CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Sophomore Chad Tutton scored on a over-handed bounce shot with three seconds to play to lift #11 North Carolina to a wild 16-15 victory over #5 Princeton Saturday afternoon at Fetzer Field. The game was played before a sun-drenched crowd of 4,362 raucous fans.
They witnessed the Tar Heels score twice in the last 37 seconds to play to pull out a much needed victory heading into next Wednesday's rivalry game against Duke at Fetzer Field at 7:30 p.m. It was the largest crowd at Fetzer Field since April 7, 2012 when 5,138 saw Virginia beat the Tar Heels.
The two teams combined for 31 goals on 99 shots with the Tigers outshooting the Tar Heels 56-43. One of the differences in the game proved to be shooting accuracy. Carolina put 28 of its 43 shots on goal while Princeton was on cage only 25 times in 56 attempts.
Princeton's high-powered offense was all the Tar Heels could handle as the Tigers proved their mettle on the offensive end of the field. But the Tar Heels preserved to score one more. The 15 goals were the most conceded by Carolina in a victorious situation since UNC beat top-ranked Virginia 19-18 at Fetzer Field on April 6, 1996.
The wildness of the fourth quarter was indicative of the crazy ebb and flow of momentum that existed throughout the contest. Carolina was up 11-10 heading into the final quarter before Jeff Froccaro beat Kieran Burke low to even the game at 11-11 with 11:46 to play. The Tar Heels reclaimed the lead on a Jimmy Bitter goal assisted by Marcus Holman with 10:11 left but just 22 seconds later it was tied again at 12-12 after a goal from 12 yards out by Mike MacDonald.
Within the next three minutes, Carolina went back up by a pair. An extra-man goal by Tutton, assisted by Bitter, gave the Heels a 13-12 lead at 8:04 before Joey Sankey took a pass from Holman and beat O'Connor on a five-hole shot exactly one minute later. The Tar Heels got the ball back but O'Connor stonewalled Holman at the 5:34 mark and MacDonald scored his fifth goal of the game on the fast break just 18 seconds later.
The Tar Heels would not possess the ball again for 4:05 and in that span Princeton got enough looks at the goal to produce a lead. After Jake Froccaro won the ensuing face-off, Princeton got off six shots at Burke over a span of one minutes and forty seconds. The Tigers won a ground ball battle near midfield with 2:37 to play and Tom Schreiber stepped up a rocketed one past Burke to tie the game at 14-14 with 2:30 to play. Jeff Froccaro won the next face-off and Schreiber's outside shot beat Burke with 1:41 to play with the assist to Kip Orban.
Then it really got crazy. Jeff Froccaro won the next face-off and Princeton looked to kill time. But UNC face-off man R.G. Keenan pursued Chris White of the Tigers into the right corner behind the goal and stripped him and scooped up the ground ball with 1:11 left. UNC's clear was good and the Tar Heels called timeout with 53 seconds to play to set up a play. With 39 seconds left, Matt O'Connor denied Jimmy Bitter's shot from the right side, but in a wild scrum in front of the goal, Davey Emala scooped up the ground ball and scored on the rebound into the empty net to tie the game at 15 with 37 seconds left.
Keenan then won his 20th face-off of the game and after two quick shots by Marcus Holman the Tar Heels kept possession with 11 seconds to play. After a Princeton timeout, Holman carried it from the left side and fed Bitter at the top of the box. Bitter quickly moved the ball to the right wing where Tutton finished the comeback with his bounce shot past O'Connor, sending the partisan crowd into a frenzy.
The game marked the fourth successive one-goal decision for the Tar Heels, who have split those four games, all against nationally ranked teams. UNC improved to 3-2 on the season with the win. The Tigers fell for the first time this season to go to 3-1. They had run off successive wins over Hofstra, Johns Hopkins and Villanova to start the season.
Carolina had nine different goal scorers in the game with Jimmy Bitter, Chad Tutton and Davey Emala each scoring three goals. Bitter also had three assists in the game, giving him six points in the game, just one short of his career high set last year against Hofstra. Joey Sankey finished with six points as well on two goals and four assists while Marcus Holman had a goal and three assists for the Tar Heels.
