This story has been updated.
A valiant 4th quarter comeback effort was not enough to end Cornell’s 45 year wait for another national championship, as Cornell fell 9-7 to Maryland in the title game on Monday.
Cornell fell behind early, but found its groove in the fourth quarter when it outscored the Terrapins 4-0.
“That was probably one of our best quarters of the year, in that fourth quarter,” said head coach Connor Buczek ’15.
It was all Maryland in the first half. The Terrapins held the Red to a season low two goals in the first 30 minutes.
Both Cornell tallies came off the stick of sophomore attackman and Ivy League Rookie of the Year CJ Kirst, who found the back of the net halfway through the first quarter and early in the second quarter.
Aside from Kirst’s two goals, the Red could not find answers to the Terrapins defense and Maryland goaltender Logan McNaney, who made 10 saves in the first half. McNaney finished with 17 saves and was named the most outstanding player of the tournament.
“That defense, tip our cap to them,” Buczek said. “Holding us to two goals in the first half … was our lowest output of the year, so they certainly did some things that challenged us.”
On the other end of the field, four first half goals by Anthony DeMaio, including a natural hat-trick in the first quarter, fueled the Maryland offense to a seven goal half and a 7-2 lead at halftime.
Maryland added two more in the first five minutes of the third quarter to take a 9-2 lead. The Terrapins did not score again.
22 minutes after Cornell’s second goal, junior midfielder Aiden Blake scored Cornell’s third goal of the game to cut Maryland’s lead to 9-3 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Down six goals with fifteen minutes to play, the Red put up a strong comeback effort in the fourth quarter.
“Nothing was said, we just knew that this is who we are,” said senior defenseman Gavin Adler. “There wasn’t a pump up speech or anything. We just looked each other in the eyes and knew that we were gonna claw back in this thing.”
Less than a minute in, junior attacker Michael Long brought Cornell within five.
A goal by sophomore midfielder Hugh Kelleher with eight minutes left in the game brought the Red sideline and the Cornell student section to life and cut Maryland’s lead to 9-5.
Adler and fifth-year defenseman Dom Doria converged on Maryland’s Logan Wisnauskas to force a turnover. Junior attacker Spencer Wirtheim capitalized and brought Cornell within three with seven and a half minutes to play.
The Cornell onslaught slowed for a few minutes before a shot with two and a half minutes left by fifth-year captain John Piatelli’s went in, but was waved off by the officials because Piatelli stepped in the crease.
Maryland cleared the ball and kept possession for an entire 80 second shot clock. Cornell got the ball back with 53 seconds and a three goal deficit. The Red took a timeout, and Piatelli scored with 36 seconds left.
Piatelli’s goal was his 66th of the season, breaking Mike French’s 46-year-old Cornell record for most goals in a single season.
It was too little too late though, and Maryland held on to complete an undefeated season and claim the national championship.
Maryland coach John Tillman ’91 acknowledged in his postgame press conference that the Terrapins were fortunate that the game didn’t last a few minutes longer.
The Red will have to reconcile having its best season since 2009 in Buczek’s first year with the disappointment of coming one game short.
“[This group] had that mentality, they had that laser focus. Even when we were 10-1, no one was content,” Buczek said. “Nothing’s too small to care about, nothing is too small to try to win. That nature brings you to opportunities like today.”
Buczek said that the program will be able to build off this trip to the title game.
“We built the foundation,” Buczek said. “I think we’re back to where we need to be in terms of culture.”
The players, who stayed on the field to watch Maryland receive the trophy and celebrate, echoed that sentiment and said that the experience will motivate them.
“We know what it takes to get here, and seeing that moment pushes us more,” Kirst said. “We’re super grateful for the position that we’re in and we’re just super excited to get back to work.”