Syracuse, New York – Syracuse University overcame an early and late deficit to advance the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament with an overtime win against North Carolina. In a game that many had been waiting nearly twenty years to see again, Syracuse tied it late and won on captain Billy Ward’s goal in the second overtime.
UNC midfielder Chad Tutton started off the scoring quickly, scoring within the first minute to give the Tar Heels their first goal of the game. Joey Sankey added his twenty-eighth of the season and fellow attackman also scored to give the Heels an early three-goal lead. Syracuse attackman Kevin Rice would open the scoring for the Orange half way through the first stanza with his twentieth of the season. Rice would end the day with three goals and three assists to lead Syracuse.
Jimmy Bitter would score, to give all three starting attackman one goal a piece, but Billy Ward would start the comeback trail for ‘Cuse as he scored two consecutive. Syracuse would inch closer to tying the game at the end of the first but the score ended at 4-3 in favor of the Heels. The second quarter would be an up and down affair with only UNC getting goals. Chad Tutton would get his second of the game and also would Jimmy Bitter. At half, North Carolina led Syracuse by a score of 6-3.
Syracuse opened the scoring quickly into the second half as Dylan Donahue scored his twenty-fifth of the season and Kevin Rice added another within the first two minutes. Jake Matthai would get through the Syracuse defense to add another for the Heels, but the third quarter belonged to the Orange and they closed the quarter scoring the next two. Nicky Galasso, who transferred from UNC two years ago, got one against his old squad on a rocket from up top. Senior Scott Loy scored with eleven-second left to tie the game, the first time since 0-0.
The fourth quarter had the Carrier Dome crowd on its feet as the team’s battled back and forth. Jimmy Bitter scored an unassisted goal to give the Heels an 8-7 lead. Syracuse would get their first lead of the game as Donahue tied it at eight and the Galasso scored his second of the game to take the lead at 9-8. Chad Tutton scored his third of the game, off an assist from fellow Canadian Shane Simpson, and Jimmy Bitter scored the last goal of the game for UNC at 3:10 left to give the Heels the lead at 10-9.
The crowd was delighted to see Kevin Rice get topside of his defender and scoring with eight seconds left in the contest to tie the game at 10. As both teams battled through the first overtime, the game was ended in the second. Junior Randy Staats found Ward after UNC decided to double him. Ward shot through a tough defender sliding towards him, beating Tar Heel goalie Kieran Burke to start the celebration. With the win, Syracuse earned a spot in the ACC Tournament and will take on Duke at PNC Park in Philadelphia.
Kieran Burke ended the game with fourteen saves. The combination of Dominic Lamolinara and Bobby Wardwell had eleven in the win. Ward and Rice both had three goals to pace the Orange. Jimmy Bitter had four for the Heels. The most impressive stat for Syracuse was by Chris Daddio, the face off specialist. He won 18 of 26 face offs he took and his best game came at a pivotal time for the Orange as if Syracuse had lost, they would be eliminated from the ACC Tournament.
Next up for North Carolina is High Point before they play the Showcase Game of the ACC Tournament against Virginia. For Syracuse, they will face Hobart for the Kraus – Simmons Trophy before taking on Duke during the tournament.