Sankey's six points matched his career high in a game set last year against Mercer and Duke. Emala's three goals were the most he has scored since tallying four in the opening game of the 2012 season against Penn State. It was Emala's goal with 37 seconds to play that forged a 15-15 tie and set up Tutton's last second heroics. Tutton also matched his career high for goals in a game. He also had three against Mercer, Virginia and Duke last season.
Carolina got single goals from four midfielders - Jake Matthai, T.J. Kemp, R.G. Keenan and Ryan Creighton. Kemp also added an assist. The Tar Heels needed every last one of those goals to overcome a magnificent offensive performance by Princeton's Mike MacDonald, Tom Schreiber and Jeff Froccaro. MacDonald had a game-high seven points with his career high five goals and two assists. Schreiber had a six-point day with four goals and two assists and Froccaro finished with four goals. Jake Froccaro had a goal and two assists for the Tigers while Kip Orban had a goal and an assist.
Carolina had now played four successive games decided by a single goal with a loss to Massachusetts 12-11, a win over Fairfield 10-9, a triple overtime loss to Notre Dame 10-9 and the 16-15 win over Princeton. The last time that the Tar Heels had played four straight games decided by a single goal came in 2009 when during a mid-season streak Carolina lost to Maryland 8-7, beat Johns Hopkins 10-9 in overtime, lost to Virginia 11-10 and beat Ohio State 12-11.
In 1996, Carolina played a string of five successive games decided by a single goal during a similar mid-season stretch, During that particular stretch, UNC lost to Duke 11-10, beat Maryland 17-16, lost to Johns Hopkins 9-8, beat Virginia 19-18 and beat Notre Dame 11-10.
Another key in the game was R.G. Keenan's work at the face-off X for Carolina. Facing four different Princeton face-off men, Keenan won 20 of his 34 attempts and had a game-high eight ground balls. The 20 face-off victories were a career high for Keenan. His previous best was 19 face-off victories against Penn State on February 11, 2012. This marks only the sixth time in UNC history that a Tar Heel player has won 20 face-offs in a match. Shane Walterhoefer did it four times, including a school record 23 wins against Ohio State in 2008 while Todd Oudemool was the long-time record holder with 22 wins against Towson in 1989.
The Tar Heels came out a little flat and Princeton took advantage to stake itself to a three-goal lead 8:13 into the game. Mike MacDonald had the second and third goals in that run for the Tigers. But UNC responded later in the quarter with a four-goal run in just 2:01. The Tar Heels had four different goal scorers - Jake Matthai, Davey Emala on the extra-man, Joey Sankey and Jimmy Bitter - to go up 4-3 with 1:38 left in the first quarter.
Princeton scored three of the next five goals with Jake Frocarro's unassisted tally tying the game at 6-6 with 11:25 left in the first half. The Heels then went on a four-goal run to take their biggest lead of the contest at 10-6 with 4:31 left in the opening half. T.J. Kemp, Chad Tutton, R.G. Keenan and Davey Emala had the four tallies. They came in a span of only 3:01 as the scoring runs for both teams continued.
Princeton would score the next three goals, wrapped around the halftime break, with MacDonald scoring before intermission and then Jeff Froccaro getting the first two goals of the third quarter to cut the UNC lead to 10-9 with 9:50 left in the third period. Holman and Schreiber traded goals less than a minute apart and then amazingly neither team scored for nine minutes and 38 seconds from the 6:24 mark of the third period until the 11:46 mark of the final stanza.
Princeton scored on all four of its extra-man opportunities in the game while the Tar Heels cashed in on both of theirs. Two true freshman goalies faced off against each other in the contest with Kieran Burke making 10 saves for UNC while Matt O'Connor had 12 saves for Princeton, including six in the fourth quarter alone. Despite the wild nature of the game, there were only 27 turnovers combined between the two teams. Princeton committed 14 and Carolina 13.