The Notre Dame loss sucked. Shit happens sometimes. But there's no time to feel down about it and let it linger. Maryland had this problem last year. I've written extensively about it. I don't get that feeling with this team. I think if Mike Chanenchuk doesn't roll his ankle on Friday night in Philadelphia, Maryland goes on to beat Notre Dame and win the ACC Tournament. And while the Terps offense was stagnant, the Chanenchuk injury had more far-reaching effects than just losing their top point producer and Quarterback of the offense. It took Connor Cannizzaro out of his normal spot, operating behind or near the cage and put him up top. While Connor scored a nice goal off a left alley dodge, he wasn't nearly as effective. So no natural ball handler up top. And where Cannizzaro normally operates? Chanenchuk was there, but he could hardly do anything and just provided back-up on errant shots. And this loss was a one-goal game decided in the final 10 seconds. Oh, and Notre Dame's goal came after Chanenchuk blew a tire with his bum ankle. Was not like Maryland's ugly blowout L to Virginia last year. So this team can, and will be okay in my opinion.
Now the focus shifts to Navy. The Midshipmen aren't the team they historically have been, they're not the team that went to the NCAA Championship in 2004, heck they're not the team that won their conference in 2009. That's the last time the Mids made the Big Barbecue. But what this Navy team is, is a team that's lost 2 bitter one goal game to in-state rivals Loyola and Johns Hopkins, and wants to close the season on a high note. The Seniors want to close their career on a high note before they go do something much bigger than playing college lacrosse: defending our country. So despite their 4-9 record, Navy is no pushover. They're going to bring it on Saturday, and Maryland has to respond.
The big key for Maryland in this one will be getting the offense back on track and breaking through to the double digit goals mark. Navy has had troubles all season offensively, only scoring 10+ goals four imes this season - 18 in a 13 goal win over VMI, 12 in a 21-12 win over Holy Cross, 11 in a 8 goal win over Lafayette, and 13 in a 6 goal win over Boston U. In total, Navy is averaging only 9 goals per game, a number well outside the Top 30 nationally. This has been the main problem for the Midshipmen in closing out games, as they possess a very good defense and goaltending.
The Navy D has given up on average only 9 goals per game this season, and John Connors has been very solid in net, with a .540 sv%. He's kept them in multiple games, but as said above, the offense hasn't quite come through. So this isn't the easiest game for the Maryland offense to try to get back track on, but it's a very good test.
Where the Midshipmen are most effective are straight down the middle and inside. They have some very strong and sturdy Dman and don't allow many inside passes. They crowd the inside and just don't generally provide much space at all. What this does do however, is give opportunities for the Terps shooters and dodgers. This means a big game is needed from Henry West, and likely Matt Rambo as well. Both West and Rambo have raised their level the last few weeks, so this is a positive for the Terps and something to take advantage of.
The negative to that however, is that Maryland likely needs Mike Chanenchuk to take maximum effect of that. John Tillman said in his weekly conference call there's a chance that he'll rest Mike, especially if it's the most beneficial thing for him and there's a strong chance-of re-aggravation. The reason the Terps will need Chanenchuk, is Connor Cannizzaro could have a very solid game operating from just outside Goal Line Extended. Brandon Benn of Johns Hopkins had a very solid game operating here from Navy, having a multiple goal outing. If Maryland can have arguably their most talented attackmen in this position, they'll be in a very good spot.
The key for Maryland on the defensive end is putting pressure on Navy's attacking line of Sam Jones, Tucker Hull, and TJ Hanzsche. While Jones is a fantastic dual threat, with 23 Goals and 18 Assists, Hull and Hanzsche have just 7 combined assists, while combining for 42 goals (21 each). Therefore, it's important the Terps put pressure on them and play a tight D to force Navy to try to find assisted goals and not let them get separation for shots. Forcing Navy to find production from their midfield guys Austin Heneveld (11 G, 2 A), and Pat Durkin (7 G, 5 A) would also be beneficial to a victory.
In many ways, Navy and Maryland are similar. Similar styles, similar individual numbers among their offensive players. Navy is more experienced team than Maryland, but the Terps are definitely the more talented and well rounded team and should come away with the relatively comfortable victory. But this one won't be easy. Navy will gie it a good go and it'll be a good test for Maryland before the NCAA Tournament. A win seals up a home game, a loss could leave the Terps on the road and in a tough spot.
Face-off is set for 1 PM ET, from Byrd Stadium. You'll have to pay up for TerpsTV, but there will be a Game Thread with updates and discussion. If you can make it out, go ahead. If not, join us in discussing Maryland's final regular season game.