It's always a brighter, better day writing these after a big Buckeye win. After last week's incredible comback, things just feel a whole lot rosier, lacrosse-wise.
And, after seeing some of the adjustments the staff made last week, there is plenty of room for real optimism for the remainder of the season. That said, it'll be a tough go tomorrow against the Terrapins of Maryland.
Maryland comes into this week's game shooting the lights out, with a shot % of .348. That's good for 4th nationally, and has allowed Maryland to score 39 more goals than the Buckeyes this season, in 2 more games played.
The Terps average a full 1.2 goals per game more than the Buckeyes, making this a very damgerous team to have to defend. Maryland has 2 players with 60 points on the year already, and 5 players with 27 or more points.
The Buckeyes, by contrast, have 4 players with 29 or more points, but have a high-scorer of 35 in Tre Leclaire (32 goals, 3 assists). Maryland's offense is led by junior attackman Jared Bernhardt (#1), who has 38 goals and 23 assists this year.
Bernhardt is an initiator who can easily score, and will be a load for Matt Borges to try and stop. The scary thing about Bernhardt is that 70% of his shots are on goal. Good teams are generally at about 60%. #1 is definitely a player to watch. Right there with him is RS Sophomore middie Logan Wisnauskas (#12).
Wisnauskas has 34 goals and 27 assists for the Terps this year, and will most likely brutalize any of the LSM or SSDM options the Buckeyes have. The defense is really going to have to buckle down to keep these two contained.
Ohio State has had a spotty record against teams with 2 exceptional offensive players who complement each other (Boston U, Rutgers, Penn State). We will see if Bernhardt and Wisnauskas can be contained.
Defensively, Maryland has built a reputation for strong play, and this year is no exception. The Terps are allowing opponents a meager .287 shot percentage this year. That's translated to a fairly low 9.91 goals per game allowed.
Having said that, there are some hopeful indicators for the Buckeyes going into this matchup. Maryland has allowed double digit goals in 5 of their 12 games this year. In those 5 games, teams have never failed to score fewer than 12 goals.
The Terps allowed 14 in a loss to Notre Dame, who the Buckeyes have beaten, and gave up 13 to Penn State. There should be some opportunities for the Buckeyes, and the adjustments I mentioned earlier may bear some fruit this week.
Coach Myers has added JT Bugliosi to the O middie rotation, allowing him to use some speed and shake from up top instead of on attack. Johnny Wiseman also returned, promptly exploding for 5 points against Hopkins.
These 2 were on a line with Jack Jasinski a few teams last week, and that should make teams very nervous. All 3 can force a slide, so the dodging threat is real no matter who has the ball.
With Musci and Buckley, that's not the case, as both are much better shooters than dodgers. If Bugliosi can get his shooting up to snuff, we could see a revamped offense. If not, we could see 7 total Buckeye goals.
In goal, Maryland starts senior Danny Dolan (#14). Dolan has put together a pretty good year, stopping 52.4% of shots on goal, and only allowing 9.9 goals per game.
He's probably not an all-American like the Terps are used to, but Dolan certainly isn't a slouch. Josh Kirson has similar numbers in every area except goals allowed.
The goalie who is able to step up and make a few more plays could well decide the outcome, as I feel the defenses are more evenly matched. It'll come down to stopping shots, in large part.
At the faceoff X, Maryland is sitting at a respectable 58% on the year. The Terps start senior Austin Henningsen (#17), who is winning 64% of his faceoffs this year.
Justin Inacio, after going just over 50% last week, will have another battle at the X. If he can get to 55%, I think the Buckeyes have a good chance of winning. Without hitting that benchmark, it could be much, much harder, as Maryland really doesn't rush on offense.
Interestingly, Maryland and Ohio State have almost identical struggles with special teams. The major difference is that Maryland sits 80 points above the Buckeyes in Man Up O, with the Buckeyes 67th of 73 teams in D1.
On Man Down, Maryland allows opponents to score 37% of the time, while OSU is at 39%. It's jarring to see these two teams have such a hard time, and I can easily see the more penalized team in this game losing by 2 Man Up goals.
The Buckeyes have lived dangerously for years now, and this is just another area to watch out for.
Overall, this is a huge B1G game with massive implications for postseason play. A Buckeye W, and the B1G becomes Penn State, then everyone else. A Maryland win would see them cement themselves as #2, almost certainly setting up a rematch with PSU in the finals.
This game should be close. Very close.
With vengeance on their minds, I don't lnow that Maryland can be stopped.
Final prediction: 15-13, Maryland.
Game is tomorrow at 1 p.m. EDT.