Maryland's end to the regular season was lackluster, and they were certainly limping over the finish line. But this afternoon they got a chance to write a new chapter in their season. A home game in the NCAA Tournament against the Yale Bulldogs provided them with a revenge game against a team who beat them way back in February and an opportunity to get back on track for a potential Quarterfinal game in Annapolis. Maryland cashed in on that opportunity, coming back from three down late to beat Yale 8-7.
Charlie Raffa took the opening face-off for the Terps, which was a good sight for Terp fans. After a long battle for the ball on the ground, Matt Rambo picked it up and gave Maryland the first possession of the game. Rambo had their only shot on the possession which was saved by Eric Natale. A crazy transition sequence followed with both goalies making huge saves off transition opportunities, including Natale stuffing Jay Carlson one-on-one in front.
At 2:38 of the first Maryland got the opening tally courtesy of Joe LoCascio. He spun away from his man and cranked a low to high shot to the roof of the net. 1-0 UMD. Maryland continued the pressure over their next couple of possessions, with Brian Cole hitting the crossbar. On the defensive end they were forcing Yale into tough shots and Kyle Bernlohr looked very sharp in net.
Joe LoCascio was again on the scoresheet with 5:21 left to double the Terps advantage. After shaking off a double team and switching his shooting hand he stuck a lefty shot far side. 2-0 UMD.
Both teams were noticeably hurrying things and looked to be struggling with some early playoff jitters. Multiple passes were misplaced by Maryland and Yale was turning the ball over often as well.
Jason Alessi broke through for Yale late in the 1st on a low to high step down shot that beat Bernlohr in the low corner. 2-1 UMD. The Elis nearly tied the game in the final minute, with Jeff Cimbalista having a open look right in front, but Bernlohr made a kick save to preserve the lead.
A penalty was called on Yale with just five seconds left in the opening quarter after a slash on Jay Carlson.
End of 1: 2-1 Maryland
Due to the slash there was no face-off and Maryland got possession to start on a one minute man-up. Colin Heacock made sure the Terps converted on the EMO, with a hitch step and then side winding finish near side. 3-1 UMD.
The great goalkeeping continued in the early stages of the second, with Bernlohr again making a kick save on Cimbalista in front and Natale stopping Rambo on a time and room shot from the left wing. The officials hit Yale with a shot clock with around nine minutes left in the quarter. Maryland's defense continued to give them no easy looks and forced the violation.
Jason Alessi was on the scoresheet again for the Elis with 6:15 left in the half off an alley dodge and shot that beat Bernlohr in the far corner. 3-2 UMD.
While the pace of play had certainly slowed down significantly in the 2nd Quarter, neither team was necessarily playing stallball. Maryland in particular was creating lots of good chances, they just weren't able to convert. The quality of goalkeeping was tremendous.
Maryland had a brief spurt of offensive pressure late in the half. Heacock created separation with that hitch step again but he was stuffed by Natale. The rebound came to Jay Carlson and his underhanded shot just went wide.
Yale tied the game with 14.7 ticks left on another goal from their attack. A skip pass found it's way to Michael Keasey who stepped into a shot and ripped it near side past Bernlohr. 3-3.
Halftime: Maryland 3-3 Yale
Yale won the opening face-off of the second half but Matt Neufeldt forced a turnover about a minute in to give Maryland the ball. After some slow play to Maryland's opening possession of the half, Bryan Cole used an inside roll to shake free of his defender and fired high-to-high past Natale. 4-3 UMD.
The ensuing face-off was won by the Terps. Quality looks were presented to Rambo and LoCascio but neither were able to find the net and eventually the possession ended after a groundball pick-up by Yale. Two turnovers followed from both teams. Maryland's in particular was frustrating considering it just a simple easy pass. It was by my count the 4th time in the game they had thrown an easy pass out of play.
Midfield shooting from Yale was the undoing of the Terps on all three of the Elis first half goals and their 4th came the same way. A low angle shot from the top courtesy of Colin Flaherty. 4-4.
With 6:05 left in the game Yale took their first lead of the game. After an alley dodge, Ben Reeves received a feed inside and quick sticked one past Bernlohr. 5-4 Yale.
Maryland appeared to have tied the game after Rambo picked a ball up from a scrum and fired one into the top corner, but a moving screen was called on the Terps. And on Yale's next possession Colin Flaherty found the net from the wing to stretch it to a 5-1 run. 6-4 Yale.
Yale was called offsides late in the 3rd, giving Maryland a 30 second man-up to begin the 4th.
End of 3: Yale 6-4 Maryland
Maryland wasted their extra man opportunity, turned it over, and Yale scored in transition. Conrad Oberbeck scoring on a wormburner. 7-4 Yale.
Bryan Cole answered for the Terps, cutting through the teeth of the Yale defense, receiving the feed from Heacock and sniping one past Natale. 7-5 Yale.
Matt Neufeldt was called for an unneccesary roughness penalty about three minutes into the quarter giving Yale a one minute Extra Man Opportunity. Yale didn't even seem to try to get a shot off and it was easily killed off.
The offense seemed to awaken late for the Terps. Rambo fed LoCascio at the top of the zone and after a nice little stutter-step to create space he ripped one high to earn his hat-trick and cut the lead to one. 7-6 Yale.
Charlie Raffa won the ensuing face-off clean, the first time he had done that all day. And then finally, for the first time, we saw the assertive Matt Rambo we had been waiting for. He dodged from behind, cut into the middle of the field, and used his lefty wrister to beat Natale. 7-7.
Yale won the next face-off but immediately threw it away after entering the zone. That was dangerous. Because Maryland's offense had finally found itself. Bryan Cole again found success driving towards the cage but this time he played feeder, sending a skip pass to Henry West. And West stepped into a low angle shot that found the low corner. 8-7 Terps.
A slash was also called on a Yale defensemen which sent Maryland to the man-up. They needed to win the face-off if they were to give themselves a shot in a 6-on-5 set, and Charlie Raffa did just that. He was finally finding his form late in the ballgame and Maryland was taking advantage of it.
The EMO didn't produce any effective looks and Rambo's stick side high shot was easily saved. The Maryland defense produced a huge turnover on Yale's next possession after an incredible stick check by LoCascio. They weren't able to pick the GB up, but the refs called interference which gave the ball back to the Terps. Another errant pass gave the ball back to Yale with under two minutes to go with a chance to tie it.
Maryland's defense held Yale quiet for nearly their entire possession before Michael Keasey got an opening on a step down shot. Keasey's shot was a rocket. Yet somehow it cranked off the bar, took a bounce and stayed out* The Terps cleared to hang on for an incredible victory.
Final: Maryland 8-7 Yale.
It wasn't pretty for long stretches. It could've been better. Despite all that...Maryland's gutsy, never-say-die attitude and character shined through. They reeled off four goals in a row late in the 4th, held Yale scoreless for the final 14 minutes of the quarter and moved on to the Quarterfinals. Charlie Raffa came up trump late in the game at the X, Bryan Cole had a tremendous game, Joe LoCascio did his thing, and Matt Rambo finally took the bull by the horns and tied the game left. It was a true team effort though, which sums up this Maryland team.
Next for the Terps is a game vs North Carolina or Colgate in Annapolis with a berth in the Final Four on the line.
*I wrote that the Yale shot bounced and stayed out. If you look at it in slow motion....it definitely appears to be a goal. Not that I'm complaining.