NCAA MLAX Semifinals: Cloutier’s Record Performance Sends Tar Heels To NCAA Championship Game
PHILADELPHIA, PA. – Chris Cloutier scored an NCAA championship weekend record nine goals to lead North Carolina's unseeded men's lacrosse team to an 18-13 win over seventh-seeded Loyola in the national semifinals at Lincoln Financial Field on a hot Saturday afternoon. UNC will face either Maryland or Brown in the championship game on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. The top-seeded Terrapins and fifth-seeded Bears played in the second semifinal game Saturday.
Cloutier's nine goals set a career high for the Kitchener, Ontario native and established a UNC school record for goals in a match. The nine goals are the most in any NCAA championship weekend game in history and tied the overall NCAA Tournament record. UNC is the first unseeded team to make the national final since 2012.
Making its first appearance in the semifinals since 1993, Carolina led, 14-5, at halftime and survived a second-half Greyhound rally to advance to the NCAA title game for the first time since '93.
In addition to Cloutier's output, Steve Pontrello had two goals and three assists, Timmy Kelly had two goals, Stephen Kelly had two assists and won 19 face-offs and Luke Goldstock had two goals and one assist. Patrick Kelly had a goal and an assist, Brian Cannon and William McBride scored single goals and Shane Simpson and Michael Tagliaferri had assists. Goldstock’s two goals and an assist marked his 34th successive game with a point. That’s the 10th longest point scoring streak in Carolina history.
Tyler Albrecht led Loyola with three goals and an assist and Zach Herreweyers scored three goals. Pat Spencer had a goal and five assists for the Greyhounds, who were playing in the semifinals for the first time since they won the national championship in 2012.
Both teams took 39 shots in the game while the Tar Heels won the ground ball battle 29-24. Stephen Kelly led the Tar Heels with nine ground balls to go with his 19 of 35 effort at the face-off X. Defenseman Ryan Macri had a career high four ground balls in the match. Kelly has now won 241 face-offs this season, the second most in a season in UNC history. Saturday’s game marked the fifth time in his career that Kelly has won 19 or more face-offs. His 122 ground balls this season are the fifth most in a single campaign in UNC lore.
Carolina finished with the 19-16 edge in the face-off circle and the Tar Heels committed only eight turnovers, compared to 11 for the Greyhounds. Two Loyola goalkeepers combined to make nine saves while Brian Balkam had seven saves for the Tar Heels. UNC went 10 for 11 in the clearing game, while the Hounds were 13 of 16. There was only one extra-man opportunity in the game between the two teams and it resulted in the opening goal of the match by the Tar Heels’ Brian Cannon with 11:51 left in the first quarter.
The Tar Heels dominated the first half, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the opening five minutes on goals by Brian Cannon, Steve Pontrello and Timmy Kelly. Loyola responded with a goal, only to see UNC tally nine of the next 10 scores (including three in a span of 15 seconds) to take a commanding, 12-2 lead early in the second quarter. Beginning with a goal by William McBride with 8:07 left in the first quarter, UNC ran off four goals over a span of 3:20 to take a 7-1 lead. After McBride’s goal, Cloutier wrapped goals around Timmy Kelly’s second goal of the quarter. Brian Sherlock scored for Loyola at 3:08 to make it 7-2 but Luke Goldstock and Cloutier finished the first quarter with two more goals for Carolina, putting the Tar Heels up 9-2. That was the most goal in a quarter this season for UNC, exceeding the eight it had in a 17-15 win over Notre Dame on April 23. The previous season best for goals in the first quarter was seven versus Michigan in the season opener.
At the beginning of the second quarter, Cloutier, Goldstock and Cloutier again scored in a span of 15 seconds to make it 12-2 with 11:45 left before halftime. Stephen Kelly assisted on the second and third goals in that 15-second explosion. It was the first two-assist game of Stephen Kelly’s career. The Greyhounds scored three of the last five goals of the half, but the nine-goal lead at the break was Carolina's second-largest halftime advantage of the season (it led Manhattan, 14-1, at the half on March 14).
Loyola rallied early in the second half, going on a 3-0 run to cut the lead to 14-8. Cloutier responded with back-to-back goals at 8:59 and 4:51 that made it 16-8 at the end of the third period. The Greyhounds started the fourth quarter with a 4-0 run to make it 16-12 with 6:25 to play, but Cloutier's ninth goal with 5:32 left broke the momentum. Each team scored a goal in the closing minutes. Steve Pontrello’s goal with 1:55 wrapped up the victory for the Heels, making it 18-13. Pontrello’s two goals on Saturday give him 47 goals for the season, a total which matches the second most in a season in UNC history. Dennis Goldstein also had 47 in 1991. Current UNC junior Luke Goldstock set the Tar Heel school record with 50 goals last season.