The UNC Chapel Hill Tar Heels hosted the James Madison Dukes on Friday, January 20, 2017 at OC Sportsplex with major ACCHL playoff implications. They came out victorious in the contest, winning 7-4 for their fourth straight victory dating back to November of last year.
After tonight's contest, the Heels have just one league game remaining this season – the year's final tilt against Duke in February.
Tar Heel sophomore Ricky Chen took less than three and a half minutes to open up the scoring for Carolina, who came out buzzing. The team played disciplined, sustained attacking offense, and a few good chances allowed Chen to score on a rebound to put the Heels ahead.
Their lead would be short lived. Continuing a frustrating trend that has reared it's head at the worst times for the Heels all season, the team allowed a tying goal from James Madison just 30 seconds after Chen's tally.
The Dukes' bench got vocal after Carolina's AJ Hamel went hard into the JMU net, and a second goal in the period – scored after Heels keeper Gabriel Harousseau stopped an odd man rush, the rebound, and had a second rebound hit the crossbar on the same chance – only made the chirps louder.
James Madison scored early in the second to grab a two goal lead, but the Heels stormed right back. Chen scored his second of the night on a rebound before Nathan Haas went to the box for crosschecking. Ben Sisemore scored on a short handed breakaway 22 seconds into the penalty kill to even the score at 3-3.
The Heels kept pouring it on in the middle period, pulling ahead by one and then two goals on a hard shot from the high slot by Brendan Radatovich. They entered the final period with a commanding 5-3 lead.
It was a tight contest through the halfway point of the final stanza, but the Heels capitalized on a JMU penalty to take a 6-3 lead. Andrew Jordan's shot from the slot got deflected on the way through and gave the Heels a three goal advantage. From there, it was all Carolina, who seized a 7-3 lead on a second Radatovich goal when the Dukes got in penalty trouble.
JMU had a few late man advantage opportunities and scored once more to make it 7-4, but the Heels held on to win a pivotal battle for the ACCHL standings. The Heels play Clemson tomorrow in a non-league matchup.