April 20, 2013

Amato Helps Terps Avoid Yale's Upset Bid

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Marylandgoalie Niko Aamato made a career-high 24 saves as the Terps edged Yale 8-7 in College Park.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — For a variety of reasons, fourth-ranked Maryland deserved to lose this game. For most of two hours on a sunny, windy Saturday at Byrd Stadium, the Terrapins were out-played by visiting, No. 12 Yale, which proved again how far it has come as a program.

But the Terps, led by junior goalie Niko Amato — who made a career-high 24 saves — and a defense that survived eight penalties and 48 shots, refused to cave in to the relentless Bulldogs and simply would not lose.

Maryland found just enough offense to avoid an upset. With 13 seconds left, junior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk took a pass from attackman Billy Gribbin, stepped down and buried a 12-yard, extra-man shot from the right wing to lift the Terps to a come-from-behind, 8-7 victory, before 3,052.

Amato ultimately had the last word on a controversial, game-ending sequence. With five seconds left, after Yale had controlled the game's final faceoff, he stopped a vicious, low 16-yard shot by midfielder Michael Kucharczyk with a left-footed kick save. The ball rattled off of both posts  — and may have barely crossed the goal-line plane — before caroming away as time expired.

"[The shot] went to my lower left side. I stuck my foot out, and it hit here [pointing to his instep] and it hurt," said Amato, who saw 31 shots on goal and recorded the most saves by a winning goalie in Division I this year. "I didn't even see it hit the pipe. I was like, 'Did that go in or not?' I just stood there in pain, and then I saw the ground ball.

"Yale played a real good game. We got in a ton of penalty trouble. Our offense came up big when it needed to. Our defense is going to do its job for as many possessions as it takes. It was a fun game for me."

The Terps, who had tied the game at 7-7 on a goal by Jay Carlson with 4:36 remaining, got their chance to win it, thanks to a holding penalty on Yale attackman Kirby Zdrill with 25 seconds left. That gave Maryland a chance for its third, extra-man goal of the day. Chanenchuk, who finished with three goals and one assist, got his hands free and did his thing by sending a rocket past Yale sophomore Eric Natale (nine saves).

"We knew we were going to wait for the right shot, and it happened to be the first shot," said Chanenchuk, who finished a sequence that included a crisp Owen Blye (three goals, one assist) pass to Gribbin from behind the net. "We knew we had to grind this out. We're pretty good at keeping a level head throughout the game."

The victory, Maryland's third in its last five games, came on the heels of last week's 7-4 loss to Johns Hopkins and gave the Terps (9-2) a boost, as they prepare for next week's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Chapel Hill, N.C., as the no. 1 seed. Maryland also snapped a five-game winning streak by Yale. The Bulldogs (8-4) are pursuing their second consecutive Ivy League title.

Before giving up two scores by Maryland in the final 4:36, Yale nearly tasted only its second victory over the Terps in 11 meetings. The series, which dates to Yale's lone win over Maryland – a 5-3 decision in 1925 – resumed after the last meeting in 2009.

On Saturday, there was Yale, on the strength of two goals each from attackman Brandon Mangan and midfielder Colin Flaherty, holding a 7-6 lead as the fourth quarter was winding down.

There was Yale, dominating time of possession throughout the second half by riding faceoff specialist Dylan Levings (11-for-17) and grabbing Maryland turnovers. There was Maryland, committing nine of its 17 miscues in the second half, as the Bulldogs grew more confident.

And there was Amato, making save after save, literally until the bitter end for Yale, which came so close to forcing overtime.

Bulldogs coach Andy Shay was pleased with Yale's effort, but not its lack of execution. And Shay was most displeased by some calls that did not go the Bulldogs' way, starting with Amato's last save and including a questionable crease violation that waved off a third-quarter goal by Conrad Oberbeck.

"I thought that shot [by Kucharczyk] was in. It went in, hit both pipes and bounced out. I thought that was one of several questionable calls today," Shay said. "We out-shot them, 48-29, and their goalie made 23 saves to beat us. It wasn't a [good] 60-minute game for us, but our kids are tough. They hung in there."

The Bulldogs shot just 14.6 percent and were only 1-for-7 in extra-man offense. Yale also gave up three man-down goals, including back-to-back EMO scores by Blye – following an illegal stick foul called on Mark Glicini at the end of the first quarter.

Blye, who had just scored with 19 seconds left in the first quarter, took advantage of that non-releasable, three-minute penalty by scoring twice in a five-second span to give the Terps a 4-1 lead with 14:13 left in the first half.

But Yale toughened up impressively, as Flaherty scored near the end of the three-minute penalty period to make it 4-2. Yale later trimmed the margin to 5-3 on a goal by Oberbeck, and went into halftime after Maryland had committed simultaneous slashing and offsides infractions in the closing seconds.

The Bulldogs pounced to start the second half. Mangan scored an extra-man goal to make it 5-4 just 16 seconds into the third quarter. Then, midfielder Ryan McCarthy nailed an eight-yarder from the left wing to tie it with 13:36 left.

From there, it was a dogfight. And Yale, which capitalized on an unforced turnover by Maryland midfielder John Haus with a fast-break goal by Mangan that gave the Bulldogs a 7-6 edge with 12:06 to go, nearly won the scrum.

"I'd like to see us play with more poise and discipline for 60 minutes," Maryland coach John Tillman said. "But obviously, we are excited to get a win over what I thought was a really good team."

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