February 25, 2011

Keenan's Faceoff Prowess Keys UNC Win

from press release

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Freshman R.G. Keenan won 18 of 22 face-offs and claimed a game-high 12 ground balls to help power a rally by 12th-ranked North Carolina as it claimed a 10-8 victory over Navy before 2,031 fans at Fetzer Field Friday night. Senior attackman Billy Bitter and senior defenseman Ryan Flanagan each scored twice as eight different Tar Heels tallied goals in the game.

UNC (2-1) fell behind 5-2 with 5:57 left in the second quarter before the Tar Heel defense clamped down and limited the Midshipmen to only three goals in the final 30:57 of the game. After Taylor Reynolds tied the game at 8-8 for Navy (1-2) with 5:07 left in the third quarter the Tar Heel defense pitched a shutout for the final 20 plus minutes of the match as senior goalkeeper Chris Madalon saved the last four shots on goal he faced in the game. Carolina then got the goals it needed to pull away for the win from two unlikely sources -- freshman attackman Pat Foster who scored just 34 seconds after entering the game for the first time and Flanagan, the 2010 co-National Defenseman of the Year, who had not scored since his freshman year.

Carolina improved to 15-0 in games played at Fetzer Field under head coach Joe Breschi who arrived in 2009. UNC's last loss at Fetzer came on May 10, 2008 when Navy beat Carolina 8-7 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Keenan's effort was huge for Carolina as he won 18 of 22 face-offs and earned 12 ground balls in only his third game as a Tar Heel. The freshman from Perry Hall, Md., became only the fifth different Tar Heel in history to win as many as 18 face-offs in a game and it is only the 12th time in school history that a player has achieved 18 or more face-off wins. Keenan won the first 10 face-offs of the match, lost the next three and then won eight of the last nine as the Tar Heels outscored the Midshipmen down the stretch 4-1.

Billy Bitter led the Tar Heels with two goals and an assist while Nicky Galasso had a goal and two assists for UNC. Ryan Flanagan scored twice and Jimmy Dunster, Duncan Hutchins, Thomas Wood, Ryan Creighton and Pat Foster scored single goals. Creighton, Foster and fellow freshman Will Campbell, who had an assist, all registered their first points in Carolina uniforms. Marcus Holman also had an assist for the Tar Heels.

Navy was led by freshman attackman Sam Jones who had two goals and two assists and freshman attackman Tucker Hull who had a pair of goals and an assist. Junior attackman Taylor Reynolds scored twice and senior midfielder Andy Warner had a goal and an assist. Harrison Chaires had a goal for the Mids and Jordan Seivold, son of former UNC All-America midfielder Joey Seivold, added an assist.

UNC ended the game with an edge in shots 40-28 and a monstrous edge in ground balls 42-23 just six days after losing the ground ball battle 32-18 in a 13-8 loss at Ohio State. UNC dominated the face-off X 18-4 while in the turnover column UNC had 12 and Navy 14. The Tar Heels failed on only two clears, going 12 of 14, while Navy was 15 of 20 in the clearing game, including three critical failed clears in the fourth quarter. Neither team scored on the extra-man as Navy went 0-for-4 and North Carolina 0-for-2.

RJ Wickham went all the way in goal for Navy making 14 saves and allowing eight goals. Chris Madalon made nine saves for Carolina, including six in the second half, while allowing eight goals. By limiting the Midshipmen to single digits in goals it ended a streak of seven straight games in which opponents had scored in double digits dating back to last season.

With the win, Carolina improved to 24-2 in non-conference games under Coach Joe Breschi. The Tar Heels are 44-5 in non-league games dating back to 2006. UNC is now 20-2 in the month of February since a 9-8 loss at Navy on February 28, 2003.

There was not a lot of action in terms of scoring in the first quarter of the game with Billy Bitter scoring the opening goal at 3:29 on a dodge from the right side. Carolina turned the ball over with a little over a minute remaining in the first quarter and the Midshipmen converted as Tucker Hull capitalized to tie the score 1-1 after defenseman Ryan Flanagan slipped on the turf to the right on the crease, giving Hull a close in chance against Madalon.

That goal sparked the Midshipmen and they ran off the next three goals. Wickham made a remarkable one-on-one save against Marcus Holman at 11:28 of the second quarter and the Mids converted on the break with Jones scoring from Tucker 14 seconds later. Navy then cashed in on turnovers by a pair of UNC freshmen midfielders with Harrison Chaires scoring from Sam Jones at the nine-minute mark and Andy Warner scoring unassisted with 7:22 left before the half.

