Another USHL has come and gone, as both Phases of the Draft were completed Monday and Tuesday. Per the USHL: Phase I Draft consists of 10 rounds of “Futures” age players, who will be under-17 players for the next season. For the 2022 Draft, this is 2006 birth year players. Phase II of the Draft is open to players of all ages who are eligible to play junior hockey and are not currently on one of the protected USHL rosters. The Phase II Draft continues until all Member Clubs have filled their roster to a total of 45 players, including those who were previously on the Club’s affiliate list. In the Draft, five members of the Maryland Black Bears and four other Marylanders were selected in the draft.
Starting with the Black Bears, Luca Di Pasquo didn’t need to wait long for his name to be called. Di Pasquo was picked by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 6th overall in the Phase II portion. Di Pasquo had a stellar season with a 16-11-5 record, 2.31 GAA and .924 save percentage, while also playing for the Green Bay Gamblers in a spot-start and getting his first USHL win. In the fifth round, Luke Van Why was selected by the Des Moines Buccaneers after his solid season leading team defensive scoring with 30 points and picking up Defenseman of the Month honors in September.
The veteran Black Bears were next, with Kevin Scott getting selected by the Fargo Force in the seventh round. Scott’s physical presence complimented his booming shot, resulting in seven goals from the point. Then two more Black Bears shuffled up to Youngstown, with Branden Piku getting selected in the eighth round and Sean Kilcullen (Kensington) in the 12th round for the top affiliate Phantoms. Piku lead Maryland in goals with 18 and was second in points, while Kilcullen put together a quietly good season with 20 assists on the year.
Maryland players were well represented, in addition to Kilcullen, starting with John McNelis (Potomac) going in Phase I in the third round to the Sioux Falls Stampede. McNelis played for the Little Caesars 16UAAA team, racking up 10 goals and 17 points in 12 games.
In Phase II, Jack Spicer (Rockville) went in the seventh round to the Waterloo Black Hawks. With the Mount St. Charles 18UAAA team, Spicer went 26-4-4 with a 2.51 GAA and .918 save percentage, while also getting a call-up to the NAHL with the Lone Star Brahmas, winning both his starts at the end of the year. Evan Orloff (Bethesda) was the next Old Line Stater to get picked, as he went in the 12th round to the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Playing with the Maine Nordiques, Orloff has 13 assists and 18 points in his rookie campaign in the NAHL. Finally, Will Lawrence (Bethesda) was selected in the 19th round by the Green Bay Gamblers. Lawrence was a teammate of Spicer, potting 34 goals and 57 points with Mount St. Charles’ 18UAAA squad.
These selections show a great display of hard work and how far hockey in Maryland has come in the last few years, as talent from the area is getting recognized higher and higher up the tier list of hockey. While this doesn’t automatically give these players a spot, it gives them a boost to know they are doing the right things to make it further into their hockey careers.
As is tradition closing out the season, I’m going to put out my three wishes for next season. There’s not much rhyme or reason to it, just three things I’d like to see going forward with this team in trying to make them a permanent contender for the playoffs. Again, this is based on speculation and no insider information to go off on.
1. Finding a New Netminder: With Michael Morelli graduating junior hockey and Luca Di Pasquo leaving for Michigan State with one year of eligibility left, the Black Bears now looked to see who the next star in net will be. The Black Bears finished 9th in the NAHL in goals-against (176, 2.93 GA per game) and have gotten better each year for goals-against per game in each of their four seasons. Defense does play a strong part, but so does solid goaltending. It will be interesting to see who is brought in to follow the last two seasons of superb goaltending for the Black Bears and how far that can lead them moving forward.
2. Toning Down the Penalties: The Black Bears were second in the NAHL in times shorthanded with 239 (3.98 times shorthanded per game), six back of the Austin Bruins. The next closest East Division team was in eighth with the New Jersey Titans at 226. Maryland also gave up the seventh most power play goals in the league with 47. While the penalty kill was good to start, you could see they were getting tired by the stretch run, as they gave up 14 power play goals in the last 15 games of the season. Granted, some calls are more legit than others, but if you give a reason to make the officials call it– they will. Some discipline next season will go a long way in having more 5-on-5 time and not burning out your PK.
3. Keep Churning Out Commits: Over the course of the season, the Black Bears had 10 NCAA commitments announced and probably a couple more from players as the season ends. Those numbers are huge when it comes to getting prospects into the loop and wanting players to be a part of this team– because they’ll have a better chance to get seen by top college programs. While the increase in commits shouldn’t be a surprise given that head coach and GM Clint Mylymok has been able to get a lot of his Black Bears seen, but the fact it bumped from two in the first season to 10 (maybe more) in the fourth season speaks to the development from the coaches and the work the players have done to get the grades in the classroom and possess the skill on the ice to get notices going further.
