College Park, MD Ė The #4 Maryland Terrapins used a standout performance in goal by sophomore Harry Alford to overcome North Carolina, 9-4. The Terps received a four-point day from junior Michael Hartofilis and two-goal days from Brendan Healy, Michael Phipps and Joe Walters. Outside of attackman Ryan Blairís two goals, the Tar Heel offense didnít give much to write about. Paul Spellman did chip in with a decent day with 10 saves facing 28 shots. The big story was Harry Alfordís shutdown of the Carolina offense and his timely third quarter of 12 saves, which stopped any comeback thoughts.
Maryland started the game strong as they went out to a slow, methodical 3-0 lead. Four minutes in, Brendan Healy got his first on the day. Two minutes later, Xander Ritz found Michael Phipps for his first of two in the game. Both teams displayed their patience in not forcing much and trying to work their matchups. North Carolina couldnít break through the Maryland defense in the first quarter. UNC finished the 1st on defense with a nice stop of the Terps.
Maryland didnít waste too much time to start the second as reigning ACC player of the year Joe Walters took Michael Hartofolisí 1st assist on the day and put Maryland up 3-0. North Carolina looked sloppy for most of the first half, appeared to be outplayed by Maryland and just didnít seem to be executing. The stats tell a slightly different story. They only had one more turnover than Maryland in the 1st half, one less shot, won 5 of 6 face-offs and were tied in clearing percent. At this point Harry Alford had been quiet. North Carolina hung around and got their first goal 25:00 into the game as Stephen McElduff found Ryan Blair in transition. Blair took McElduffís pass and put a behind-the-back slow bounce shot past Alford Ė it was prettier than it sounds.
Much as I witnessed at the First Four against Notre Dame, North Carolina obviously had the talent to play, but there was just something missing. Despite whateverís missing, they were in striking distance of the Terps - down only 3-1 at the break. The Tar Heels came out and showed that they wanted this game. To start, Lance Zimmerman won the face-off giving UNC the possession. All-American Jed Prossner inverted to the top of the box. He drove hard righty and took a nice jump shot on the run. The bouncer beat Alford cutting the Maryland lead to 3-2. This was the last Carolina shot that would get by Alford for the next 15:00.
The Terps settled into what seemed to be their kill the clock offense. Where they kept trying to dodge from X and make something happen while North Carolinaís Defense kept yelling out ďdiamondĒ. Marylandís offense didnít seem to be dodging with much intensity, which gave even more the impression that they were stalling. There were a few times I thought the refs could have forced them to speed things up. Eventually to end a long possession Bill McGlone held the ball up-top. He paused above a screen and then went to his left. He ripped a lefty bounce shot past Spellman to put Maryland up by 2. Just :40 later, Michael Hartofilis ripped a nice high-to-high shot on the run. Over the last eight or so minutes of the period, North Carolina would get off the majority of their 17 third quarter shots. Alford would also contribute the majority of his 12 third quarter saves. Much to the disdain of the Carolina faithful in the audience, the Tar Heels kept shooting low. Eventually the coaches got the memo and so did the players Ė so they shot high. It didnít matter, as today Alford stopped those as well.
After a save on a man-down with less than a minute in the period, Alford seemed to be toying with the North Carolina attack. Alford made the save, sprinted out of the cage and then all the way around the crease one and a half times with Mike McCall chasing him from behind. They both nearly got crease violations: Alford for almost going back in with the ball and McCall because heís not allowed in there to begin with Ė I donít think heís used to chasing a goalie like that.
North Carolina outshot Maryland 17-5 in the third period and Maryland had 9 turnovers to UNCís two in the period. UNC had only one goal to show for their efforts. Anyone who has had efforts like that turned away with nothing to show for it knows how demoralizing it is. Credit North Carolina as they didnít go away. They fought hard in the fourth and brought themselves to within just one of the Terps. The UNC attack rode the Terps into a turnover, Ryan Blair grabbed the loose-ball and put it into the open net. With 13:33 to play, they were down just two. At 12:56, Tar Heel freshman Rob Driscoll notched their fourth and final goal of the game.
Marylandís offense continued to be patient. They slowly added to their lead. After a long possession Michael Hartofilis found Ian Healy in the crease. Hartofilis had set a pic at X for Xander Ritz. Ritz drove to the right drawing a slide. He dumped it back across the back of the net to Hartofilis, who found Healy on the back side crease. Healy was barely open, but managed to gather the pass and put the Terps up 6-4 with 7:28 to play. Just over a minute later Brendan Healy put a perfectly placed high-to-low blast in - stretching the lead to 7-4 off a Dave Matz feed. North Carolina couldnít get anything going on offense and eventually Marylandís Michael Phipps scooped up a loose ball and put in for the Terpsí 8th goal of the day. Like clockwork, Joe Walters took a Hartofilis feed 1:30 later and put the Terpsí final goal of the day in. Carolina continued to battle over the last 3:25, but couldnít get anything going and Maryland possessed the ball for nearly the last two and a half minutes of the game.
In what is turning into a frustrating season for the 2-5 Tar Heels, they do have some hope. They held a one groundball advantage, won one more face-off, had a much better clear success ratio (15 of 17 compared to 18 of 24) and had 9 less turnovers than Maryland. It canít be stressed how invaluable Alford was today for the Terps. For UNC, they looked flat for much of the game and didnít play nearly as well as they could, yet they had a chance right up until the end.
While it was a solid win for Maryland today, it wasnít the prettiest. The Terps had 19 turnovers and had Alford not played as well as he did then who knows what would the outcome would have been. Credit must also be given to the Terp defense, which was a big question mark after graduating everyone last year. They were responsible for keeping the supposed-to-be potent UNC attack in check. There were three goals scored by attackmen, two came in transition and the third came when Prossner drove from up-top. Also it seemed that UNCís shot selection could have been better, Alford had a sightline on pretty much every shot he faced. In any case, Maryland will have to tighten things up if they expect to be playing in Philadelphia come Memorial Day. The other thing thatís scary about Maryland is their patience on offense. While they are disciplined and donít force things, they seemed to be content with small leads when they could have pressured and put Carolina away earlier. The other part of that is that they did play patiently, which would mean you shouldnít have 19 turnovers. Lance Zimmerman dominated face-offs for the Tar Heels in the first half. So in a good move by the Terp coaching staff, they made the adjustment of using freshman Will Dalton, who won 6 of 9 attempts at the X.
Carolina will have to solve their woes quickly as the next two games are against #1 Johns Hopkins and #2 Virginia respectively. If they donít win these games, they will likely be the best team out of the NCAA tournament this year as that would insure a losing record and disqualify them from tourney consideration (similar to Virginia last year). Their four goals today were the lowest against Maryland since a 1989 5-4 loss. Things arenít any easier for the #4 Terps who face #2 Virginia next Saturday and #6 Navy the following week. Both games will be good tests for the Terps offense, which needs to prove itself against a Final Four caliber team, and the Terps defense, that needs to prove theyíre ready to step up for the Terps. The Terps lost their defensive backbone to graduation last year and need to use these games to lay the foundation for either an offensive backbone to carry them back to the promised land or another defensive unit to take over.
|Michael Hartofilis||(1, 3)|
|Brendan Healy||(2, 0)|
|Michael Phipps||(2, 0)|
|Joe Walters||(2, 0)|
|Xander Ritz||(0, 1)|
|Dave Matz||(0, 1)|
|Bill Mcglone||(1, 0)|
|Ian Healy||(1, 0)|
|Harry Alford||20 (0.833)|