Cloutier, Balkam lead Tar Heels to decisive 15-6 win over Richmond

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Goalkeeper Brian Balkam made the stops and attackman Chris Cloutier led the offensive charge as the 17th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels outpaced the 18th-ranked Richmond Spiders and claimed a 15-6 win at Fetzer Field on Saturday.

Cloutier’s game-high four goals and three assists led eight different scorers that included Steve Pontrello and Patrick Kelly who posted hat tricks of their own while Balkam finished with 12 saves.

“They have a very good offense – I thought Brian did a nice job,” Tar Heels head coach Joe Breschi said.

“He made some of those big saves early to kind of jumpstart us and got the offense goin’.”

Stephen Kelly won the first five draws of the game for North Carolina and finished the game 17-of-23 at the faceoff-X while Richmond’s Peter Moran (5-14), Kyle Buser (1-7), and Austin Cates (0-2) tried to keep pace.

North Carolina played in a compact, close-defense set in front of Balkam and forced Richmond (6-2) to take shots from the perimeter that the keeper had ample time to set up for.

“Makin’ those saves from the perimeter, that’s what you wanna do,” Breschi said.

“You can be as compact as you want if he’s makin’ the 12-yard saves.”

The Tar Heels (5-3) established a 5-1 lead early into the second quarter, matched the Spiders offense, doubled up on the ground balls it claimed over Richmond by a 40-20 margin, and held the lead for the remainder of the game.

“Carolina is obviously a very athletic team,” Richmond head coach Dan Chemotti said.

“They consistently got second-chance opportunities and they were opportunistic. They turned them into not just possessions, but they turned them into goals.”

Richmond’s second trip to the Triangle didn’t turn out the same way as it did a few weeks ago when the Spiders handed then No. 9 Duke a 12-10 loss.

They didn’t get the chance to do that against the Tar Heels.

Scoring leader Mitch Goldberg could only get two goals past Balkam while Spiders keeper Benny Pugh made seven stops against 42 shots that came his way from many directions in the loss.

Balkam’s seven saves during the first half stymied the Spiders’ attack, and UNC’s offense converted successfully at the other end.

The Tar Heels led 7-2 at halftime.

Richmond tried to increase its goal production during the final two quarters, but couldn’t pull closer as the Tar Heels matched them goal-for-goal and more.

North Carolina led 10-5 to start the fourth quarter and added five more goals while effectively working the clock to end the game in convincing fashion.

Following a 14-9 loss to UMass last week, the win over Richmond was the Tar Heels’ second in as many games.

UNC beat Manhattan 18-2 earlier in the week as a warmup for the Spiders who came in with a lot of confidence while riding a three-game win streak.

That ended after 60 minutes.

“We prepared a lot – more than we ever did for this week,” Cloutier said.

“Obviously the coaches stressed taking that loss against UMass personal, and we absolutely did. Some of the things we didn’t do against UMass was stick to our systems, and today we stuck to our systems to a T.”