- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2005

ANNAPOLIS - Graham Gill’s miserable shooting slump came to an emphatic end last night.

The senior midfielder scored two goals in the final 2:02 to help eighth-ranked Navy rally past No. 7 Maryland 9-8 before 14,124 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the third largest crowd in Navy history.

Gill recorded his first hat trick of the season and goalie Matt Russell made 10 saves while playing on a sprained left ankle for the Midshipmen (8-2), who collected their first victory over a team currently in the top 20.

“It was a tough game,” Gill said. “We didn’t walk all over them, and we fought hard all day. That was just a good, solid, hard win that can change the tide of a season.”

Maryland (5-4) lost for the third time in four games and has dropped consecutive games to Navy for the first time since 1980-81. The Terps also were hurt by six penalties that led to four extra-man goals for the Mids.

“We made enough good plays to win it, but we made enough bad plays to lose by one,” Maryland coach Dave Cottle said.

Gill entered the game shooting 15 percent and had only one multi-goal game all season, and his woes were reflective of a Navy team that had turned in a sickly performance in an 11-6 loss at Georgetown last week and had done little of note before last night.

Maryland led 8-7 after Brendan Healy scored a pair of fourth-quarter goals and seemed poised to run out the clock, but the Terps turned it over with 3:13 left on a stall warning violation. Navy then gave it to Gill, who eluded Maryland short stick Ryan Lang and zipped a shot from a stunningly tight angle past dazed goalie Harry Alford (six saves).

“I can’t wait to see that replay,” Gill said. “I took a hard sprint from that back spot and saw an opportunity and felt like I needed to take it and it slipped in. I was laying on the ground and [attackman Ben Horn] came above me and I looked up and said, ‘Ben, did that really go in? How did that go in?’ ”

He wasn’t done with amazing shots. After Navy’s Chris Pieczonka won the faceoff on a procedure call and a timeout, Gill charged past long pole Ryan Clarke and short stick Travis Holmes to put the game-winner past Alford with 14.1 seconds left.

“It’s crunch time for us, and if we were going to step into the arena and have a chance to have a great season, we had to win this game,” Navy coach Richie Meade said.

Navy won the final faceoff, although Navy defenseman Mitch Hendler suffered a concussion after taking a shot from David Tamberrino while trying to run out the clock. Tamberrino was assessed a two-minute major penalty at the end of the game. Hendler walked off the field with some assistance and is expected to play next Saturday against Army.

Russell’s play was key as well. The junior sprained his left ankle after falling awkwardly off a curb Wednesday night and was unlikely to play as late as yesterday afternoon. But with the help of trainer Ray Chronister and a bit of adrenaline, Russell was his usual active self.

The first half portended another low-scoring game in an annual series in which no team has scored 10 goals since 1998. The teams combined to make only six of 33 shots as they played to a 3-3 tie at the break.

Navy was poised to take control after scoring the first three goals of the third quarter, but the Terps’ reply was emphatic. In a 53-second blitz, Joe Walters deposited two goals before Tamberrino scored off a faceoff to help Maryland tie it. The Mids eventually retook the lead on Jon Birsner’s goal before Healy’s blitz put the Terps on top.

While Navy boosted its NCAA tournament resume with a much-needed quality victory, Maryland’s postseason hopes took a hit. The Terps, who have lost to Duke, Virginia, Navy and Dartmouth, play host to top-ranked Johns Hopkins and are in danger of falling to 5-5 for the first time since 1994.

“We’ve lost some games where, if you win, you’re in the tournament, and we haven’t won those games,” said Walters, who scored three goals. “This was a big one for us, and it slipped away. Now we have a big game, and if we get that win, we’re in. We have some pressure on us.”

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