Another game, another goal for senior Chris Cloutier of the No. 9 North Carolina men's lacrosse team.
In UNC's 17-10 season-opening win against Lafayette, the attackman found the back of the net for the 21st consecutive game.
The streak has now spanned part of three seasons and is the seventh longest in program history. The streak, which started May 14, 2016, is now just eight games short of the record set by Marcus Holman in 2013.
“I mean, Chris Cloutier is probably one of the best players I’ve ever played with,” junior attackman Timmy Kelly said. “He won us the national championship in 2016, and that streak speaks for itself. He’s that good.”
It was high praise from Kelly, a man who managed to steal the spotlight from Cloutier with a hat trick against the Leopards (0-1) in Kenan Stadium.
As Cloutier continues to add to his decorated career, his place among other Tar Heel legends will be debated.
In his first season as a starter in 2016, the then-sophomore burst onto the scene with 43 goals, the second most on the team, and added 14 assists.
It was Cloutier’s goal that won the Tar Heels the national championship against Maryland. With 1:39 remaining in overtime, Cloutier scored one of the most significant goals in UNC history, one which allowed his team to walk off the field as champions and earned him the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament award.
The title game was played May 30, 2016. Just 16 days earlier, Cloutier’s goal streak began in a win over Marquette.
As a junior, he continued to stockpile goals, providing a team-high 36 in just 16 games. While Cloutier thrived as a goal scorer, the Tar Heels failed as a team, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament after beginning the season ranked No. 1 in the country.
Cloutier begins the final chapter of a celebrated career as one of five team captains, hoping to use his experience to will his team to another national title.
“He’s just a wealth of experience,” head coach Joe Breschi said. “He’s had a tremendous career here, and I think he really wants to push himself to be one of the best in the country. You know you can always count on him.”
Cloutier started his senior campaign successfully Saturday, scoring his 81st and 82nd career goals and adding two assists. One of the best plays of the day for Cloutier came on a goal when he didn't find the score sheet.
With UNC (1-0) playing a man up in the third period, Cloutier found Kelly sneaking behind the goal. Kelly quickly flicked the ball to a streaking Colin Umro, who fired the ball into the back of the net. The goal gave Tar Heels an 11-6 lead on the way to the team's 20th consecutive season-opening victory.
Cloutier already has scored the most goals in a game in program history, erupting for nine against Loyola-Maryland in 2016. He is also tied for 27th in career goals on UNC's all-time list, which he'll continue to move up this season.
The most impressive accolade could very well be the one he has no idea about — the most consecutive games with a goal scored.
“I didn’t even know that, to be honest," Cloutier said. "But that’s pretty cool.”
While he might have not paid it any attention, the goals continue to mount. With a talented roster and Cloutier at the helm, fans will watch closely as the attacker inches closer to breaking the streak while hoping to bring the program its sixth NCAA title.
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