Mike Chanenchuk and Niko Amato saved the Maryland men's lacrosse team from what might have been a devastating blow.
Chanenchuk scored the game-winning goal with 13 seconds left in regulation, and Amato turned aside a last-second shot to propel the No. 6 Terps to an 8-7 victory over No. 14 Yale before an announced crowd of 3,052 at Byrd Stadium on Saturday.
Maryland (9-2) has won 10 straight against the Bulldogs, but more importantly, the Terps avoided a loss that would have been their second in a row and third in the past five games — a stretch that would have damaged their resume for the NCAA tournament.
"They are as good as advertised," Maryland coach John Tillman said of Yale. "We're excited to walk away with a win. I don't think we're going to play like that and win a lot of games."
The Terps trailed, 7-6, with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, but tied the game with 4:36 remaining. Senior attackman Kevin Cooper passed the ball to sophomore attackman Jay Carlson, who was sprinting down the right side and fired a low shot past Yale sophomore goalkeeper Eric Natale for the goal.
The Bulldogs won the ensuing faceoff, but they couldn't regain the lead after an extended possession. With 25 seconds left, senior attackman Kirby Zdrill was whistled for holding, giving Maryland an extra-man opportunity.
Terps senior attackman Owen Blye caught a pass behind the left side of the net and skipped a pass to senior attackman Billy Gribbin on the other side of the cage. Gribbin found Chanenchuk standing at the right point, and he fired a shot between Natale's legs from 12 yards away.
"We knew we had the rest of the game with 25 seconds left," said Chanenchuk, a redshirt junior midfielder who tied Blye with a game-high four points (three goals, one assist). "We were just waiting for a good shot. That happened to be the first one, which doesn't always happen. I was looking for a good shot, and if I didn't have one, I was going to pass it on. Billy threw me a really good pass, and I finished it."
In the final seconds, Yale junior Dylan Levings won his 11th faceoff of 17 attempts and collected the ground ball. He passed it to sophomore midfielder Harry Kucharczyk, whose ankle-high shot from the left point appeared to hit the left post and stayed out of the net as time expired.
After the game, Amato, a redshirt junior, said the ball hit his right foot for his career-high 24th save.
"I was a little nervous because I didn't know where it went off my foot," he said. "I just felt some pain. That would have really [ticked] me off if it went in. … I was just glad they weren't jumping up and down, and we were."
From his angle, Tillman said he thought Amato got enough of the ball with his foot to steer it away from sending the contest into overtime.
"I saw [Kucharczyk] drop his hands, and I saw him shoot, and it looked like he was shooting low and away," Tillman said. "Niko stepped over, and I think he got a piece of it, and it might have hit his foot and the pipe."
The Terps took a 4-1 advantage early in the second quarter when Blye scored twice in a five-second span. With freshman midfielder Mark Glicini serving a three-minute penalty for an illegal stick, Blye converted a pass from Chanenchuk just 42 seconds into the period.
On the ensuing faceoff, senior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt scooped up the ground ball and passed it to Blye standing at the left point, and he skipped it past Natale.
But that was Maryland's biggest lead as the Bulldogs (8-4) finished the second quarter with two of the period's three goals and then scored four of the first five goals of the second half for the 7-6 lead. Junior attackman Brandon Mangan and sophomore Conrad Oberbeck scored two goals each during that stretch.