April 16, 2011

Wharton's OT Goal Gives Hopkins Wet and Wild Win over Maryland

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Kyle Wharton unleashes the game-winning shot, a lefty sidearm blast that lifted No. 3 Johns Hopkins over No. 4 Maryland in overtime Saturday.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland's early lead, Johns Hopkins' big response, two straight goals by the Terrapins to force overtime, all followed by Kyle Wharton's swan dive into the muddy grass field after scoring the winner with 16 seconds left in the extra period. The 107th meeting between college lacrosse's biggest rivals Saturday night was a great one at rain-soaked Byrd Stadium.

Third-ranked Johns Hopkins came from behind to beat fourth-ranked Maryland, 12-11, in a back-and-forth game of which Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said afterward, "I'll be very forthright, that game could have gone either way. They hit a pipe at the end of the game, and if it goes in the goal, well, I'm having the press conference that was just had (by Maryland) 40 seconds ago."

Oh, yeah – the pipe shot. Maryland's Joe Cummings, who scored four goals, wishes he had a fifth. On the Terps' first possession of the overtime, he caught a pass from Ryan Young and was open on the left wing in front of Blue Jays goaltender Pierce Bassett, but Cummings hit orange-painted iron. Johns Hopkins gained possession and went man-up on a slash call. Three seconds after the one-minute penalty expired, Wharton face-dodged a defender and let a shot rip from the right hash marks that zoomed high past Maryland goaltender Niko Amato.

"We were moving the ball around, and I hedged my man and had a goal," said Wharton, who after scoring immediately turned around and dove on the hash marks at Byrd Stadium as if they represented a Slip 'n Slide. "I saw him come up, [I] faked the shot, ran around him, and it is what it is."

The Jays' trailed by as many as five goals in the second quarter, but used an 8-2 run to take its first lead of the game at 10-9 with 7:54 left in the fourth quarter. They then went up by two on Chris Boland's fifth second-half goal. But Maryland scored twice to force overtime, the tying goal coming from Cummings.

"Give Hopkins credit. They stepped up, responded and it became a typical Hopkins-Maryland game," said first-year Maryland coach John Tillman. "They got up two, and I'm extremely proud of our guys. They could have packed it in. .... [But] we get back in it. If that team is the third best team in the country, we're an inch away from being No. 3 ourselves."

How pollsters see the national rankings remains to be seen come Monday morning. Johns Hopkins improved to 9-2 with three regular season games remaining. Maryland dropped to 8-3 and faces North Carolina in the ACC tournament Friday. The lasting impression from a wet and wild Saturday night, however, is that Maryland and Hopkins proved themselves well-deserving of the top-5 rankings with which they entered.

"We showed a lot of character and a lot of heart to fight back against what I think is as good a team as there is in the country," Pietramala said. "That's as good a team as we faced."

"I like to believe that you get what you earn, and it's pretty simple," he said earlier. "We went into halftime, and we told our guys we didn't think they were playing with any heart. We came out at halftime and we played with the heart this team is capable of playing with."

Said Wharton: "We were moving the ball around, and I hedged my man and had a goal. I saw him come up, [I] faked the shot, ran around him, and it is what it is."

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Officially, 8,072 fans were in attendance Saturday and braved the storm system that affected much of the East Coast. About an hour before game time, the grass turf was covered with an enormous white tarp, but the game started on time, with an abbreviated half-hour warm up for teams once the pregame rain stopped. It started raining again seconds before halftime, and consistently during the second half.

The conditions didn't prevent players on both sides from contributing to a series of events that will go down in this rivalry's lore. Fresh on the minds of both coaches after the game was Canadian Zach Palmer's amazing behind-the-back goal that tied the score at 9 for Hopkins with 8:35 left in the quarter. He threw the shot over his right shoulder from about 10 yards straightaway. Maryland defenseman Jesse Bernhardt shut off Palmer's front side, but it didn't matter.

"Some crazy things happened on the field," Tillman said. "We have a guy covered inside, they throw it to him and he throws it behind the back and scores. But there's a guy who was one of the best players in Canada a few years ago, and that's why he's at Johns Hopkins. He's in traffic, he's got a guy all over him, throws it behind his back. He's probably one of two people in the country that can make that play."

Said Pietramala: "When he shot it, I could have killed him because I didn't think there was a chance in heck it was going in. That turns out to be a big goal."

Most of the goals were. And so was the one that wasn't. Cummings and Young, the Maryland duo that connected for the potential game-winning score in overtime, both were understandably disappointed during the postgame press conference. But Tillman said he would not want to have any other players in that position at the end of the game, and that the Terps' will look for Cummings in similar situations down the road.

"I was pretty excited. I got open, Ryan made an awesome feed ... and I just hit the pipe," Cummings said. "That's sometimes how it happens, but we're going to respond and we're going to come back as a team."

"It's Hopkins-Maryland," Young said. "We went on our run. They went on their run, and like coach Tillman said, there's not one person in the country you'd want a one-on-one with the goalie with in overtime. Joe is probably going to hit that 99 times out of 100."

Hopkins was happy this was the one time Cummings didn't. Wharton wouldn't have swan-dived otherwise.

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