PHILADELPHIA — At one point during the first half, the field temperature thermometer on the turf at Lincoln Financial Field read 105 degrees. That’s hot. North Carolina was hotter. Chris Cloutier, from Kitchener, Ontario, was hottest.
Cloutier, a stocky lefthanded-shooting sophomore, scored nine goals, six in the first half, as the unseeded, unranked Tar Heels advanced to the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse final with an 18-13 victory over No. 7 Loyola.
“I was just getting open,” the 5-11, 215-pound Cloutier said. “It seemed like whenever I got my hands free, someone found me and it was just working out.”
Cloutier tied the record for goals in any NCAA Tournament game and broke the record of seven goals in a Final Four contest.
North Carolina (11-6) scored the game’s first three goals without Cloutier getting involved. But when he did get his touches, he had a magic touch as the Tar Heels built a 10-goal lead three times and led 14-5 at halftime.
Cloutier’s first-half bag of tricks included a spin dodge, a bouncer, a ball fake after a hard cut to the cage and three more goals in front from various angles.
“We just kept running our offense,” said attack Steve Pontrello (two goals, three assists). “He had a stellar day. Every time he got the ball I thought he was going to score.”
The Greyhounds (14-4), who entered the game on a 10-game winning streak, did some barking in the second half. They cut it to 14-8 early in the third quarter but Cloutier scored twice on solo dodges from behind the cage for a six-goal cushion.
Pat Spencer (one goal, five assists) helped Loyola cut it to 16-12 with 6:25 left. But Cloutier used a double-dodge at the top of the slot to score a minute later and Pontrello’s goal with 1:55 left assured that North Carolina would advance to its first final since 1991 against Maryland on Monday.
“These guys just shared the ball,” North Carolina coach Joe Breschi said.
Cloutier got the largest share. As freshman middie Tim Kelly noted with a grin, “Give him the ball, he scores. Pretty easy for us.”