For now, that’s a wrap on the 2021-22 Maryland Black Bears season. Now, the team gears up for the 2022 NAHL Draft happening some time in late June, early July. Thank you all for listening and reading. Stay tuned for news and notes as they happen in the off-season.
It happens every year, but never gets all that easy. The overagers in junior hockey will now move onto their next part of life in college. For the Black Bears, to have five of seven overage players get commitments this season shows they know the right cogs to bring in to get these players noticed. Especially with three of the seven being part of last year’s team– the Black Bears lose another batch of outstanding people and players; but were honored to have them on the squad for the time they did.
CONOR COLE: After coming onto the squad last season, Cole was a leader on and off the ice. Late in the season in 2020-21, he got an alternate captaincy and was a solid piece in the playoff run the Black Bears had last season. It garnered him attention in the Top Prospects Tournament at the end of the year, which was a jumping off point for him this season. Being named captain at the beginning of the season, Cole led by example for the team, chipping in wherever called upon and proving he deserved to have the “C” on his chest. His play got noticed by schools, as well, with Alaska-Anchorage winning his talents for the next four seasons. With Alaska-Anchorage rebuilding their team, expect Cole to play a big role for the first year back and beyond for the Seawolves’ squad.
AIDAN MCDOWELL: A three-year Black Bears and coming out of the Mercer Chiefs program, McDowell was a heart-and-soul player for the Black Bears, putting in the work every day in order to get and keep his spot in the line-up. Being able to get through injury adversity and a deep defensive group, McDowell took the next step this season with a well-rounded game on both sides of the puck, culminating in a commitment to Stevenson University starting this fall. You can tell how much McDowell means to the team when he finally got his first goal of the season late in the year and his teammate mobbed him not only for the go-ahead marker, but for the excitement of his hard work paying off.
MICHAEL MORELLI: Coming into camp two years ago, Morelli dug and clawed and earned every minute of ice time he got. With a work ethic second to none, Morelli helped the Black Bears get to their first playoff berth, as well as securing the series-clinching win over Johnstown. Coming back for a second season, Morelli continued to dig deeper while he opened and closed the season with shutouts– leaving the Black Bears with the franchise lead of four shutouts. With a commitment to Michigan Tech, you can bet his work ethic will only increase as he moves onto the D1 ranks.
JACOB BROCKMAN: Scoring the first goal of the 2021-22 season for Maryland, Brockman showed off his versatility throughout the season. After two seasons in the BCHL, the El Segundo, California native got back stateside and showed off all aspects of his game from a goal-scorer to a set-up man, as well as being a key contributor to the power play with eight points throughout the season. While his future college is yet to be determined, Brockman will fit in any way necessary for the success of his team and himself.
MATTHEW DAVIES: Closing out the season with the last goal for the Black Bears, Davies play is a well-balanced attack. Not afraid to jump up in the rush and create offense, Davies also played a solid in his own zone, making sure that he wasn’t caught too far into the offensive zone and missing an assignment on defense. After coming to the NAHL via the Omaha AAA youth program and some stops in the NCDC, Davies’ right-handed shot from the point and vision of the ice should help him out with his next step in hockey.
LAKER ALDRIDGE: Coming to the Black Bears after the NAHL Showcase, Aldridge carved out a knack for scoring the opening goals for the Black Bears and creating the momentum needed for the squad. Not only that, but Aldridge was able to adjust and adapt to whatever role he was called to do– whether it be being the aggressor and dropping the mitts or if it meant playing a shutdown role late in a period to protect a lead. The different styles he showed impressed Michigan State and allowed him to commit to the Spartans with teammate Luca Di Pasquo and former Black Bear Dylan Wegner.
TYLER YOUNG: This year’s first round pick in the NAHL Draft came later into the first half of the season, but his impact on the ice and ability to turn a game around showed that he was worth the wait. With great speed, hands, and vision, Young had the ability to take over a game and score in bunches. The son of a former NHLer, Young knew what it takes to advance in hockey and will continue on with Merrimack College next season.
After the season that the Maryland Black Bears had in 2020-21, the squad from this season had a hard act to follow. With eight players returning from last season and two others who had affiliate time in, they knew what it took to get back to that pinnacle and beyond. While they were able to surpass last season in terms of success in the regular season, they were unable to get into the playoffs in a gritty East Division. While the building blocks were there, there is also plenty of room to improve to get back into the second season.
