Making their first appearance in a Big Ten semifinal, the Wolverines (3-9) had a tall task in No. 1 Maryland (11-0). This was Michigan’s third matchup of the season against the Terrapins —the previous two were both dominated by Maryland.
The Wolverines needed to capitalize on offensive opportunities if they were going to secure a win.
They started off the game executing on that plan perfectly. Michigan’s first two shots of the game translated into a 2-0 lead early in the first quarter.
The lead did not last long, though, as Maryland responded by scoring six consecutive goals and eight of the next ten heading into halftime.
The Wolverines were not able to match the speed and quickness of Maryland’s offense. Michigan’s offense was one dimensional and the Wolverines were unable to get off-ball opportunities to freeze the defenders.
Heading into halftime, Michigan wanted to put more emphasis on off-ball movement to provide scoring opportunities.
“We walked into halftime and saw that we had four goals all unassisted,” Michigan coach Kevin Conry said. “So we really tried to dial up a little bit more of our off ball movement. We are at our best when (junior attackman) Bryce Clay is popping out of those and moving. That opens up a lot of free lanes for us.”
The Wolverines racked up assists on all but one of their second half goals; however, Michigan was unable to chase the Terrapins’ eight-goal second-half performance.
Maryland’s goaltender, Logan McNaney, had a strong performance in net, only allowing eight goals while making 11 saves. It was difficult for the Wolverines to create offensive opportunities.
“I think the goaltender Logan had Bryce’s number today, to some extent,” Conry said. “I thought we had some open looks that he just did not score on. It was also the lack of opportunities.”
The failure to take advantage of offensive opportunities allowed the Terrapins to outpossess Michigan for the majority of the game.
“I would say today had a pretty disproportionate amount of possessions,” Conry said. “I felt like going into the game with (junior midfielder) Nick Rowlett and some of the wings that we were going to be able to get an advantage there. But credit Maryland, credit their wingplan, and credit (Maryland midfielder) Justin Shockey for coming in and doing a great job.”
While the Wolverines struggled on offense, Maryland was able to capitalize on its opportunities. Terrapins’ attackman Jared Bernhardt, arguably the best player in the nation, notched a career high in both goals (8) and points (10). A player like Bernhardt is able to create space with his off ball movement, forcing Michigan’s defense on its heels.
Bernhardt set the tone for Maryland creating offensive opportunities. The Terrapins emphasis on off ball movement showed on the stat sheet — as they had 10 assists on 15 goals. The Wolverines, meanwhile, finished the game with only three assists on eight goals.
Michigan was playing with house money, though, as many did not expect them to make it to the Big Ten semifinals in the first place. The team hopes to use this season as a building block for next year.
“The culture that we are trying to build here is that we are grinders and workers that will consistently try to get better.” Conry said.