Denver rallies in second half, outscores North Carolina 5-1 in fourth to win 12-11
Pioneers head to semifinals for second time in three years
INDIANAPOLIS -- Eric Law scored with 13 seconds left to cap Denver's big comeback in a 12-11 win against North Carolina in a Division I Men's Lacrosse quarterfinal Sunday.
Denver trailed by as many as six goals and was down five at halftime.
"Every single head was up in the locker room," Law said of Denver's 9-4 halftime deficit. "We knew we were right there because of the chances we were getting and we knew our defense was going to get stops. We just kept believing in each other."
The Pioneers (14-4) advance to play top-seeded Syracuse in this coming Saturday's national semifinals in Philadelphia. It will be Denver's second trip to the semifinals in the past three years.
Goalie Jamie Faus made 11 saves and allowed just five goals in 50:23 to jump-start fourth-seeded Denver’s largest come-from-behind victory under head coach Bill Tierney. Denver is the first team in tournament quarterfinal history to win after trailing by five goals or more.
Chase Carraro won 17 of 26 faceoffs in the game, including six of the last seven to aid the Pioneers to a 6-1 run to close out the contest. Carraro also picked up a game-high six ground balls.
Fifth-seeded North Carolina jumped out to a 6-0 lead after less than 10 minutes, but the Pioneers rallied.
“North Carolina, what a train that was, trying to stop that coming downhill at us early,” Tierney said. “Mostly, I’m proud of these young men and teammates for persevering. You don’t get too many opportunities in life to fight through such adversity and come back ahead. I’m just proud for everybody at the University of Denver and everybody in our organization.”
After tying the game with 1:31 to play, Denver regained possession and stalled late. Eric Adamson made a difficult shot attempt that was blocked, but Law was there for a rebound goal from the left side.
"It's funny, they always say, 'Right place, right time.' I was literally in the right place at the right time," Law said. "I saw the ball on the ground, picked it up and threw it as fast as I could. It fell right into my hands. I couldn't see anything else."
After the six quick North Carolina goals to begin the game, the Pioneers replaced goalkeeper Ryan LaPlante with Faus. That proved to be the right decision. Faus allowed only two Tar Heels goals in the second half.
"It wasn't about Ryan playing poorly," Tierney. "It was about, 'They just scored six goals in succession. We've got to stop this thing.' So what you do is throw in a change-up. Jamie came in, and he didn't have time to be nervous. He didn't know."
Law led Denver with six points on his eighth hat trick of the season, to go along with three assists. Wesley Berg added four goals and an assist, good for his team-leading ninth hat trick of the year. Cameron Flint distributed three assists and Colin Scott turned in his fourth multi-goal game of the season with two off the bench. Gordie Koerber, Jeremy Noble and Eric Adamson added a goal apiece to round out the scoring for the Pioneers.
Denver outscored North Carolina 8-2 in the second half, including 5-1 in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers started the fourth stanza with a two-man advantage, as Law scored his second of the game with two seconds left on that opportunity to cut the UNC lead to 10-8. After a goal from Noble cut the margin to one for the first time since it was 1-0, the Tar Heels’ Davey Emala restored the two-goal lead with 7:34 to play.
Kyle Hercher picked up an important ground ball to lead to a Scott goal from Berg, and the Pioneers cut the deficit back to one with 4:44 to play. Denver’s defense stepped up again on North Carolina’s next possession, forcing a 30-second clock violation with 2:18 to play. After a Denver timeout, Adamson scored his 25th goal of season, and after trailing for 55:32, Denver was level at 11-11 with 91 seconds to play. Carraro won the ensuing faceoff and, after the Pioneers' final timeout of the half, Law put away the game-winner in the midst of a stall warning to send Denver to the national semifinals.
UNC, which had its 10-game winning streak come to an end, finished at 13-4.
Joey Sankey, Mark McNeill and Emala each scored a pair of goals for North Carolina while Steve Pontrello, Chad Tutton, Evan Connell, Ryan Kilpatrick and Pat Foster each scored one goal. Jimmy Bitter, Ryan Creighton, Marcus Holman, Greg McBride and Sankey each had assists.
Denver and North Carolina athletics contributed to this report.