In September, the Black Bears had a split month, splitting both series they played against New Jersey and Maine, while also going 2-2-0 in the NAHL Showcase. However, you were able to see the players stepping up offensively, returnees Michael Morelli starting the season with a shutout and Branden Piku potted three goals and five assists in the month, while newcomers Ryan Bottrill (2g, 8a) and Luke Van Why (3g, 7a) also showed off their stellar play in the first month. The Black Bears really started to shine in October, going 8-1-1, even with the start of the month consisting of two road games in two different locales in New Jersey and Johnstown. They were able to sweep three weekends and started to make a statement in the East Division, battling for the top spot with New Jersey for the first few months of the season. Luca Di Pasquo was shining in net, winning goaltender of the month for October with a perfect 4-0-0 record for the month with a 1.23 GAA and .959 save percentage in his four games that month.
For November and December, things started to turn for Maryland. With the exception for the December series against Danbury, where Maryland swept the Jr. Hat Tricks; it was split city for the other five series in that time span before the winter break. That included two losses in extra time, which would become a factor for this team as the season went along. In that six series stretch, the Black Bears had four-or-more goals six games out of 12, with them giving up four-or-more six games as well.
Right after the new year happened, the biggest change and only trade for the Black Bears happened with Philip Törnqvist being moved to Wichita Falls for Jack Blanchett, as Törnqvist left the Black Bears as the all-time team leader for goals by a defenseman with 14. Yet, the splits kept occurring after the new, with the next five weekends being splits– but it also included a weekday New Jersey game that had the Black Bears up 5-1 but dropping it 6-5. In those five splits, four of the five losses came in extra time
As mid-February and the stretch to the playoffs hit, so did a speed bump for the Black Bears. Starting February 18th until the end of the season, Maryland went 5-10-4 and dropped from the second spot to a fight for their lives. It wasn’t without controversy, as there was a goal in Johnstown where Di Pasquo was ran into, but the goal counted; then an overtime goal by Conor Cole in Maine that got called back, leading to a shootout loss in that affair and a lot of bad tastes in the mouth of the team following that. Despite a win in the last regular season game, the help the Black Bears needed didn’t come and they ended with one of the most statistically successful seasons, but no Robertson Cup playoff run to show for it.
That notwithstanding, on the development side of things; the Black Bears did a tremendous job not only in moving players on with college commitments, but also bringing younger players into the fold to evaluate them moving forward. For the commitment side, the Black Bears were able to get 10 players during the season to get commitments for NCAA hockey as they go forward in their career. Conversely, the Black Bears brought in six players under the affiliate tag, with Leo Schwartz and Adam Schankula catching on for the second half of the season in a regular role, as well as getting a tender from Ervie Terwilliger. On top of that, countless players from the local 16U and 18U teams to get a taste of the NAHL style of coaching and play. One thing that the team can proclaim is the idea of progression throughout their system to advance to the next level.
With 12 games that ended in the Black Bears not getting an extra point in overtime or shootout coupled with five other one-goal games that were lost in regulation; there will be plenty of questions about what could have been, how it got to that point, and what can be done to prevent it in the future. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of time to answer those questions as the preparation for 2022-23 begins sooner than expected for the Black Bears.
ODENTON, MD– The last weekend of the regular season loomed for the Maryland Black Bears and they were able to have their last two games at home after a month on the road. The Black Bears needed all four points in order to assure themselves a playoff berth, but unfortunately came up short and will need help to get to their second-straight playoffs, as they split against the Jamestown Rebels at the week’s end.
THURSDAY, APRIL 14th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (3) vs. Jamestown (5): The start for the Black Bears was exactly what they wanted, as Elliott Lareau came down the left side and wired a shot over the shoulder of Nolan Suggs and gave Maryland the 1-0 lead only 2:23 into the first period. After the goal, the end-to-end action started to pick up, with both Jamestown and Maryland attacking their zones, trying to get the next goal and try to shift momentum; but neither team could find the back of the twine. A late penalty on Maryland would turn into the equalizer, as John Lundy picked up a rebound in front and put it past a sprawling Luca Di Pasquo to tie the game up at one.
Both sides started out quick for the second frame, but it was Jamestown who would break the tie near the middle of the frame, as Josh Burke jumped up in the play and got an Ethan Janda pass and put it behind Di Pasquo to give the Rebels the 2-1 lead. Despite the Black Bears creating their own chances, Jamestown pushed right back, causing havoc with their forecheck. Another penalty for Maryland during a Jamestown transition led to their third goal, with John Lundy keeping a clearing attempt in the zone, passing to Noah Szretter who found Jak Vaarwerk to snap it home and make it 3-1. Maryland would get within one-goal late, as Aidan McDowell picked up a loose puck, took it behind the net and found Conor Cole in the slot, as the captain put it home to make it 3-2 with 28 seconds left in the frame.
