Foster
UNC

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Freshman Pat Foster’s overtime goal lifted 12th-ranked North Carolina to a dramatic 9-8 victory against third-ranked Notre Dame Friday night before a national TV audience on ESPNU and the largest Fetzer Field crowd of the season.  The overtime period was necessary after Notre Dame (10-2) had rallied from three goals down in the last two minutes to tie the game but freshman R.G. Keenan’s face-off win and Foster’s dodge from behind the goal on the left side provided the Tar Heels (10-5) with the winning formula in overtime.

It was Senior Night for 10 Tar Heels before a crowd of 4,016 fans at Fetzer Field and the game had more twists and turns would normally be expected of a game where only 17 goals were scored.  Carolina got six goals from freshmen and three more from sophomore Marcus Holman while Notre Dame’s balanced attack was relentless, scoring four goals in the final 6:22 of regulation and three in the final 1:24.

It was a night for unassisted goals on both sides of the ball with the two teams combining for only five assists on 17 goals.  Holman, who has been sidelined since Carolina loss at Virginia on April 9, made his return a triumphant one as he scored three times while freshmen Nicky Galasso, Pat Foster and Ryan Creighton each had a pair of goals.  Galasso and freshman Duncan Hutchins had assists and Billy Bitter had the niftiest assist of thenight on a diving goal by Holman in the second period.  Notre Dame seniors David Earl and Colin Igoe each scored twice as did freshman Westy Hopkins.  Igoe had goals with 1:17 and 13 seconds to play that forced overtime.  Sean Rogers and Tyler Kimball also scored for the Fighting Irish while Eric Keppeler and Jake Marmul had assists.

The goalkeepers and Tar Heel face-off man R.G. Keenan were the unsung heroes of the game.  For Carolina, sophomore Steven Rastivo made 13 saves and had three ground balls.  He was besieged in the fourth quarter, facing 19 shots and while he allowed four goals he made seven saves in the final frame, helping the Tar Heels even get to overtime. On the other side Notre Dame sophomore John Kemp faced 25 shots by the Tar Heels in the firsthalf and only 10 in the second half.  But his seven saves in the first quarter alone allowed the Irish to stay in contact with the Tar Heels even though they faced a deficit virtually the entire way.

At the face-off X, UNC freshman R.G. Keenan won 15 of 21 face-offs and had a game-high 11 ground balls.  He was just three face-offs and one ground ball shy of his career high.  After Notre Dame tied the game with 13 seconds left, UNC’s Jordan Smith was sent to the penalty box for slashing, giving the Irish a man-up situation.  Keenan won the ensuing face-off and though the Irish forced a turnover they did not keep possession of the ball as time expired, precipitating a face-off to begin overtime.

With the Tar Heels a man down heading into the extra session, Keenan again won the face-off to himself and the Tar Heels were able to kill off the penalty.  The Tar Heels got their offensive personnel on the field and then Foster made his dash to the goal which resulted in the winning tally.

Another unsung hero was UNC senior defenseman Ryan Flanagan who matched his career high for both ground balls in a game with six and caused turnovers in a game with five during his senior night appearance.

Carolina came out on fire and sped to a 3-0 lead in the opening 11 minutes.  Freshman Nicky Galasso had the first two goals for the Heels.  After Billy Bitter’s shot was saved by John Kemp, Galasso jumped on the ground ball and fired it home 42 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead.  Just over eight minutes later, Galasso tallied his second unassisted goal on a shot from the right side, making it2-0.  At 4:31, Marcus Holman powered home an outside shot from 12 yards in the center and it was Carolina 3-0.  After a timeout by Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan, the Irish got a goal by freshman Westy Hopkins after he dodged from behind with 3:18 left in the quarter.

UNC went on to outscore Notre Dame 2-1 in the second frame.  At 9:23, Holman took a cross cage feed from Bitter in close and scored a diving goal.  Less than a minute later it was freshman Ryan Creighton rolling the crease from behind to make it 5-1.  It marked the fifth successive game in which Creighton has scored.  Notre Dame answered with a goal by Tyler Kimball at 7:17 to cut the Tar Heel lead to 5-2 at the half.

The Irish came out and got the first goal of the thirdquarter as David Earl scored unassisted at 13:49.  The Heels responded, however, with a pair of goals to pull back ahead by four goals.  Creighton scored his second goal of the game on some outside heat assisted by Duncan Hutchins at 9:58 and then Foster scored the first of his two goals at 7:57 as he finished on the left side from five yards past Kemp.  Earl got his second goal of the third quarter with 4:16 to play and the teams headed to the final frame with the Tar Heels ahead 7-4.

Carolina opened the scoring in the fourth quarter on a goal by Marcus Holman, cutting across the face of the goal and finishing off a pass from the right side by Galasso.  The goal gave the Heels an 8-4 lead with 14:17 to play.

The game then took a turn for the worse from a Carolina standpoint.  The Tar Heels had trouble holding onto the ball, committing an uncharacteristic eight turnovers in the final 14:10 of the game.  It was only two weeks ago that the Heels had similar fourth quarter troubles as they surrendered a four-goal lead against Maryland in the final frame as lost to the Terps 7-6 in the ACC Tournament semifinals.

This script would end differently, however, but not without plenty of action.  Notre Dame made it 8-5 as Westy Hopkins scored with 6:22 to play.  After the Tar Heels got the ball back, they were able to kill significant clock before turning the ball over.  Despite a penalty by UNC, it was Rastivo who made a save on a shot by Pat Cotter with 2:37 during the EMO and the Heels still appeared in great shape.  But things unraveled from there.  Holman turned the ball over on a pass to the cage with 1:52 to play and the Irish cashed in with a goal by Sean Rogers at 1:24.  Jake Marmul won the ensuing face-off and fed Colin Igoe for for a score just seven seconds later.

Notre Dame’s Marmul won the following face-off after the ball got knocked around but Rastivo saved a shot by Hopkins with 52 seconds to play.  Carolina turned the ball over and Notre Dame called timeout.  Earl’s shot hit the pipe with 16 seconds to go but Igoe jumped on the ground ball and scored three seconds later to cap the frenetic Irish comeback.  Just a couple of minutes later Foster ended for UNC as the Tar Heels locked up a likely at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

UNC finished with a 36-35 edge in shots and 36-30advantage in ground balls.  Notre Dame committed 14 turnovers while UNC had 16.  UNC came into the game leading the nation in fewest turnovers per game at 12.14 per contest.  Carolina committed eight in the fourth quarter alone and that was a big factor in allowing theFighting Irish to come back and force overtime.

Carolina improved to 20-1 at Fetzer Field in head coach Joe Breschi’s three-year tenure.  The game marked the first overtime win for the Tar Heels since March 28, 2009 when the Tar Heels beat Johns Hopkins 10-9 at Fetzer Field.  Carolina has now won 51 of their past 57 games against non-conference opponents and improved to 31-3 against non-league teams under Breschi’s tutelage.