COLLEGE PARK Goran Murray has had better days.

The junior is Maryland’s best close defenseman, but he had a rough outing in the seventh-seeded Terps’ 8-7 win over Cornell in an NCAA tournament first-round game at Byrd Stadium on Saturday.

Junior attackman Matt Donovan scored all three of his goals against Murray and recorded his lone assist when he lost Murray behind the cage and fed senior attackman Dan Lintner for a goal in the fourth quarter. But Maryland coach John Tillman noted that Murray forced Donovan into a turnover later in the period that helped the team win the time-of-possession battle.

“I think he chose a couple tough moments to throw some checks, which opened up some opportunities,” Tillman said. “When he just sits down and is really disciplined, he’s a tough guy to beat. But Donovan really did a nice job of timing some of those checks, and he’s a hell of a player, and we knew that coming in.”

Donovan credited the Big Red coaching staff with providing a detailed scouting report on Murray.

“I just felt I got a step on him,” Donovan said. “I was a little quicker than him. He’s a little stronger, but in this game, it’s a quickness game, and I felt pretty good. I had a pretty good day, but I would trade it for zero goals and zero assists and the win.”

Circling back to "Three Things to Watch" …  

1) MVGB (Most Valuable Ground Ball). The Terps (12-3) collected 27 ground balls to the Big Red’s 20, but the most important loose ball was the one that senior attackman Mike Chanenchuk corralled with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter after junior midfielder Bryan Cole’s shot was blocked. That ground ball allowed Tillman to call a timeout and set up a play in which sophomore midfielder Henry West skipped a pass to Chanenchuk on the left wing for the game-winning goal with two seconds remaining. 

“I just knew there was not a lot of time left,” Chanenchuk said. “I just knew that if they got it, they were all going. So I just put my head down and picked it up, and Coach made a great call with the timeout. You’re not really thinking about that during the game, but we knew that ground balls were going to be a huge part of this game, that the tough ones were going to be the ones that made a difference. I just picked it up, and Coach called a timeout, and that was about it.”

2) Faceoffs. The battle of two of Division I’s top faceoff specialists ended in a win for Maryland junior Charlie Raffa, who won 11 of 17 draws (64.7 percent) against Cornell senior Doug Tesoriero. Raffa won eight of 10 faceoffs in that critical second half, in which the Terps overcame a 5-1 halftime deficit, but Tillman was quick to credit wing players such as senior long-stick midfielder Michael Ehrhardt (six ground balls) and senior midfielder Brian Cooper (four).

“I felt like he did a little bit of a better job in the second half and began to get into a flow,” Tillman said of Raffa. “I think there was a greater sense of urgency by all of our wing guys like Michael, Brian, [freshman long-stick midfielder] Mac Pons and [freshman midfielder] Isaiah [Davis-Allen] and everybody else we threw out there. I just think they fought really hard, because a lot of those ground balls ended up being 50-50 balls, and you saw [Ehrhardt] swoop in and get after it. You saw what Brian Cooper always does, just fighting. So I think some of the wins are Charlie, but a lot of them were the wing play.”

3) Offense. In the first half, the Big Red (11-5) surrendered just one goal on 18 shots. In the second half, Maryland scored seven times on 24 attempts. Players and coaches alike challenged each other in the locker room, but Chanenchuk said the players never panicked after falling behind by four goals at halftime.

“They’re a great defense,” he said. “We definitely had a lot of good opportunities in that first half. At halftime, I think we had more shots than they did. So we didn’t really look into the score. We knew there was a lot of time left.”

edward.lee@baltsun.com