Maryland carried over the momentum from that goal into the third, pressing the Rebels to start the frame. They would get the equalizer with Aden Bruich finding Lareau streaking down the slot and putting home his second of the night to tie the game. While Maryland was pressing after the goal, including a power play, they couldn’t figure out how to get another one past Suggs. Even with all the pressure, the Rebels would get the next goal, as Tyler Stern deflected a point-shot from James Miller in front to make it 4-3 and get his first NAHL goal. Jamestown clamped down defensively, not letting Maryland get to prime scoring areas and clogging up the neutral zone. With 20 seconds left, Kolby Amici put it into an empty net to give the Rebels the 5-3 win and clinch a playoff spot for Jamestown.
FRIDAY, APRIL 15th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (2) vs. Jamestown (0): Knowing they needed a win in order to better their chances at a playoff berth, the Black Bears were on the attack and locked down the Rebels offense for the better part of the 60-minute affair. Creating more chances in the first, the Black Bears could not get any past Noah Suggs in the first stanza. However, the Black Bears defensively held the Rebels to only five shots in the first, many of which Michael Morelli was able to snag easily.
The Black Bears continued to press onward, trying to break the ice. They almost broke through in the first part of the period, as Aden Bruich drove to the net and put it over Suggs shoulder, but the referees determined the net had come off the moorings before the puck crossed the line, keeping the game scoreless. Another prime chance from Maryland happened with a two-on-one from Ryan Bottrill and Conor Cole, but Suggs flashed the leather, denying Cole of the opening goal. Finally, the Black Bears would make one count, with Bruich taking a shot off the half-wall, Suggs kicked out the rebound to the stick of Brad McNeil who made no doubt about it and put the Black Bears up 1-0. Late in the frame, Morelli– who didn’t seem much work up to the last 90 seconds of the second period– make four big saves, sprawling out in his crease, stacking his pads, and kicking out deflections to keep his sheet clean to end the period.
Maryland clamped down even more in the third period, only allowing three shots on Morelli in the frame, while also creating a counter attack to try and get some insurance for their one-goal lead. The defensive pressure turned into offensive paydirt, as Ryan Bottrill picked up a loose puck from the Rebels and led the rush before dishing it over to Matthew Davies who beat Suggs and made it 2-0. The Black Bears then shut it down, pinning pucks against the boards, cycling the puck down low in their zone, while also not letting much get past them in the neutral. All of that combined for the Black Bears to end the regular season how they started– with a shutout victory.
Maryland now waits to see if they’ll make the playoffs, as Northeast had three games in hand going into the weekend. Should Northeast lose in regulation once or in overtime or a shootout twice; the Black Bears will get the fourth-seed again.
MIDDLETOWN, NJ– With playoffs looming in the distance, the Maryland Black Bears went to New Jersey to face the Titans for the last time in the regular season. Knowing they needed every point they could muster, the Black Bears went toe-to-toe, blow-for-blow against the East Division champs and were able to get three out of a possible four points to help them on their way to clinch another playoff berth.
FRIDAY, APRIL 8th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (4) at New Jersey (1): Maryland came off the draw strong, gaining possession from puck drop and keeping it on their stick– however, they couldn’t muster a shot within the first eight minutes of play despite the possession advantage. After a Maryland penalty expired, New Jersey struck as Chris Carroll tried to center a pass in front, but it went off a skate in front and Caroll picked up the redirect and put it near-side on Luca Di Pasquo to give the Titans the early lead. The Black Bears got a power play of their own, which saw some chances, but was able to build momentum to their first goal. Conor Cole’s forecheck disrupted Andrew Takacs trying to play the puck and Cole found Adam Schankula in front for the tap-in and a tied game. New Jersey was able to get their offense back in it after the goal, but Di Pasquo was solid in the face of all the shots, including a big windmill save on a 2-on-1 break for New Jersey. Maryland added their chances late in the frame, but Takacs was strong, as well, keeping the game knotted at one after 20 minutes.
Maryland got the lead early in the second after they won a board battle and got it to the point where Jack Blanchett hammered home his 11th of the season for the quick start in the period. Maryland got a two-goal lead minutes later, as the Black Bears caused another turnover from Takacs handling the puck and ended with Elliott Lareau putting it home for the 3-1 lead. That would be the end of Takacs, who had two giveaways lead to goals. The Black Bears would continue to pressure the Titans net, but Ben Charette came in focused and kept the game at 3-1, settling down his team through the middle portion of the second. While both sides have had time in their zones, nothing went further and the period ended 3-1 for the Black Bears.
