CHARLOTTESVILLE — Maryland’s apparent go-ahead goal late in regulation Saturday afternoon against Virginia was waved off when a timeout was granted instead.
“These are moments you dream of,” said Kelly, who finished Braden Erksa’s feed in the extra period. “You dream of Maryland-U-Va. at Klöckner. You watch this game on TV when you’re 7 years old.”
It was a frustrating afternoon for Virginia, which was trounced by Maryland, 23-12, on March 19 of last year at Audi Field. Then the Terps ousted the Cavaliers, 18-9, in last year’s NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Maryland was the bar Virginia couldn’t clear last season.
This time around, it was closer. Just not quite close enough.
“It definitely stings a lot more than any other loss would,” Virginia defenseman Cade Saustad said. “We really, really wanted to get this team, especially after what they did to us last year. It definitely burns.”
The defining element of the teams’ second meeting last year was how easily Maryland bottled up the Cavaliers’ stars. It happened again Saturday as Ajax Zappitello — who held Connor Shellenberger without a point in last year’s tournament quarterfinals — limited the dynamic redshirt junior to a goal and two assists. Xander Dickson managed just a goal on seven shots while being marked by Brett Makar.
“They have two absolutely fantastic defensemen,” Virginia Coach Lars Tiffany said. “And Ajax once again did a really fantastic job on Connor, and there’s Brett Makar who’s assigned to Xander Dickson. They took away our top two.”
Maryland jumped to a 3-0 lead, only for the Cavaliers’ physically imposing defense to give the Terps fits for much of the second half. With Cole Kastner limiting the looks of Daniel Maltz, Maryland’s leading scorer this season who managed a goal on three shots Saturday, Virginia scored the next six goals.
But Maryland got one back before the break, the start of a 7-2 run that ensured the game would be tight heading into the fourth quarter.
“We went into halftime, and we’re like, ‘We’re down two against the number one team in the country, and we didn’t score for, what, 12 minutes?’ ” Kelly said. “We just knew if we played our game and stayed simple and we hit singles, it would work out.”
Maryland led 13-11 after Jack Koras’s fourth goal of the day with 2:40 left in regulation, only for Shellenberger and Thomas McConvey (four goals) to score in a 38-second span to tie it.
The Terps then won the ensuing draw, and Coach John Tillman called a timeout just before faceoff specialist Luke Wierman fired a shot past Virginia goalie Matthew Nunes (16 saves).
“You make that decision so fast,” Tillman said. “I kind of joked with DK, ‘Thanks for bailing me out,’ and Rupp as well. Those are things where I tell them all the time, ‘I’m going to use those and save possessions.’ Inevitably, that’s going to happen. It just does.”
Once in overtime, Maryland turned it over on its first possession and Virginia nearly ended the game three times. Ruppel (14 saves) made three stops in a 10-second span, and Maryland eventually got the ball back to its end.
Unlike two weeks earlier, when Maryland absorbed a 13-12 triple-overtime loss at home against Notre Dame, the Terps figured out how to wrest a victory out of extra time.
Erksa set up behind the cage and found Kelly 15 yards from Nunes’s right for a sidearm shot and the win.
“We knew it was going to be a 12-round battle,” Ruppel said. “Our coaches were saying it all week, and we battled through it all. We wish we could have ended it in regulation. Our offense did a great job of scoring. When it came down to it, we’d been here before and we knew what it took. We didn’t want to feel like how we did against Notre Dame.”
Instead, they felt like they did against Virginia twice last season. Maryland has won three in a row against the Cavaliers for the first time since 1997-98 and only the second time since 1980, and it upended a top-ranked opponent for the first time since 2017.
“They’re an amazing team,” Ruppel said after helping to stymie an opponent that entered averaging 20.2 goals. “We heard it all week — Virginia this, Virginia that. Our whole thing is you can never count out the Terps. We were going to come here and do our thing and show what we got, and I’m proud of our guys.”