CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina’s graduating seniors wanted get one final win at Fetzer Field when the 17th-ranked Tar Heels hosted the top-ranked Syracuse Orange on Saturday.
Luke Goldstock, Austin Pifani, Stephen Kelly, Tate Jozokos, Peyton Klawinski, Brett Bedard, Jack Lambert, Luke Walsh, along with fifth-year seniors Mark Rizzo and Michael Tagliaferri all took to the field with the goal of leading UNC to a win.
They came close but came up one goal short, and fell 12-11 in overtime to the Orange who made a 5-0 surge to end the game in their favor.
Led by a two-goal, two-assist effort from Stephen Rehfuss, Sergio Salcido’s hat trick along with pairs from Paolo Ciferri and Nick Mariano helped propel Syracuse’s game-closing run that completed the eighth one-goal finish of the season for the Orange.
Luke Goldstock’s three goals and three assists fueled the Tar Heels offense, along with two goals each from Brian Cannon and Tanner Cook.
Highlights: Syracuse 12, North Carolina 11 (OT) – ACC Digital Network (TheACC.com)
North Carolina (6-6, 1-2) gave Syracuse (10-1, 4-0) all it had on an emotional day.
Members of the 1981 and 1982 NCAA-champion teams that went undefeated during those years were on hand, along with 1991 National Defenseman of the Year Graham Harden, a former Tar Heel diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).
The Tar Heels wanted to win for them, but it didn’t work out that way.
Head coach Joe Breschi was drained following the loss.
The defending national champions were jockeying for position in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) standings as well as for postseason at-large consideration.
They had control of the game at the halftime break, but Syracuse didn’t back down and pulled back to even before Salcido became the difference-maker.
“Credit to Syracuse, they came all the way back, down five,” Breschi said.
“I thought we played really hard. We played tough, but didn’t finish when we had the opportunity. Some good possessions in the fourth quarter – we weren’t able to turn it. But, I’m real proud of the way we played. At the end of the day, they made the plays at the end.”
Syracuse led in most categories, outshooting the Tar Heels 41-37, winning the ground ball game by a 35-23 margin, and claiming 15-of-25 faceoffs as Syracuse faceoff specialist Ben Williams went head-to-head with UNC’s Stephen Kelly.
Trailing 4-2, North Carolina shut out the Orange 4-0 during the second quarter and led 6-4 at halftime.
After three periods, the Tar Heels were still ahead, leading10-7, but the Orange offense was gaining momentum.
Tanner Cook’s goal extended the differential to four goals early in the fourth before Mariano got the final Syracuse run started which culminated in Ciferri tying the game 11-11 with 1:19 to play.
Evan Molloy made six saves in the game for Syracuse while Brian Balkam made 11 stops, including the final one in regulation with nine seconds remaining that forced overtime.
Salcido and the Orange, then took advantage of a final man-up opportunity and beat the Tar Heels early in the sudden-death period.
“Their goalie started to make some saves in the second half for them,” Breschi said.
“I thought Balkam played very well. It’s tough to put your finger on it until you look back at it. But, we did have opportunities to put some more points on the board, and we weren’t able to capitalize. Classic game – 12-11 in overtime – we were right there to win it.”
Even with Syracuse winning first possession, neither team converted before the Orange got the ball back and Ciferi buried a shot from five yards into the Tar Heels cage.
Nate Solomon assisted on the play.
Syracuse led and looked to extend their advantage right after, but a save by Balkam put the ball into UNC’s crosses and led to an extended possession.
Following a penalty call, UNC’s Chris Cloutier eventually threaded a pass to Goldstock on the crease and led to a dodge-and-dunk past Molloy to even the score with 6:45 remaining in the period.
The Orange regained the lead and more as Salcido scored back-to-back in a span of 16 seconds to put Syracuse ahead 3-1.
Salcido’s first goal came in close off a feed from Brad Voigt during the Orange’s first EMO of the game, and was quickly followed up after Williams won the faceoff.
A Ryan Simmons drive to Balkam’s left near-post found space off a slow bounce shot, and the Orange led 4-1.
UNC cut its deficit down to two when Cannon drove into the middle of the Syracuse defense and bounced a shot that cleared Molloy’s shoulder and tucked under the cross bar with 1:40 to play.
The Orange carried their 4-2 lead into the next period.
Both teams traded possessions following the draw.
A shot off the post from Tagliaferri gave Syracuse the opportunity to build on its lead, but a save from Balkam soon gave the ball back to the Tar Heels.
UNC didn’t waste any time and Justin Matthews tucked a Goldstock pass into the goal past Molloy to pull within one.
