CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - North Carolina junior face-off man R.G. Keenan will always remember the first ever game he ever played in Kenan Stadium. The Perry Hall, Md., native won the overtime face-off on a pinch and pop and scored six seconds later to lift #7 Carolina to a pulsating 11-10 overtime win over #10 Johns Hopkins before 5,922 fans and a national TV audience on ESPNU.
Carolina elected to play this game in the football stadium, anticipating a crowd Fetzer Field might not be able to hold as well as to celebrate the annual Alumni Weekend activities. The game lived up to all the hype as the Tar Heels pulled out a win over their longest-standing non-conference rival. It was the second straight win for Carolina over Hopkins in a regular-season series that began in 1982 and the sixth win for UNC over the Blue Jays in the last seven tries. Prior to that, Hopkins had won 13 straight games in the series from 1995-2006.
UNC (7-3) led for most of the game against the Blue Jays until a three-goal run by Hopkins (6-3) put it up 10-9 with 4:36 to play after an unassisted goal by John Greeley. The Blue Jays won the ensuing face-off and got off three more shots before turning the ball over on a 30-second stalling violation with 2:24 to play. The Tar Heels elected not to take a timeout and at the 1:30 mark, Chad Tutton found Davey Emala alone in front of the crease and the senior midfielder quick sticked the ball past Pierce Bassett for his third goal of the game and 12th career hat trick. Most importantly, Emala's goal knotted the game at 10 all.
The Blue Jays won the ensuing face-off on a false start violation against Keenan and called timeout seven seconds later. The Tar Heel defense then held strong and did not allow the Blue Jays to get off a shot in the final 1:23 of regulation, forcing overtime.
In the overtime, Keenan's anticipation of the whistle was true, he scooped up the ground ball in front of him and with Hopkins defenders in hot pursuit he elected to take it on his own as he saw no slide coming from the Hopkins close defensemen. Keenan finished between Bassett's legs from yards away for the game-winner, setting off a mosh pit of Carolina Blue and White in the Southeast corner of the Kenan Stadium turf.
Emala finished with a three-goal game for UNC while Marcus Holman had a goal and two assists, Joey Sankey had a pair of goals and midfielder Chad Tutton added a goal and two helpers. Sophomore long-stick midfielder Ryan Kilpatrick also recorded a career-high two assists for Carolina. Other UNC goal scorers were Jimmy Bitter, Ryan Creighton and, of course, Keenan.
Zach Palmer led the Blue Jays' offense with three goals and an assist while Ryan Brown had a pair of tallies. Lee Coppersmith was deadly in his shooting from the midfield and had two goals and an assist. Greeley had one goal and one assist for Hopkins while Wells Stanwick recorded two assists.
The Blue Jays outshot the Tar Heels in the game 48-37 while the teams were dead even in ground ball at 30 apiece. Hopkins' had a slight edge at the face-off X with Mike Poppleton winning 13 of 24 compared to 11 of 24 for Keenan.
Bassett finished with eight saves and played big in the second half as he had five of those after halftime as the Blue Jays staged their comeback. Kieran Burke had another big day in the goal for UNC with 14 saves. He registered 11 of those in the first half, not only keeping Carolina in the game and but also allowing the Heels to build a 5-3 halftime lead. His other three saves came in the fourth quarter when Hopkins outshot the Heels 17-5 but put only put six of those 17 on cage.
The clearing game for both teams was brilliant with Hopkins going 16 for 16 and UNC 14 of 15. The game was light on the turnovers with Hopkins committing only nine and UNC 10.
Carolina scored first just 47 seconds into the game on the first of three goals by Emala, assisted by Holman as the senior mid finished from a tough angle on the left side goal line extended. Hopkins answered three minutes later on Brown's first of two goals before UNC ran off three markers in a row to take it biggest lead of the game at 4-1. Sankey beat two defenders and scored an unassisted goal before Ryan Kilpatrick, caused a turnover, scooped up the ground ball and fed Marcus Holman for the first of five transition goals UNC had in the game, making it 3-1 with 3:24 left in the period. Thirty seconds later, Emala lost his defender and scored his second goal to make it 4-1 Carolina and prompting a timeout by the Blue Jays. Chad Tutton's nifty assist aided Emala on the goal.
Hopkins got the next two goals of the game, a man-up score from Brandon Benn and an unassisted tally by Coppersmith, before Holman scored again from Kilpatrick on a fast break with 1:17 left in the half. Kieran McDonald caused a turnover after two point-blank saves by Burke, Jake Matthai claimed the ground ball and cleared it before passing to Kilpatrick who advanced to Holman. Holman's shot from 12 yards stung the upper right corner for the two-goal halftime lead.
In the second half, Hopkins came out firing on all cylinders, scoring on all four of its shots on goal in the third period. The period started with four unassisted goals. Palmer for Hopkins, Sankey for Carolina, Coppersmith for Hopkins and Tutton for UNC. Sankey beat his defenders and scored from GLE at 11:24 and Tutton picked up a ground ball to the left of the crease and fired it home past Bassett. At 6:51, UNC was offsides andwith the timer on, Ranagan fored one past Burke for a 7-6 game at 6:51. Zach Palmer's unassisted goal at the six-minute mark eventually tied the game at seven all. Carolina had the last goal of the third quarter as Ryan Creighton raced 50 plus yards on a one-man clear and scored top left shelf with 3:23 to play.
Carolina went back up by two goals, again converting on a fast break with Jimmy Bitter scoring from Marcus Holman with 14:22 left in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels killed a man-down and McDonald found Holman on a dead sprint as he was leaving the penalty box. Holman immediately fed Bitter and his shot was true from six yards to the right of the crease.But that would be UNC's last goal for nearly 13 minutes while Hopkins got tallies from Ryan Brown, Zach Palmer and John Greeley to take the lead 10-9 with 4:36 left and set up all the late-game dramatics.
The win was the fourth in a row for Carolina and its third win over a nationally-ranked team in the last week. Carolina returns to action next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. facing ACC foe Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., in a nationally-televised ESPN3 game.