Maryland men’s lacrosse finished the regular season ranked last in the Big Ten in faceoffs, winning just 38.5 percent of its draws during conference play. But the Terps posted a 58 percent clip Thursday evening against Rutgers to advance to their third straight Big Ten championship.
When the two teams faced in Maryland’s 11-10 win last month, The Terps won just 10 of 25 faceoffs against the Scarlet Knights. The combination of Austin Henningsen and Justin Shockey improved mightily in the conference semifinal, helping set up a pair of Terps hat tricks and an 12-9 Maryland win.
Henningsen went 11-of-18, while Shockey won 3-of-6 from the faceoff dot. Now, the Terps have earned a chance to claim their third consecutive Big Ten Championship on Saturday night, awaiting the winner of Johns Hopkins and Ohio State.
Head coach John Tillman has often mentioned needing stronger play from his wingers on faceoffs, and even opposing coaches — like Ohio State’s Nick Myers — said his team was able to take advantage of the weakness when the Terps fell at home last month to the Buckeyes. On Maryland’s eight first-half faceoff wins, neither FOGO recorded a ground ball. Rutgers committed two violations, but it was Maryland’s wingers who were coming out of the scrum with the ball.
Maryland benefited from the extra possessions in the first half, taking a 7-5 lead into halftime. The Terps fell behind 5-4, but scored the last three goals of the half over the last 6:19 to end the second quarter strongly.
Midfielder Connor Kelly was held without a goal on 13 shots last week in the regular season finale against Johns Hopkins, but wasted little time Thursday evening. Kelly, who was awarded the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year this week, scored on his first shot just over a minute into the game to give the Terps a 1-0 lead.
The Scarlet Knights held multiple leads in the first two quarters, even without sophomore attackman Kieran Mullins, who didn’t play because of a reported illness. Mullins was second on the team in goals (31), assists (17) and points (48).
Maryland attackman Jared Bernhardt was held to just an assist last week, but took control of Maryland’s scoring in the third quarter to help the Terps earn a three-goal lead. After Rutgers cut its deficit to one early into the second half, Bernhardt scored back-to-back goals to put Maryland up, 9-6, last in the quarter to complete a hat trick.
Fairman, like Bernhardt, completed his own hat trick in the fourth quarter as Maryland maintained a multiple-goal lead the entire final period. Goalie Dan Morris finished with 12 saves, helping close out Maryland’s second win against Rutgers this season.
Three things to know
- Connor Kelly and Jared Bernhardt returned to form. After each was held to one assist last week against Hopkins, the leaders of the offense combined for seven points. Kelly scored two goals in the first half to set the tone, while Bernhardt completed a hat trick in the second half to maintain separation.
- It was a big day for freshmen. Bubba Fairman also earned a hat trick, a welcoming sign for the future of Terps lacrosse in his first taste of the college postseason. Redshirt freshman Logan Wisnauskas scored two goals, including his 31st of the season, which is the most for a Maryland freshman since Joe Walters in 2003.
- Tune in Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. The Terps beat Rutgers in 2016 and Ohio State in 2017 to claim the last two Big Ten tournament championships. They’ll have a chance to earn a third straight Saturday in Ann Arbor. Maryland awaits the winner of Hopkins and Ohio State, who’ll play later Thursday evening.
UPDATE: It’s a Maryland-Hopkins rematch. If Saturday’s game is anything like last week’s craziness, lacrosse fans are in for a treat.