After Kelly won the draw, the Tar Heels tied it up as Cloutier drove from goal-line extended to Molloy’s right, turned and dumped a backhand that dropped and bounced off the far post and in.
It was all even, 4-4 with 10:54 remaining in the half.
Repeated shot attempts past the cage denied the Orange from retaking the lead and the endline ball eventually went to the Tar Heels.
Once again, North Carolina took advantage of the possession and Cook drove from back left and buried a waist-high shot past the keeper.
The Tar Heels led for the first time, ahead 5-4 with 6:19 to go in the half.
Syracuse called a timeout at that point to regroup.
A faceoff violation to Kelly gave the Orange the ball, but another shot wide with no back-up gave UNC the ball back quickly.
With a delayed flag against Syracuse, North Carolina took advantage of its possession and converted as McBride drove from X, drop-stepped and spun to beat Molloy in close to his right, and extended the lead to 6-4.
With Salcido in the penalty box for slashing, and following a timeout, UNC went to work again.
Perry rung a shot off the crossbar and the Orange eventually regained possession and went the other way.
Carolina carried a 6-4 lead into the halftime break, but as a result of a late unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Rowlett, would start the second half down for a minute.
With the opening minutes scoreless, the Orange pulled within one at the 10:39 mark on a feed from Solomon to Mariano.
The Tar Heels soon answered back as Cannon unleashed a high-to-high 10-yard snipe following a feed to top-right from Goldstock.
The Carolina lead stood at 7-5 with 9:38 to go in the period.
Goldstock extended the advantage to three goals when his drive from X to Molloy’s left beat the keeper low and inside the near-post.
Scoring opportunities continued to surface for both sides, but with mixed results.
While Balkam made a stop and Evans rung one off the crossbar, a fast break feed to Goldstock and a face dodge resulted in another goal for the Tar Heels.
UNC led 9-5 and got the ball back as the result of a Tyson Bomberry unnecessary roughness penalty following the goal.
The Tar Heels added another and led 10-5 when Perry converted on the EMO with a 10-yard shot from top-right.
Syracuse answered back quickly as Solomon scored on a solo effort to pull the Orange within four.
Dearth then cut the UNC lead down to three and completed a well-executed possession when Rehfuss dumped a pass to him within five yards of Balkam and ripped the twine with 1:10 to go.
The Tar Heels started the period leading 10-7.
Following the restart, a lack of discipline and a delay of game penalty put the Orange down again for 30 seconds.
However, UNC was unable to take advantage of its fourth EMO.
They got another man-up opportunity and took advantage of it, and reestablished a four-goal differential when Cook quick-sticked Goldstock’s pass easily past a turning Molloy.
UNC’s lead was 11-7 with 12:49 to play.
Mariano connected on a Rehfuss feed and as Balkam stepped across to make the stop, the Orange midfielder dodged the other way along the crease line and dumped the ball into the cage.
The Orange continued to ride along its offensive momentum and pulled within two when Rehfuss scored – outrunning Halpert and tucking the ball inside Balkam’s near post with 9:59 to play.
Leading 11-9, a faceoff violation gave the ball to the Tar Heels.
A blocked shot eventually gave the Orange the opportunity to pull closer with eight minutes remaining.
Balkam made a big stick save low on Evans’ high-low attempt from eight yards out.
Molloy made a stop of his own on Cannon and helped set up the next Syracuse goal.
A successful clear soon put the ball in Rehfuss’ crosse, and his drive from back-left followed by a low sidearm pulled the Orange to within one.
The Tar Heels lead was now 11-10 with 4:57 to play.
A critical strip by Pifani on Trimboli turned the ball over and put North Carolina in control.
UNC worked the ball from the top to X and back in 1-4-1 formation, taking shots with the proper back-up in order to keep possession.
Syracuse took a timeout with 1:38 to play following a Tar Heels shot wide.
The Orange went 10-man ride and turned the ball over off Tagliaferri, and following a scrum for the ground ball, Ciferri picked it up and ran the length of the field and ripped a shot low past Balkam.
The score was tied 11-11 with 1:19 to go.
Syracuse won the faceoff and quickly called timeout with 56.9 to go.
The Orange worked the ball from top to X and the tried to work goal-line extended before going back to top-left.
Balkam came up with a big leg save with nine seconds remaining and both sides headed to sudden-death overtime.
Syracuse won possession and a strip by Pifani on Evans almost got the Tar Heels the ball.
However, a pushing infraction on Lambert gave the Orange the opportunity they needed with an EMO and 3:06 remaining on the clock.
Salcido scored from side-right at 2:42 of overtime and gave the Orange the stunning 12-11 comeback victory.