Knowing they could expect New Jersey’s best, the Black Bears build off the attack they had in the second, not only offensively, but clogging up passing lanes and in the neutral zone to keep the Titans’ attack at bay. The Black Bears extended the lead on the power play, as Aidan McDowell crept in from the point and Cole found him streaking in and popped it home to make it 4-1. Maryland’s defense was crucial for the third period, not allowing the Titans to gain the zone or get much zone time, limiting them to only three shots in the period. The Black Bears did have their chances, but Charette was able to stop the bleeding and keep it a 4-1 game, which turned out to be the final for Friday night.
SATURDAY, APRIL 9th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (1) at New Jersey (2) SO: With the regular season title in the balance, the Titans came out quick to avenge their loss and win the regular season in the league. In only 2:29, Nick Ring opened the scoring with a wrister over the shoulder of Luca Di Pasquo for the early Titans’ lead. The physical play was very present in this one, as they met for the last time in the regular season, both sides doled out solid hits throughout the period. The Black Bears did seem to find a bit of a crack in the New Jersey defensively, creating small breaks for themselves, but Andrew Takacs was solid in those chances to keep the Titans up 1-0 after 20 minutes.
It was a tale of two halves for the second period, with New Jersey controlling the possession aspect of game early going, getting plenty of chances, but Di Pasquo and the defense stood tall to keep the Titans off the scoresheet. Maryland then started to take over in the second-half of the period, putting plenty of pressure on Takacs and trying to rile him up, but to no avail, as the Titans’ goalie and their squad kept their heads and kept the sheet clean after two periods.
An early power play for the Black Bears pay off handsomely, as they tied the game thanks to Brad McNeil picking up a rebound in front off an odd bounce from a Miles Gunty shot and McNeil put it into an open cage for the tying goal. The Titans did get awoken by that goal, starting to get more offensive chances and sustained pressure on Di Pasquo, but couldn’t solve the right-handed catch keeper. On the other side, some solid chances from Maryland to get the go-ahead goal, including a Conor Cole breakaway; however, he was stymied by Takacs. Try as both sides might, this one goes into extra time with the Black Bears picking up a crucial point in the standings.
In the possession filled overtime, the best chance from either side was a pass out to Jack Blanchett that just rolled off his stick as he was about to shoot and yielded nothing. In the shootout, Ryan Coughlin scored for New Jersey, only to be answered by Cole. In the extra round, Anthony Calafiore squeaked his shot under the pad of Di Pasquo to win the game for New Jersey.
Maryland ends their regular season with a match-up at home with the Jamestown Rebels for a Thursday late-afternoon and Friday lunchtime start. Tickets are available at Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com through the Severn Bank Ticket Center.
JAMESTOWN, NY– After a heartbreaking loss last Saturday, the Maryland Black Bears travelled to Jamestown, New York to take on the Rebels looking points to help their own playoff chances and separate themselves from the cluttered pack in the East Division. Unfortunately, the Rebels came in on a hot streak and ended the weekend on a hot streak as they swept Maryland, only allowing two goals against all weekend.
FRIDAY, APRIL 1st, 2022: BLACK BEARS (1) at Jamestown (4): The start for Maryland was solid, as they got out of the gate strong and led to a goal within the first two minutes. In a rush, Adam Schankula found Ryan Bottrill who beat Noah Suggs for his 17th of the season to give the Black Bears an early lead. Trying to capitalize, Maryland would give themselves several chances in the early going, to no avail. However, the penalties would start to come for the Black Bears, as a too-many-men call led the Jamestown tying the game up off a Reid Lune shot that got deflected in front and beat Luca Di Pasquo. Moments later, a boarding call would lead to James Miller skating across the point and ripping one home to give the Rebels the lead. Stymied in the neutral zone, the Black Bears did all they could to get some offense going, with Bottrill getting free for another chance that tipped off the glove of Suggs and wide. With less than a second remaining, the Rebels would go up 3-1 as Joseph Calvarino was a trailer on a 3-on-2 and put it behind Di Pasquo and give Jamestown a two-goal lead at the intermission.
By and large, the Rebels commanded the second period. Whether it be sustaining pressure in the offensive zone or clogging up the neutral zone, the Rebels were able to have a majority of the puck possession in the frame. It didn’t hurt they had two power plays, but the Maryland penalty kill was able to hold Jamestown at bay. The Black Bears couldn’t much pressure offensively, usually have one opportunity at a shot and then having to chase the puck as it went the other way. A couple of solid chances with one being Dimitry Kebreau trying to fool Suggs with a sly cut-across move, a second was catching Jamestown in a line change, but not being able to cash in thanks to a sprawling defenseman knocking the net off the pegs on a backcheck. The score remained 3-1 after 40 minutes.
