Carolina (7-7, 1-3 ACC). held on for dear life and ground out a tough win vs. the #1 Syracuse Orange (11-2, 4-0 ACC) on Friday night in Durham. Carolina came out of the gate hot, taking a 4-1 lead at the end of the first quarter before an amazing 9-3 2nd quarter scoring advantage that led to a 13-4 halftime lead.
It looked like Carolina was going to blow ‘Cuse out of the building, however that wasn’t to be the case. Syracuse rattled off eight straight goals in the third quarter, cutting Carolina’s once-formidable lead to just a one-point advantage, 13-12.
Carolina scored first in the fourth quarter, but Syracuse scored again to again cut Carolina’s lead to just one, 14-13. Carolina then scored two straight goals to take a 16-13 lead, and despite Syracuse scoring two straight goals (including one with 27 seconds left to cut the lead to one), the Heels held on for the gutsy one-goal win.
The Tar Heels had blown big leads to teams all year, including a 10-5 advantage against Syracuse earlier in the season. It looked like they were ready to blow another big lead tonight, however they showed maybe the most toughness that they have all season. With the whole season on the line, they didn’t give up, and as such they will be playing in the ACC Championship on Sunday.
Chris Cloutier was the player of the night, finishing with three goals and an assist including an amazing, behind the back goal in the first quarter. Jack Lambert, the long-stick defenseman, scored two goals for the Heels. He had scored just one goal on the entire season before tonight. Luke Goldstock added two more goals for Carolina, and the other nine goals were each scored by different players.
Carolina’s season will once again be on the line on Sunday against the winner of Duke and Notre Dame (the game had yet to conclude at the time of writing) in the ACC Championship. To go to the NCAA tournament, a team must have a .500 record or better, and the Heels sit at 7-7. A win on Sunday would give the Heels an 8-7 record and two-straight wins over top-10 teams. The ACC Champion no longer gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, however it would be hard to select many bubble teams over the Heels.
Carolina will play in the ACC Championship at noon on ESPNU. If you want to cheer on the Heels in person, tickets can be purchased here.