Maryland bests Rutgers and the weather

by Todd Carton –

In describing today’s Maryland men’s lacrosse 11-10 win over Rutgers, it seems appropriate to paraphrase Charles Dickens and say that it was the best of games, it was the worst of games. Coming off of last season’s 13-12 Terrapins triple overtime win in a game that matched a pair of top 10 teams, most people anticipated a tight competitive game and, in the end, that’s precisely what they got but it certainly didn’t look that way in the first quarter.

After starting the game with a face off violation by Maryland’s Justin Shockey, it’s unlikely that even a British novelist could have written a better first quarter for the Terrapins. Goalie Dan Morris saved the first two shots he faced and Connor Kelly, en route to an eight point day, assisted on Maryland’s first three goals while scoring the fourth on an assist from Shockey.

Though the overcast skies had opened up with a steady rain, the only hint of cloudiness in Maryland’s play was a second face off violation by Shockey. Still, when the horn sounded to signal the end of the first quarter, the Terps were ahead 4-0 and looked primed to roll to a dominating win.

Those of you who are deeply familiar with Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities know that his famous opening phrase is followed by a series of juxtapositions that include, “it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”. Though they didn’t know it at the time, for Maryland fans, Dickens could well have been describing the three ensuing quarters.

The third section of Dickens’ novel is called “The Track of the Storm” and, for the Terrapins faithful, if the first quarter had been an epoch of belief, the second was doubtless an epoch of incredulity. The day itself had turned stormy with rain and gusting winds pelting the field. Here’s the track of the storm in the game’s second 15 minutes:

Maryland had five turnovers and failed on two of their three attempted clears one of which led to a snowbird score for Rutgers’ top attack man Jules Heningburg.

Maryland won only one of seven face offs and had six penalties – two of which came on the Terrapins’ third and fourth violations of the half and two of which came on the same play that led to a two man Scarlet Knights advantage which was the only occasion they cracked the Terps’ extra-man defense.

Rutgers had a 13-8 edge in ground balls and out shot Maryland 15-1. The Terps were fortunate that Kelly converted that lone shot with 12:51 to play into their only goal of the period. When the horn sounded, the play on the field had washed away Maryland’s lead and the game was tied at five.

Casey Rose opened the scoring for Rutgers in the third quarter giving the visitors their first lead of the game but Maryland’s Bubba Fairman had an answer two and a half minutes later scoring the second of his three goals on the day on a Terrapins extra man opportunity. The teams traded goals until the end of the period with Fairman equalizing a goal by Christian Mazzone and Heningburg converting another slam dunk after a Maryland turnover to answer Kelly’s third of the game and knot the score at eight.

The first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter had a bit of a feel of a Maryland winter of despair. As he had in the third quarter, Casey Rose scored early in the fourth to once again put the Scarlet Knights in the lead. Rutgers goalie Max Edelmann seemed absolutely locked in making four consecutive saves after Rose’s score and as the game clock ticked under five minutes Terps fans likely felt themselves riding in a tumbril toward the guillotine.

But just as Sydney Carton (no relation) steps in to prevent the execution of Charles Darnay, Connor Kelly would step in to prevent Maryland from a second loss on the season. First, he’d find Anthony DeMaio for the game tying score with 4:41 to play. Then, after Tim Rotanz scorched a bouncer past Edelmann to give Maryland the lead, Kelly would provide the necessary insurance goal with 3:21 to play. (And it became necessary after yet another Maryland turnover on a failed clear led to a fourth easy score for Rutgers.) For Maryland, in the space of a mere 1:20 seconds of game time, hope eclipsed despair.

With the win, Maryland improves to 10-1 on the season and 3-0 in B1G play. A win over Ohio State in the Terps’ final home game of the season will assure them of no worse than a tie for the conference championship.

Although Ohio State has had a disappointing season after appearing in the NCAA Championship game last season, the Terps have some serious issues to address if they plan to pick up not only that win but play on the final weekend in May as well. The first is at the face off dot. Although Austin Heningsen fared better on face offs than either Shockey or Will Bonaparte, the fact remains that Rutgers entered the game having won just 48.7 percent of their face offs on the season and the Scarlet Knights won 15 of 25 today. Even Maryland’s exceptional defense might not be able to hold up under this sort of pressure if it continues.

Other areas are turnovers and clears. Maryland had 13 turnovers in Sunday’s win – four more than their season average. Fans need to hope this game was an aberration abetted by the either and a rather desperate Rutgers team but it remains a factor they should watch closely. The Terps were 8-13 on clears and three of those failed clears led to easy Rutgers goals. Entering the game, Maryland had a respectable clearing percentage of .890. They need to return to this level as they along with the other top teams position themselves and gear up for post season play.

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