The Black Bears were able to pick up their offensive prowess a bit, control the puck a ton more in the final stanza. While they couldn’t connect on the power plays they were afforded, they were able to build up some momentum. That said, Suggs was solid in his positioning and the Rebels defense was able to clog up the lanes to not let much get through. Even with all the pressure, Maryland couldn’t find the back of the net and Lucas Klemm’s empty netter made the final 4-1 for the Rebels.
SATURDAY, APRIL 2nd, 2022: BLACK BEARS (1) at Jamestown (5): A tamer first period in comparison, as the Black Bears and Rebels didn’t go out firing as much as they did in Friday’s affair. The Rebels took advantage in the first half of the frame, causing Maryland to turn the puck over; but Michael Morelli was sharp, making solid stops and corralling the rebounds. The Black Bears had some issues with breakout passes, as they had many icing calls due to those passes missing the mark. They did, however, has some chances in the latter half of the frame, with Tyler Young and Miles Gunty getting quality shots on goal, but Nolan Suggs stood tall in his crease to keep the game scoreless after 20 minutes.
The Black Bears kept the pressure on to start the second thanks to a strong forecheck, but still couldn’t break through. It would be the Rebels that broke through first with a turnover in the neutral zone leading to Reid Lune getting his second goal in as many nights, ripping it from the top of the circle that got behind Morelli. While Maryland was able to have a solid shift after the first goal, they couldn’t figure out how to get it past Suggs. Lune would strike again, as the Black Bears were unable to get the puck out of their zone, allowing Owen West to find Lune in the slot to make it a 2-0 game. Maryland got themselves into some penalty troubles late in the frame, but as they killed off one penalty, they received another. That second one proved costly, as on a failed clearing attempt by the Black Bears; Josh Burke found John Lundy for a one-timer to make it 3-0 late in the second, which is where the score would be at the end of the frame.
Again, Maryland was able to get some offense going to start the period, including chances on a power play, but couldn’t cash in. After the penalty was killed, Lune got his hat trick after he picked up a puck that was loose off a Jak Vaarwerk shot and made it 4-0. Frustration boiled over for the Black Bears, as Ryan Bottrill speared Vaarwerk and got a five-minute major and game misconduct for his troubles. Maryland had some chances shorthanded to try and get back into it, but during possession in their zone, Lundy ripped another shot from the top of the circle to make it 5-0. Never giving up, the Black Bears pressed on, finally breaking through late in the frame with Matthew Davies coming in from the point to beat Suggs and break the shutout. Despite buzzing after the goal, the Black Bears could not find four goals in the last 4:38, leading to a 5-1 defeat.
It doesn’t get easier for Maryland, as they travel back to Middletown to take on the East Division regular season champion New Jersey Titans Friday and Saturday.
LEWISTON, ME– In the last meeting between the Maryland Black Bears and the Maine Nordiques, both sides created very exciting hockey, with barely a dull moment to be had. With both games going to the shootout, Maryland was able to take three of four points on the weekend for much needed points on the weekend– winning Friday and dropping a heartbreaker Saturday.
FRIDAY, MARCH 25th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (6) at Maine (5) SO: A quick start by both sides to kick off the series, as each side used turnovers to their advantage and used a transition game to create chances. Maine was able to strike first after a transition, with Patrick Schmiedlin taking a cross-zone pass from Aidan Connolly to beat a sprawling Michael Morelli and give the Nordiques the early lead. Penalty trouble struck Maryland not long after, as that boogeyman came back to haunt the Black Bears. While the penalty kill was able to get a couple of clears, the Nordiques used their transition game again to catch Maryland flat-footed allowing Schmiedlin to come through the slot and get a pass to put behind Morelli for the 2-0 league. The Black Bears responded moments later, putting pressure on Gus Holt which ended with Adam Schankula potting his first NAHL goal off a rebound at the side of the net to cut the lead in half. While Maryland looked to pick up momentum, the Black Bears had another penalty called against them and Maine made little time as Brendan Gibbons tipped home a Nick Bernardo point shot to put Maine up 3-1. Undaunted, the Black Bears fought back, creating more chances, including a Branden Piku backhand chance, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Maryland got one to fall as Leo Schwartz got his first NAHL goal with a great shot from the point to cut it to a one-goal game again. Maryland was able to draw a penalty and made short work of their power play with Aidan McDowell hammering a shot home only nine seconds into the power play to tie the game going into the first intermission.
