COLLEGE PARK - It was a game that Maryland desperately needed to win, and about midway through the fourth quarter, the No. 4 Terrapins began to play as if they knew it.
After sitting on a one-goal lead for much of the second half yesterday, the Terps scored four goals in less than a four-minute span to close out the game en route to a 9-4 win over 17th-ranked North Carolina before 1,823 at Byrd Stadium.
"You never know how a team is going to react to a loss," Maryland coach Dave Cottle said, referring to his team's 7-6 upset loss to unranked Dartmouth on Tuesday. "It was a good win for us. They have a good team."
Sophomore Harry Alford had 20 saves - his second-highest total of the year. Alford held Carolina (2-5, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) to its lowest offensive output in the series since 1989.
"I was really fired up in warm-ups and was really motivated," Alford said.
"We toughed it out and watched a lot of film - more than we had in previous weeks. We respected them a lot. We respected their shooters."
Cottle agreed that Alford's performance in goal may have been the difference.
"Harry was terrific," the fourth-year Maryland coach said. "He was the best player on the field today."
Brendan Healy, Joe Walters and Michael Phipps each scored two goals, and junior Bill McGlone's goal with 8:35 left extended his goal streak to 22 games.
Michael Hartofilis' three assists topped his 2004 total.
Maryland (5-2, 1-1) played a consistent and balanced, ball-control game that involved spreading it around. It worked. Despite being outshot 40-28 by the Tar Heels, Maryland was able to keep the ball in Carolina's end throughout.
Just as was the case in Tuesday's loss to Dartmouth, Maryland took a 3-1 lead into the second half, only to give up a quick goal to start the third.
Jed Prossner's unassisted goal cut Maryland's lead to one with 13:19 remaining in the third quarter. The teams traded goals for the next 15 minutes, each scoring twice, which left Maryland with a 5-4 lead with 12:56 to play.
That's when the Terps began to turn things around. Spearheaded by several key saves by Alford, the momentum shifted in Maryland's direction for good.
Ian Healy scored his only goal with 7:28 remaining and, just more than a minute later, his brother, Brendan, got his second score of the game to give Maryland its largest lead since the second quarter, 7-4.
It was the eighth time that the two brothers had scored a goal in the same game. Maryland closed out the game with two scores.
McGlone knew the importance of yesterday's win, not just for momentum, but also for the longer-term focus - playoff seedings.
"It was enormous," he said. "No one really needed to say it, but the Dartmouth loss was a huge loss. It hurt our pride and our momentum.
"It was really important to get back on track because these next few games are going to be very important in terms of the playoff race. This was a huge game for us."
North Carolina 0 1 1 2 - 4
Maryland 2 1 2 4 - 9
Goals: NC-Blair 2, Prossner, Driscoll 1; M-B. Healy 2, Walters 2, Phipps 2, Hartofilis, McGlone, I. Healy. Assists: NC-McElduff; M-Hatofilis 3, Matz, Ritz. Saves: NC-Spellman 10; M-Alford 20.