It is one of the oldest adages in sports—you cannot win if you cannot score.
Then it should come as no surprise that No. 3 Duke (15-5) fell to unseeded Maryland (12-5) 16-10 in the NCAA tournament semifinal at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Saturday evening. The Blue Devils, who scored 17 goals in the first three quarters of its quarterfinal victory over Colgate, were unable to put together a scoring run when they needed it the most.
“You could see it looked bad, but we didn’t play up to the level we’ve been these past couple weeks, which makes it kind of disappointing,” senior Justin Turri said. “We just didn’t do a good job of being patient enough.”
Duke’s offensive attack was stymied by Maryland’s defenders, scoring just eight goals in the game’s first 58:33 before adding two late goals to soften the blow with the game out of reach. In program history, the Blue Devils are 19-7 in NCAA tournament play when scoring 10 goals or more, but just 1-8 when tallying single digits. Terrapin defenseman Goran Murray held Jordan Wolf, the Blue Devils’ leader in points, without a goal. Wolf, who only registered one shot on the evening, was scoreless in Duke’s three matchups with Maryland this season.
“The Maryland kids come in, and they’re tough and rugged young men and very confident,” Duke head coach John Danowski said. “I thought our guys backed down at times and were not as confident as they’ve been. But, again, perhaps it was due to how well Maryland was playing.”
Duke, which dismantled Colgate thanks to a 13-0 run, has taken advantage of its quick strike ability all season. The Blue Devils frequently utilize their ability to win faceoffs as a means of getting out in transition, and even though they was able to come away with 15 of the contest’s 28 draws, there was little transition offense to be found.
Duke was never able to string together more than two consecutive goals, but the Terrapins tallied three or more unanswered scores on three separate occasions in the contest. After holding Colgate scoreless for 26:14 last weekend, the Blue Devils were held scoreless for stretches of 13:30, 13:05 and 12:17 by Maryland’s defensive unit.
“We had a really good gameplan. Our coaches put us in good positions to succeed,” Maryland goaltender Niko Amato said. “Our scout guys on offense gave us a great look all week and mimicked Duke’s offensive personnel and gameplan.”
The Terrapin defenders were able to cut off Duke’s passing lanes, allowing them to key on individual matchups without having to worry about the Blue Devils’ ball movement. Duke’s three assists were its second-lowest total on the season. The Blue Devils averaged just under seven assists per game in its victories this season while managing just three per game in its losses.
Despite all of these offensive woes, a goal by Justin Turri with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter kept Duke in reach, trailing by a 10-7 margin. The Blue Devils had a bevy of chances before the quarter drew to a close, failing to convert on two extra-man opportunities. The man-up unit, which has been Duke’s Achilles’ heel all season, scored just once in six opportunities against the Terrapins.
Robert Rotanz made a run from midfield to pull within two goals early in the fourth quarter, but the Blue Devils had let too many opportunities slip through their grasp. Maryland took a page out of Duke’s playbook, scoring three unanswered goals in 3:07 to build a 13-8 cushion. Danowski took out Dan Wigrizer in favor of Kyle Turri and pulled his goaltenders out of the cage to double the ball as the Terrapins found the emptied net three more times.
Duke left the field for the second year in a row following a loss to Maryland in the semifinal, once again outplayed by the unseeded Terrapins.