Today’s second semifinal was a snoozefest for the most part. But the final 1:25 turned out to make for a thrilling finish, and one that caused a ton of controversy.
Maryland’s Colin Heacock appeared to score his third goal of the game, but he was called for a dive in the crease, turning the ball over to Denver, down by a goal. After a timeout, the Pioneers managed to get Connor Donahue one-on-one with Dan Morris with about nine seconds left to play. The ball went in the net, but that was also disallowed due to another dive into the crease. The Terrapins got the ball back and won, 9-8.
Pioneers head coach Bill Tierney expressed his discontent with what happened late in the game, and may have awaken a beast or two in the process.
“Honestly, we need a shot clock in this game,” Tierney said, “and we need to let the dive be back in the game. They’ve taken away the two greatest parts of the game. It’s silly to see a kid make an effort. And their guy [Heacock] too, by the way, seconds before that.
“To see young men work as hard as they do and make that kind of athletic effort and have some guy in stripes say, ‘no, no, no.’ And it wasn’t his fault. We’ll see if he landed in the crease, then it was the right call. If he didn’t, it was the wrong call. But I just thing our game is kind of silly right now without those two rules.”
Maryland head coach John Tillman said he has some concerns, but would be all for the dive to return.
“I guess I'd be all for looking into it,” Tillman said. “I think the reason they took it out was the safety of the goalies. That would be my first thing, worrying about that. But if the pro league does it, and they don't have injuries, and people think it's great for the game, I certainly would be part of that conversation.”
The Terps were led by junior midfielder Connor Kelly and his game-high three goals, while attackman Dylan Maltz added a pair of goals and an assist. Tewaaraton finalist Matt Rambo was limited to only a goal and an assist. Defenseman Tim Muller limited Denver’s Connor Cannizzaro to only a goal, and also caused three turnovers. Dan Morris made eight saves.
For the Pios, freshman Ethan Walker had two goals, which were Denver’s last two of the game that tied the game up at eight. Dylan Gaines was assigned with guarding Rambo and caused two turnovers on the senior attackman, and goaltender Alex Ready made 12 stops to keep Denver alive in the game.
A big part of the game was decided at the face-off X. Denver’s Tewaaraton finalist Trevor Baptiste went 11-of-21 with six ground balls, but Maryland’s Austin Henningsen and Jon Garino, Jr. held their own. Henningsen went 7-of-15 on draws, while Garino went 3-of-6 late in the game. Most of the wins game on behalf of long stick midfielder Matt Neufeldt, who scooped up six ground balls.
Nearly splitting draws with Maryland benefitted the defense, as they were able to rest up for some time.
“It was definitely pretty important,” Muller said. “There was a point throughout that game where we had the ball on the offensive end for a huge amount of time. By the time it got back down to us we were pretty fresh. As everyone knows, that's pretty important for everyone. To be able to have such a good offense come down for us to feel good when they start coming down to dodge us, it was great. Jon and Austin did a great job today on the wings.”
Putting multiple face-off guys was something Tillman preached at the end of the game, comparing it to having multiple running backs in the NFL.
“It's hard to get through the whole year with just one running back,” Tillman stated. “Those guys take a lot of hits, a lot of pounding, and I think (of) face-off guys the same way. Just think about the position that they're in over and over and over again.
“There is just so much stress on your body, and you're doing that all year long. You're taking contact, and you're taking hits. So I think physically getting through the year with one guy is really hard. Then with so many different guys, and you guys have seen it over the last couple weeks, Austin did better today and Jon went 3 for 6, so that was helpful, but Jon was better last week. The week before Jon struggled against Bryant and Austin struggled against Bryant. Face-offs are the trickiest thing. It's hard to figure out. Chris Mattes does such a good job for us. He obviously plays for the Florida Launch, so he's as good as there is. He understands the subtle nuances that some of us don't. Little subtle things here and there. He can see things.”
Maryland will take on Ohio State for the third time this season, splitting the previous two meetings, both by one goal and in Columbus. Tillman believes it helps both teams, but predicts the game will be decided by little things, such as hidden plays and ground balls.
#5 Denver vs. #1 Maryland Final Team Stats