Keenan won the following face-off a Bitter scored his second goal of the game off an assist by Holman at 6:50. Wickham came up big again in the cage to spark another fast break goal by Navy at 5:57 as Jones scored his second goal of the game assisted by Seivold.

UNC rallied to tie the game before the half on three goals in a span of a minute-and-a half. Ryan Creighton rolled the crease during a delayed penalty situation to score his first career goal at 4:40. Twenty-four seconds later Nicky Galasso drew a double-team goal line extended on the right side and he dumped it to a wide open Thomas Wood who scored from eight yards out to cut the lead to 5-4.

Carolina then tied the game on a terrific fast break goal by senior defenseman Ryan Flanagan on a give-and-go with Billy Bitter. Flanagan, who had not scored in a game since March 18, 2008 against Marist, forced a turnover by Andy Warner, caught the ball in the air and led a fast break. He fed Bitter who returned the favor to Flanagan in the left alley and the defender powered a shot past Wickham with his long stick at the 3:10 mark.

Both teams killed off penalties in the final 3:10 of the half with Madalon saving a shot by Austin Heneveld with 21 seconds left. The game went to halftime tied 5-5.

Navy retook the lead 46 seconds into the second half as Taylor Reynolds scored the first of his first two goals, assisted by Sam Jones. The Tar Heels tied the score 49 seconds later on a near impossible angle goal by Jimmy Dunster. The junior midfielder fired from goal line extended on the left side, beating Wickham at his feet just inside the pipe.

The tie would last for less than a minute as Navy took the lead for the last time at 12:35 on a goal by Tucker Hull assisted by Andy Warner. After the Tar Heels killed off a penalty against Kevin Piegare, UNC got the tying goal at 8:57 as Galasso fed from the right side to a wide open Duncan Hutchins who was at the doorstep on the left side unmarked for the putaway. Carolina took the lead exactly one minute later as Galasso scored himself on the right side after taking a pass from Will Campbell who was pushed from behind on the play but still fed Galasso in a pinpoint fashion.

Navy tied the game for the last time with 5:07 left in the third quarter. Jay Mann's initial shot was saved by Chris Madalon but Taylor Reynolds was Johnny-on-the-spot to claim the ground ball on the rebound and score on a quick stick effort past Madalon.

Carolina would go on to score the final two goals of the game. After UNC regained the ball when Madalon saved a shot by Kevin Doyle with 3:38 left in the third quarter, Carolina's Mark McNeill shot wide at 2:26. Navy took a timeout to set its defense and Carolina inserted freshman attackman Pat Foster in the game for the first time. Just 34 seconds later, Foster rocketed a shot from 12 yards out on the left side over Wickham's left shoulder for the eventual game-winning tally. It was the first goal of Foster's career.

UNC claimed the fourth quarter face-off and after a mad scramble Flanagan scored 16 seconds into the quarter. Keenan won initial possession, had the ball checked out, got a second ground ball and again the ball became loose. It was fortuitous for UNC, however, as Flanagan got the ground ball, sprinted down the field and scored on a hard outside shot past Wickham.

Despite repeated opportunities by both teams the defenses ruled the last 14:44 of the match and the game ended 10-8. After Flanagan's goal, Navy outshot UNC 8-6 but Madalon saved three of Navy's shots and the other five were off cage. Wickham saved four fourth-quarter UNC shots to keep the Midshipmen in the game. The two teams combined for 10 turnovers in the final 10:11 of the match, six by Navy, as the two defenses amped up the pressure.

The other key sequence in the fourth quarter came when the Tar Heels killed off two man-down situations in a three-minute span. Jimmy Dunster was flagged for slashing with 13:17 left but Jay Mann's shot went wide at 12:28 and Sam Jones hit the pipe at 12:23. The Mids kept possession and Chris Hunt was called for slashing at the 11-minute mark. Flanagan caused a turnover by Tucker Hill 49 seconds later to kill off that infraction. The goalies took over from then on with Wickham saving four shots and Madalon three. The last of those saves came on a shot by Ander Warner with 36 seconds left and the Tar Heels rode out the rest of the game.

It was the 26th game in the closely fought series between the two teams. UNC now leads the series 14-12 after winning the last three meetings.

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