Jared Bernhardt’s sensational performance leads No. 1 seed Maryland men’s lacrosse to Big Ten Tournament Final

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Cutting from up top towards the middle, Jared Bernhardt extended his stick with one hand for a pass from Daniel Maltz that seemed destined to go awry.

However, the Terps’ senior leader had other ideas, Bernhardt caught the pass with one hand on his stick and shortly after buried his sixth goal of the day past Michigan goalie John Kiracofe. 

That was the second of Bernhardt’s three goals in the third quarter and the catalyst for Maryland’s five-goal run in the final 8:37 of the period.

After that, Maryland’s (11-0, B1G) eight-goal lead entering the fourth proved too much for Michigan (3-9, B1G) to overcome in the Terps’ 16-8 victory. 

Bernhardt was the tone setter for Maryland throughout with a career-high 10 points, a career-high eight goals, as he also became the program’s all-time career points leader passing Matt Rambo. He also set the program single game goal record in the Big Ten Tournament.

“That might have been the most quiet eight and two I’ve ever seen,” Roman Puglise said of Bernhardt’s 10-point performance. “He’s just a force on the field and we’re very grateful he’s on our side. He’s the most humble kid on the team and he’s the most hard working kid on the team.”

The Tewaaraton Award favorite did whatever he wanted offensively showcasing his elite combination of speed and athleticism for all 60 minutes consistently giving Michigan’s defense problems. Bubba Fairman notched his fifth multi-goal game of the season, while Eric Malever scored twice as did Griffin Brown.

11 of Maryland’s 16 goals were assisted, as the Terps’ persistent ball movement stumped a Wolverines’ defense that fluctuated between zone and man-to-man.

“Our guys are so good at looking for each other and we have some really skilled guys it does make it problematic,” head coach John Tillman said.

Justin Shockey provided a spark at the face-off X for Maryland winning 14 of 22 faceoffs after Luke Wierman struggled at the outset winning just one of five faceoffs. Logan McNaney finished with nine saves, as Maryland’s defense limited an opponent to less than 10 goals for the sixth time this season.

However, just like the last time these two teams faced off in Ann Arbor, it was the Wolverines who struck first at Panzer Stadium. Josh Zawada and Avery Myers both beat McNaney from tough angles, giving Michigan a 2-0 lead in the opening 3:40.

From there the young goaltender settled in with five consecutive saves, as Maryland’s offense hit its stride. The Terps orchestrated one of their patented six-goal runs, flipping a 2-0 deficit to a 6-2 lead over a 11:42 stretch in the first half. 

Bernhardt and Fairman scored all six goals during Maryland’s run, the beneficiary of the Terps’ selfless ball movement. Each of the first four goals came off assists from either Logan Wisnauskas or Kyle Long, two of the team’s best passers.

With 1:22 remaining in the first half, Bryce Clay scored trimming Maryland’s lead to 7-4 and the Wolverines seemed poised to take momentum entering the break. However, after McNaney stuffed a shot from Alex Stephenson with 18 seconds remaining the Terps quickly countered. 

Nick Grill fired a side-arm pass 50 yards upfield perfectly into the stick of Joshua Coffman who sprinted towards goal and fired a shot past Kiracofe with two seconds remaining, giving the Terps an 8-4 lead at the break. 

“Josh is a guy that’s very dangerous in transition,” Tillman said. “That was a big goal, if you can get those goals late in the quarter it just energizes your bench and gets some momentum headed into the next period.”

That completed Maryland’s first half where the Terps nearly doubled up the Wolverines in shots 26-14 and dictated much of the possession.

Just like they did in the first half, the Wolverines struck first in the second half with two of the first three goals. Jake Bonomi’s second goal from a tough angle brought Michigan within three and the Wolverines inched closer to making a comeback.

However, unfazed as ever, Bernhardt delivered a spark for Maryland with back-to-back goals, pushing the Terps’ lead to five with 7:45 remaining in the third quarter. 

Malever and Maltz tacked onto the lead with goals of their own, each goal assisted continuing the theme that has brought Maryland’s offense great success this season.

Entering the fourth quarter with an eight-goal deficit, Michigan continued to fight with Myers and Bonomi beating McNaney, trimming Maryland’s lead to six. However, Maryland’s offense wouldn’t be held down for long as Bernhardt and Brown scored the final tallies of the game. 

Bernhardt’s eighth and final goal matched the Wolverines team total, another sign of his sheer dominance for 60 minutes. 

Maryland will now await the winner of No. 2 seed Rutgers and No. 6 seed Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday at 8 p.m.