Maryland got out of the gates early in the second, creating plenty of chances in front– but blocks and stops stymied them for a time. They would break through with Ryan Bottrill never giving up the puck in the neutral zone and finding Elliott Lareau in the slot to give the Black Bears the 4-3 lead. The Black Bears continued to press with Bottrill all over the puck, creating chances, and keeping possession for the Black Bears. Bottrill and Connor Bennett would have solid chances, but could not beat Holt. Just after a media timeout, Maine would tie it up after Maryland turnover at their blue line led to a break and ended with Jonny Meiers finding the loose puck and putting it through a mass of humanity in front to even up the game. The Black Bears took back the offensive prowess, using their forecheck to their advantage in the second frame, which created plenty of space and led to Bottrill winning a board battle and ripped one home over Holt’s shoulder and regaining the Maryland lead. The penalty kill was tested at the end of the frame with a high sticking double-minor and thanks to some big saves from Morelli and timely blocks leading to clearing the pucks out of the zone, Maryland kept the lead at the end of the frame.
Maine looked to even the score again in the early part of the third, but Maryland penalty kill was able to kill the rest of the penalty and Morelli made a huge save on a minor breakaway to maintain the Black Bears’ lead. While Morelli was able to make a couple more big saves, the Nordiques’ pressure was too much and Gibbons was able to redirect a Zion Green shot to tie the game up again. Maine continued to pressure, but Morelli was huge with two big saves. At the other end, Holt was not to be outdone with a big save on Schankula on a breakaway. Brad McNeil got in on the action, as Morelli was down and out, but McNeil played goalie to keep the game tied and pushed it to overtime.
In the overtime, both Maine and Maryland took their chances until a boarding call on Maryland gave Maine’s power play a chance to win it. Morelli and the penalty kill stayed strong and kept the puck out of the net to move to a shootout. Maryland started the shootout with Jack Blanchett potting home the first goal. Maine tied it up with their second shooter Reese Farrell, but it took until extra shooters for Conor Cole to tuck it passed Holt and Morelli with a big pokecheck on Gibbons to give Maryland the crucial two points on Friday.
SATURDAY, MARCH 26th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (2) at Maine (3) SO: The physical play was on display early for both sides, as the hits were coming from both sides of the ice. While both sides created some offensive chances, neither were able to find the net early in the frame. It wasn’t until the middle of the period when Miles Gunty tipped a Conor Cole shot in front off the face off to give the Black Bears the early lead. Maryland got a power play right after the goal, but it was Maine who created a top chance shorthanded thanks to some miscommunication, but Luca Di Pasquo was able to keep that chance at bay to keep Maryland up in the first period.
Maine took the role of aggressor offensively in the second period, creating plenty of chances and really keeping the play in their zone. Even with a power play, they were able to get pucks on Di Pasquo, but couldn’t get it by him. Even a shot from the side of the net that looked to go in was batted away by Trayce Johnson to keep the 1-0 Maryland lead. Pressure would pay off for the Nordiques after the midway point, as a Maryland turnover turned into a couple of chances for Maine and resulted in the first NAHL goal for Seth Murch, who ripped it off the post and in to tie it up. Moments later, another Maryland turnover due to a solid Maine forecheck created a goal after Caden Pattison found the loose puck in front and put it home to put the Nordiques up 2-1. Maryland was able to knot the game back up after a transition through the neutral zone resulted in a bit of a broken play, but Conor Cole was able to pick up the loose puck in front and put it home. Maine’s forecheck was still causing Maryland problems, as they looked to take the lead before period’s end, but Maryland was able to make up for the turnovers quickly, withstand pressure, and draw a late power play. However, they were unable to cash in, going into the locker room tied.
The Black Bears started to counter the Maine forecheck, able to get the puck out of the zone and create some chances for themselves in the early part of the frame. A couple prime chances for Maryland missed everything and hit the window, while a couple were deflections in front. Maine adjusted as needed and pressured Maryland more to create bad passes from the Black Bears, but Di Pasquo and the defense were able to recover. It became a neutral zone battle for the latter part of the third, Maine and Maryland switching off chances, but neither finding the back of the net.
An early penalty on Maine gave Maryland a power play and it appeared they almost ended it on what could have been Cole’s second of the game. However, a goalie interference from Adam Schankula made the officiating crew discuss and call it a no-goal, making the Black Bears come back on the ice after they had left for the locker room. Neither team could score after that, pushing it to a second straight shootout. In that, Jonny Meiers of Maine scored the only goal and Maine took the extra point and a split of the weekend.
MIDDLETOWN, NJ– After a heartbreaking weekend last week, the Maryland Black Bears looked to get back into the win column with a tilt against the division leading New Jersey Titans. While Friday night looked promising for the first half of the game; the weekend only yielded a single point, as Maryland was swept by New Jersey.
