It was a weekend of both elation and heartbreak for the #16 ranked Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, who narrowly missed out on an automatic NCAA tournament berth with an 18-17 loss to #1 Penn State on Saturday night at Highpoint.com Stadium.
The Blue Jays went into the weekend as the second seed, matched up against the third seed Maryland Terrapins, who are ranked nationally at #5. They handily defeated the Terps 12-7 on Thursday to earn their place in the final.
Penn State defeated Rutgers 18-6 in the other semi-final.
With their high rankings, Hopkins and Maryland still have a chance to be selected for the NCAA tournament. Hopkins has nine titles, their last coming in 2007. The Terps are recent champions, having won it all in 2017.
Against Maryland, the Jays were down 6-2 at halftime. But the Blue Jays outscored the Terps 10-1 in the second half, shutting them out completely in the third quarter and playing stifling defense as the minutes ticked away in the fourth.
Jays’ leading scorer Joey Epstein scored three goals and two assists to lead the attack, breaking the Hopkins’ record for points by a freshman. Cole Williams also scored a hat trick that included two goals in the final frame, putting him over the 100 career points mark. Alex Concannon (2G/1A), Forry Smith (2G), Kyle Marr and Brett Baskin also scored. Ryan Darby made eight saves in the win.
Jared Bernhardt led the Terps with three goals and one assist. Louis Dubick, Logan Wisnauskas, Anthony DeMaio and Kyle Long also scored. Danny Dolan took the loss.
Epstein led the way against Penn State too, scoring an astounding seven times. With a minute left, Epstein scored twice, 11 seconds apart, to tie the Jays and Lions at 17.
It was a back-and-forth game. Penn State led 4-1 in the first quarter only to see Hopkins come back with five straight to take a 6-4 lead at the end of the period. They kept pace with each other through the second, with Hopkins up 11-8 at the half. Penn State reversed their fortunes with a five-goal run of their own in the third and they led by a single goal after three.
Forry Smith and Cole Williams had multiple-goal games for Hopkins, while single goals were added by Alex Concannon, Kyle Marr, Brett Baskin, Jack Keogh and Evan Zinn. Ryan Darby made six saves but was felled by Mac O’Keefe’s goal 25 seconds into OT.
O’Keefe led the way for the Lions with six goals and two helpers. Dylan Foulds contributed a hat trick and one assist. Team-leading scorer Grant Ament (2G/4A) scored his 101st point of the season. TJ Malone and Jack Kelly each scored a pair of goals and assists. Colby Kneese made 13 saves in the win.
Photos by Laura Kupsey. More here.