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Terps offense struggles in Championship loss

By: Charlie Wright

Matt Rambo scored to goals by Maryland's offense was never able to get going against Denver.

Matt Rambo scored to goals by Maryland’s offense was never able to get going against Denver.

It was pretty clear from the beginning; it would not be Maryland’s day. Wesley Berg scored in less than a minute to give Denver a lead they would not relinquish. The Pioneers dominated Maryland by a score of 10-5 in Monday’s NCAA championship for its first title in program history. Berg earned Most Outstanding Player honors with five goals, including three in the first 10 minutes of the game.

“We played with a lot of speed and confidence off the beginning,” Berg said. “I just slipped into the right area and I was open backside and fortunate to score the first couple and get us rolling.”

Denver executed well in the opening period, making half of their shots. The Terps made just one of their nine shots, and were quickly down 4-1. This theme would continue the rest of the way. The much-anticipated matchup at the faceoff X between Trevor Baptiste and Charlie Raffa produced only a slight edge to Denver, 10-9. This led to the Pioneers taking just three more shots than the Terps, yet the shooting percentages differed greatly. Denver shot over 29-percent, compared to about 16-percent for the Terps.

“We weren’t cutting to the pipes and moving inside as much as we could have,” said Maryland coach John Tillman. “All that being said, we had some looks and we just got stubborn a little bit.”

Saturday’s hero Matt Rambo pulled the Terps within two early in the second quarter, driving away from the goal and whipping a shot past goalkeeper Ryan LaPlante. The teams would then trade goals, and Denver held a 5-3 lead at the half. Midfielder Henry West had an opportunity in the final seconds of the quarter, but his close-range shot was saved by LaPlante, who finished with 13 saves. Tillman credited his success to the shot selection of the Terps.

“He played great,” Tillman said. “But he was good high and … we kept saying change your levels, change it up, use the ground, maybe shoot off his knees or hips and we kept going [high].”

Zach Miller started the scoring in the third quarter, snaring a rebound in stride and firing a shot past goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr to give the Pioneers a three-goal lead. Denver would score the next two goals, forcing Tillman to take a timeout. The Terps scored on their next possession, with Rambo slipping one past LaPlante as he fell into the crease, and it seemed the Terps finally had some momentum. They were down a manageable four goals, but Denver would clamp down.

After Rambo’s score, the Terps would not hit the back of the net for more than twenty minutes. Jay Carlson (St. Paul’s) finally ended the drought with less than a minute left, but by then it didn’t matter.

“They adjusted to things well,” said midfielder Bryan Cole. “As we made adjustments, they did as well. They were just a great team all around, offensively and defensively and in the middle of the field.”

The Pioneers added two late goals, after the Terps were forced to pull Bernlohr out of the net. Berg notched a goal with under a minute left, his 58th of the season. With that score, he passed teammate Connor Cannizzaro, who had set the record in the first quarter, for most goals in a single season at Denver.

As Tillman gave his postgame press conference, the cheers of the Denver players could be heard in the adjacent locker room. Tillman never broke stride, explaining what this team meant to him and the program.

“I’m proud of them and I hope all the Maryland fans and alums are and the school is, because they play hard for Maryland,” Tillman said. “It’s about something bigger than yourself and to make those sacrifices I always think it comes around to you, and that’s a great way to live your life.”

Rambo, Bernlohr and defenseman Matt Neufeldt were named to the All-Tournament team. All three will presumably return to the Terps next season.

Tillman is now 0-3 in championships games. The loss extends Maryland’s streak to 41 years without a title.

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Charlie Wright

Staff Writer
Charlie is a lifelong sports fan who grew up cheering for hometown teams. He developed a passion for writing in high school and chose to pursue the profession in college. Charlie followed most of his family to the University of Maryland, where he is pursuing a degree in journalism. He plans to enter the sports journalism field after graduation, hopefully covering a local team.

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