March 29, 2012

MD1 Notebook: Terps Getting Scoring From All Over

by Gary Lambrecht |

Second-line midfielder Michael Shakespeare is tied for third on the Terps with nine goals, an indication of Maryland's selfless offense to date.
© John Strohsacker/ 

As No. 9 Maryland prepares to face third-ranked Virginia in College Park on Saturday, both teams are coming off of one-goal losses. Maryland, besides being extremely familiar with its ACC rival, also might have an ingredient that could play out as a deciding edge.

Under second-year coach John Tillman, the Terrapins are playing their typically hustling, physical brand of defense, with sophomore goalie Niko Amato manning the cage dependably.

But the X-factor for Maryland on Saturday and beyond – besides face-off specialist Curtis Holmes (.492) and his wingmen returning to their more dominant ways – could be an offense that has replaced last year's pack of senior weapons with a cast of scorers that is coming at opponents in unpredictable ways.

Midway through the regular season, there might not be an offense as balanced as Maryland's. Senior attackman Joe Cummings leads the Terps in goals (12) and points (19). Yet Cummings, obviously an integral part of the scheme, is not always a go-to guy, nor does he need to be around this year's cast of characters.

Consider that the Terps, who are averaging a healthy 12 goals on 33.5 percent shooting, have seven players with at least eight goals, five players with at least five assists and 10 players with at least 10 points.

"I like to think that the [opposing] team is thinking, 'What are we going to do about them? Who are we going to have to stop?'" Cummings said. "We don't know who's going to go off on any given day. I think it shows how selfless this team is. I think it causes everybody to want to put his best foot forward. Whatever happens, you know somebody has got your back."

The scoring sparks are flying from every direction. There is freshman attackman Jay Carlson, who is second on the team with 10 goals as a primary part of the extra-man unit. There is junior attackman and Penn State transfer Billy Gribbin with nine goals. Junior attackman Owen Blye (8, 8) is equally comfortable finishing or feeding.

The starting midfield of John Haus, Drew Snider and Princeton transfer Mike Chanenchuk has combined for 22 goals and 15 assists. Second-line midfielder Michael Shakespeare is tied for third on the squad with nine goals. Fellow second-teamer Kevin Cooper – serving a mandatory, one-game suspension for his part in last week's fight that marred the closing seconds of a 11-10 loss at North Carolina – has chipped in six goals and three assists.

Patriot Strong

How good is the Patriot League? With apologies to the ECAC – which includes No. 4 Loyola, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 15 Fairfield – the Patriot might be the deepest conference in the game.

If unranked Navy defeats seventh-ranked Lehigh (9-1) on Friday night, the Patriot League clearly has the edge going into April. That's because, for starters, Navy (5-3) already has beaten Colgate to win its fourth straight and drop the Raiders to No. 17.

Lehigh has beaten two top 20 schools and owns a defense that is as stingy as its offense is balanced. Colgate has junior midfielder Peter Baum, a scoring machine and potential Tewaaraton Award finalist.

Oh, we almost forgot to mention No. 16 Bucknell (7-3). You remember the Bison, the defending conference champions who finished 14-3 a year ago after putting a major scare into Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament. On Saturday, Bucknell goes for its eighth straight victory after starting the season 0-3 with overtime losses to Delaware and Villanova and an 11-9 setback at No. 2 UMass, one of three remaining undefeated schools in Division I.

And don't count out Army (4-5) quite yet. The Black Knights have lost one-goal decisions to Lehigh, Syracuse and Air Force and hung tough in a 12-9, season-opening loss to UMass. With upcoming games against Colgate, Bucknell and Navy, the Knights could end up knocking a very good team out of the four-team, Patriot League tournament.

Denver's Not Done

No. 10 Denver is less formidable without injured goalie Jamie Faus. But the Pioneers will not bend easily, as one would expect from a Bill Tierney-coached team that is a year removed from its first final four.

Freshman goalie Ryan LaPlante earned ECAC Rookie of the Week honors after going 1-1 last week. In his first collegiate start against Cornell, LaPlante made eight saves. He came back to stop 12 shots in an 11-8 win over Air Force.

Junior faceoff man Chase Carraro, who also runs on the first midfield for Denver, was named Specialist of the Week after winning 23 of 41 draws over the same stretch, while leading the Pioneers in scoring with four goals and two assists.

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