Maryland (7-0, B1G) has an opportunity to push its undefeated record to 8-0 for the first time since 2004 with a victory over Michigan (2-5, B1G) on Saturday.
The trip will be a unique one for the Terps in this unconventional season as it’s the first time they’ll fly to a road game. The last time these two teams faced off Maryland handedly defeated Michigan 20-9 dominating throughout, showcasing unselfish offense and stellar defense.
“I know it’s never easy especially league games away, we’ve got to come out ready and rely on our older players,” head coach John Tillman said. “We’re at the point in the season where there’s only three games left, so there’s got to be a high sense of urgency.”
In the first matchup through three quarters the Wolverines had just three goals, unable to diagnose Maryland’s defense. However, Michigan is coming off a big 13-10 win over Johns Hopkins on the road, starting to gain confidence and chemistry as the season builds with just three regular season games remaining.
Attackman Josh Zawada notched a hat-trick against the Blue Jays and has been the focal point of Michigan’s attack throughout this season. He’s the team’s leading goal scorer and beat Logan McNaney four times in the season opener.
Limiting Zawada’s success along with slowing down attackman Bryce Clay and midfielder Jake Bonomi will be a focal point for the Terps defensively. Maryland is surrendering the least amount of goals in the conference, led by Nick Grill and Brett Makar. Matt Rahill and McNaney in net round out the solid unit.
However, the unsung heroes of the defensive unit are Maryland’s defensive midfielders have been fantastic. The unit of Alex Smith, Jake Higgins, Roman Puglise and Joshua Coffman have stifled opposing teams’ midfield units. They’ve also provided quick transition opportunities for the Terps turning defense into offense.
“We’re going to come out with intensity, we can’t be happy that we gave up [nine] goals last time,” Smith said. “We’re always gonna strive to beat that and hold [Michigan] to less than that. We have to be really locked in with preparation.”
Converting those transition opportunities and making opponents pay for their mistakes has been a key element of Maryland’s success offensively. Whether it’s forcing a turnover off the ride or intercepting a pass defensively, Maryland’s opponents have consistently paid for their mistakes.
The Terps will look to continue that trend on Saturday against the Wolverines who turned the ball over 19 times in the first meeting. In each of Maryland’s seven victories this season the opponent has committed more turnovers, often a byproduct of the Terps’ persistence on the ride and active sticks defensively.
Jared Bernhardt, Logan Wisnauskas or Daniel Maltz are often the beneficiaries off opponents turnovers, developing great chemistry as an attacking unit. That experience and continuity has allowed Maryland’s attack unit to thrive in those unsettled situations off of opponent’s giveaways.
“In those unsettled situations, those broken situations we’re lucky because we have a pretty experienced team that in those spots we feel comfortable that we can explore those and they don’t turn into all or nothing plays where the guys just go recklessly to the goal,” Tillman said. “I think veteran players are able to make those decisions, they’ve made some good plays. They’ve made some mistakes through the process.”
Face-off is at 1 p.m. and the game will air on BTN+.