After a wild shot from Rutgers’ Connor Kirst in the second quarter, goalie Logan McNaney began the clear and the Terps took off running in transition. Following a pass from attacker Jared Bernhardt, defender John Geppert wasted no time to thrust a deep shot past Rutgers’ goaltender.
The Terps continued to take advantage of the mistakes made by the Scarlet Knights and ran off with an eventual four-goal lead to win the match 13-9. But it wasn’t without some characteristic road struggles from Maryland.
“I’m really proud of the guys continuing to grind and stick together,” head coach John Tillman said. “Certainly a lot to clean up, but it’s nice to get a W on the road against [a] good team and realize there’s a lot more we can improve upon.”
The drive to win was notably palpable Sunday afternoon as Rutgers challenged the Terps amidst the slippery conditions in Piscataway, New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights properly displayed their will to win through their masterful start.
Unlike the two sides' previous meeting, Rutgers wasted no time to run away with a strong lead. With three unassisted goals, three Scarlet Knights took turns exploiting Maryland’s defense with incredible control and athleticism. Attacker Connor Kirst capped off the run with a left-handed strike between two defenders and past McNaney.
Down three, Maryland’s largest deficit of the season, and with zero points to show for their first-quarter efforts, the Terps elected to take a timeout at the midway point of the frame.
They used the time to regroup and set up their first goal of the quarter. Midfielder Kyle Long broke the drought from the left side of the post and tip-toed to the crease to cut the lead to two points.
After midfielder Shane Knobloch reestablished Rutgers’ three-point lead with the game's fifth unassisted goal, while double-teamed, it took Maryland the final six minutes of the first quarter to score again and head into the second period down by just two points.
However, the struggle for the Terps continued as Rutgers remained in control.
The Scarlet Knights used their lead to confidently take strong shots at the goal as the Terps spent their time frantically chasing a lead. But as Rutgers failed to clear the ball and lost faceoffs, Maryland quickly snapped into shape and looked to its top two goal scorers to even the score.
Attackers Jared Bernhardt and Danny Maltz both took a turn finding the back of the net. Bernhardt utilized a roll dodge to slip through a double team, and about a minute later Maltz scored using an assisted jump shot in front of the crease. The run continued with a score from an unlikely Terp more familiar with the opposite end of the field.
Before Maryland, Geppert was a bonafide scorer. One could easily tell by the way he swings his shots with staggering accuracy. Fittingly, his only goal of the contest was the game's most important. Geppert’s deep shot in transition, midway through the second frame, was vital in granting the Terps their first lead of the game.
“To get a goal like that against Rutgers, that’s what they’re notorious for,” midfielder Bubba Fairman said. “They play early offense, they run transition really well so just kind of giving it back to them was amazing and you can see our bench went wild after that”
From there, things began to slip away for Rutgers as Maryland scored three more times unanswered. The remaining goals in the second quarter were made possible by Bernhardt as he had two assists and buried two shots that were either the product of a turnover, failed Rutgers clear or faceoff won by Maryland.
“After the first quarter, we found ourselves making a lot of adjustments slowing things down, talking things through,” Fairman said. “That kind of led to a better second quarter for us. Our coaches always do a great job of that.”
The Terps were clicking and their three-goal deficit quickly flipped to a three-goal advantage as the first half concluded. Attacker Adam Charalambides was the lone Rutgers scorer in the second quarter as Maryland outscored Scarlet Knights 6-1.
“I think in the past we haven’t always been the best with handling runs and keeping our foot on the gas,” Long said, “But with Nick Grill and Brett [Makar] and Logan [McNaney] in net, they get stops and that just gets our energy going and gets our confidence going and we kind of put it together in those moments.”
But, the ugliness wouldn’t continue for the Scarlet Knights. Out of the halftime break, Rutgers continued to score and keep Maryland on its toes. The Scarlet Knights used two goals in the third and an early fourth quarter two-goal run to cut Maryland’s lead to a surmountable two points, but the Terrapin defense remained stout and effectively forced Rutgers to work for every point. Maryland’s offense, though not as lethal as it was in the second frame, finished shots as well to ultimately stay perfect on the season, outscoring Rutgers 5-4 in the second half.
Three things to know
1. Bernhardt took matters into his own hands. Bernhardt was responsible for five of the six points scored in Maryland’s game-breaking second quarter and displayed his unique ability to make something out of nothing. He scored three goals unassisted and added two assists to help Maryland go up by four. Bernhardt ended with a game-high four goals, one shy of surpassing Matt Rambo’s all-time goal mark of 155.
2. Rutgers’ mistakes led to its undoing. The Scarlet Knights responded with poor shots and clears, while also failing to win faceoffs as the Terps claimed their stake in the contest. Rutgers had seven shots on target and three turnovers in the first quarter but tallied just six shots on target and nine turnovers across the second and third periods combined.
“What we’re hoping is that we’re an opportunistic team,” Tillman said, “Offensively, if we dodge and they put two on the ball or three on the ball, hopefully [we] share it enough where we can find the open guy and capitalize. And I think part of that is kids having really good awareness and IQ and being really unselfish.”
3. Maryland’s struggles on the road continue. Maryland’s unresolved mishaps on the road culminated in its worst start this season. As the Terps faced their largest deficit of the season, it was clear they had little to no control of their fate early at Rutgers. Even as their lead wavered late it was clear they weren’t fully in their element. Turnovers and faceoffs on the road continue to be a point of concern as Maryland trudges through the regular season and starting strong will be key in helping mitigate its road woes. Still, a four point victory over a top-ranked squad is quite the accomplishment, all things considered.