Syracuse edges North Carolina to advance to ACC championship game
CHESTER, Penn. -- Senior attackman Kevin Rice wheeled around the cage and scored unassisted with 1:48 remaining to lift third-seeded Syracuse (10-2) to a 9-8 win against second-seeded North Carolina (12-3) in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship on Friday at PPL Park.
Syracuse advances to the ACC final for the second year in a row. The Orange will face No. 4 seed Duke on Sunday. The Blue Devils knocked off top seed Notre Dame in Friday's first semifinal 13-8.
"Both teams played really hard and we were fortunate and came out with the win so we can go on and play Duke on Sunday," Syracuse head coach John Desko said. "We're going to enjoy this and then try to get ready for the Blue Devils."
Rice's deciding tally was his fifth game-winner of the year, and the goal snapped a 23:03 second-half scoring drought for the Orange.
Rice and Dylan Donahue tied for game-high scoring honors with two goals and two assists each. Nicky Galasso, who transferred from North Carolina after the 2012 season, led the Orange with three goals against his former team.
In addition to SU's three offensive stars, the Orange defense turned perhaps its best performance of the year. Less than two weeks after yielding 17 goals to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, SU held UNC to eight goals which matched its lowest output of the season.
Goalie Bobby Wardwell and close defenseman Brandon Mullins anchored the unit. Wardwell made a career-high 14 saves, including seven in the third quarter, to keep the UNC shooters at bay. Mullins shut out Carolina leading scorer Jimmy Bitter, holding him to 0-for-12 shooting.
Chad Tutton and Joey Sankey paced UNC with three points apiece. Tutton finished with two goals and one assist. Sankey recorded one goal and two assists.
UNC goalie Kieran Burke was outstanding in defeat. The junior made 13 saves Friday night after recording 17 stops in the regular-season meeting with the Orange.