly to the Heels. McDonald finished the game with six ground ball and four caused turnovers as well as his first career goal. The four caused turnovers matched his career high in a game and he was one short of his career high in ground balls.
After McDonald caused the turnover, the Tar Heel offense went into high gear. In the third quarter, UNC scored seven goals on eight shots, failing to score only when a Marcus Holman shot went wide with 6:51 left in the period.
Leading 8-6, the Heels ran off three goals in 1:17 five minutes into the quarter. Pat Foster scored on the EMO from Holman at 10:18. Bitter scored at 9:07 off Sankey's assist and six seconds later the Stowe, Vt., attackman scored again, reaping the rewards of a R.G. Keenan assist. After a Brown goal, Chad Tutton scored on an outside shot at 7:21. Then with 4:30 left and Brown in a 10-man ride, Kieran McDonald scored on a 60-yard bounce shot into the empty net giving the Tar Heels their biggest lead of the game to that point at 13-7.
From then on, each team would score five times. Each time Brown would seem to gain some momentum with back-to-back goals, the Tar Heels would answer. Sankey's successive tallies late in the third quarter made it 15-8 but Blynn then scored twice in a row for Brown to cut its deficit back to five. Eventually, the Tar Heels sealed the deal with goals from Ryan Creighton, off Keenan's second assist, and Jake Matthai, on a high, hard, howitzer at 9:38. The Bears fought back with two more of their own before Davey Emala rounded out the scoring with a timer-on goal at 4:16 of the final period.
For the game, UNC outshot the Bears 38-37 and had a 47-40 edge in ground balls, including a career high seven by Marcus Holman. UNC finished with a 20-14 edge at the X and a 14-11 advantage in saves. Brown committed 19 turnovers and Carolina had 18, including seven in the fourth quarter for the second straight game. Brown's high pressure ride forced Carolina into six failed clears (20 of 26 for the game) while the Bears were 21 of 25 in the clearing game.The Tar Heels return to action Saturday when they host 10th-ranked Johns Hopkins at Kenan Stadium at 12 noon. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.