March 5, 2016
Connor Cannizzaro scored the game-winning goal in OT as Denver improved to 5-0 with a thrilling victory over North Carolina on the road. (Peyton Williams)
Connor Cannizzaro scored the game-winning goal in OT as Denver improved to 5-0 with a thrilling victory over North Carolina on the road. (Peyton Williams)

Cannizzaro, Baptiste Anchor Denver in OT Thriller Over UNC

from Staff Reports | Twitter | Box Score

Scoring the game's first goal and then its last nearly 60 minutes later, Denver's Connor Cannizzaro bookended one of the season's most exciting contests as the No. 2 Pioneers won their 18th straight game, 13-12 over No. 10 North Carolina in overtime.

Cannizzaro had three goals and two assists, while teammate Trevor Baptiste dominated the faceoff X with a 21-for-28 performance as the defending NCAA champions went to 5-0 on the year. Jack Bobzien (3G, 2A), Tyler Pace (2, 3) and Zach Miller (4, 1) also chipped in five points each for Denver, which hasn't lost since March 14, 2015 against Ohio State.

The overtime heroics nearly never happened, as the host Tar Heels (3-2) rallied from an 11-8 deficit in the fourth quarter with four straight goals in just over four minutes, leading 12-11 after Steve Pontrello scored unassisted and sent the home fans into a frenzy.

Baptiste won the ensuing draw, and with Miller nearly hitting the equalizer on a shot with 30 seconds remaining, thwarted by a great stop by Brian Balkam (12 saves). After a Pioneer timeout, Austin French found Miller on the wing, where he struck pay dirt with less than ten seconds left on the clock.

In extra time, Baptiste again gave his team the ball, with Cannizzaro striking at 2:58 off a feed from Bobzien to send the Chapel Hill fans home unhappy.

"Credit to Carolina. Coming off that tough loss here to Hofstra two weeks ago, then going to Homewood and pulling out a decisive win against Hopkins and then coming out here today and taking it to us until that great third quarter we had," Denver head coach Bill Tierneysaid. "I thought that we were playing as well as we possibly could have in the third and in the beginning of the fourth. It was an exciting game, all that the fans could ask for. We're going to learn a lot as a team from this game, that's for sure."

With the OT win over North Carolina, Denver has gone nearly a year since its last defeat, which came on March 14th of last year against Ohio State. The No. 2 Pioneers travel to No. 1 Notre Dame on Sunday. (Peyton Williams)

Luke Goldstock had two goals and two assists to pace the Tar Heels, with Patrick Kelly (3G), Michael Tagliaferri (3G), Shane Simpson (3A), Chris Cloutier (2G, 1A) and Pontrello (1, 2) chipping in three points apiece.

The game, broadcast on ESPN3 and scheduled to be re-broadcast on ESPNU at 11:30 p.m., saw a wild affair from start to finish, with the Tar Heels and Pioneers trading runs throughout. After Cannizzaro's opening tally, the Heels scored three straight and six of eight to lead 6-3 midway through the second quarter. But Denver got one back before the break, then scored seven of the next nine to take that 11-8 lead before the Tar Heels rallied back in the fourth.

Denver puts its winning streak on the line next against No. 1 Notre Dame on Sunday, March 13th. North Carolina will look to get back on track with a visit to Amherst to take on UMass on Saturday, March 12th.

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