FRIDAY, MARCH 18th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (3) at New Jersey (4) OT: An inauspicious start to the game, as New Jersey gets offensive right off the hop. A 2-on-1 developed between Chriss Carroll and Levante Keresztes, and while Luca Di Pasquo stopped the initial rush, Anthony Califiore followed up and put the rebound home to give New Jersey the 1-0 lead only 56 seconds into the frame. The Black Bears woke from their slumber, as they created more chances the other way from the likes of Aden Bruich and Laker Aldridge, but Ben Charette was equal to the task. Right after the media timeout, Maryland won the corner battle and Tyler Young skated into the slot off the bench in time for a Elliott Lareau pass to reach him and Young buried it for his 11th of the season to tie the game. New Jersey tried to get their lead back, but Di Pasquo and the defense were strong and kept chances to a minimum. Late in the frame, the Black Bears got their first power play and made short work of it with Tyler Young coming off the half-wall and into the slot to wire home his second of the game and give the Black Bears the 2-1 lead right before intermission.
Another hot start for the Titans, as they got a couple of quick chances on Di Pasquo, but weren’t able to beat him. Conversely, the Black Bears shifted the ice their direction moments later, but Charette was strong to keep it a one goal game. Maryland was afforded another power play just before the halfway mark, and Tyler Young finished off his hat trick with a tap-in in front of the net and put the Black Bears up 3-1. It was the sixth hat trick in Black Bears’ history and first since Vlad Polegoshko’s hat trick in the NAHL Showcase in September. After the goal, the Black Bears took two penalties into the period, which is something they’ve had issues with doing throughout the past few weeks. Luckily for Maryland, the penalty kill was strong enough to hold the Titans at bay and keep the two-goal lead into the intermission.
More penalties hampered the Black Bears to start the frame and affected the scoreboard, as Michael Young found a loose puck at the side of the net just after the penalty expired to put the Titans to within one. The Titans kept pressuring the Black Bears, leaving very little options for Maryland to create any offense. Di Pasquo did what he could, getting peppered in net, making a big windmill save; but the inability to create a transition game proved to be costly. With the goalie pulled, Brendan Dumas hammered a puck from the top of the circle, it was deflected in front by a Maryland stick, and tied the game with 1:02 remaining in regulation. A late push by Maryland didn’t get the go-ahead goal and the Black Bears head to overtime for a second straight game.
The overtime almost ended early, as Tyler Young had a chance 18 seconds in, but couldn’t bury past Charette. The Black Bears held heavy pressure in the offensive zone after only mustering one shot in the third period. Unfortunately, the Titans took a rush the other way, Chris Carroll circled around the net to create room for Keresztes, who fired it into the open net to complete the comeback and give New Jersey the 4-3 victory after three unanswered goals to end it.
SATURDAY, MARCH 19th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (1) at New Jersey(6): New Jersey got right on the Black Bears to start the game off, jumping out to a 6-0 shot lead before Maryland was able to get any kind of puck possession. Discipline was a factor for Maryland in this game as well, starting with a hooking call that led to Michael Young’s power play goal, where Young picked up the rebound off a Ryan Coughlin shot to open the scoring for the Titans. Maryland had an extended power play, which included a short two-man advantage, but could not get one past Andrew Takacs. New Jersey got on the board once again on the power play, as a backhand by Anthony Califiore eluded Luca Di Pasquo and made it 2-0 Titans. The offense for Maryland was struggling, as they were only able to muster one shot at even strength and had three penalties in the first period.
With a carry-over double-minor power play, the Black Bears tried to start working on a comeback, but they only were able to get two shots on that four-minute extra man, not able to maintain much possession in their own zone. The offense tried to get something going, finally getting shots towards Takacs, but unable to get behind him. Close to the midway point, the Titans made it a 3-0 with Coughlin grabbing the puck off of multiple rebounds and front and tucking it into the cage. On a power play of their own, the Black Bears had a glorious chance with Branden Piku coming across the crease, but Takacs stuck the left pad out to deny him of the goal. With only 5:15 left in the frame, New Jersey made it 4-0 with Rocco Testa-Basi finding Brendan Dumas, who wired it home past Di Pasquo. Tyler Young tried to spark something for the Black Bears, getting into a scuffle with David Posma, but Young got an extra two for roughing to put the Black Bears on the penalty kill for a fifth time. After that was killed and with only four seconds remaining, a slashing call put the Black Bears shorthanded again and had it carry over into the third period.
New Jersey struck with that carryover, as Coughlin got his second goal of the game just sitting at the side of the net and shovelled in a Billy Feczko pass to make it 5-0. Minutes later, the Black Bears were able to break the shutout with Brad McNeil capitalizing on a sloppy turnover by the Titans and putting it through Takacs. Maryland tried to build off that goal, pressure the defense of New Jersey to get some turnovers in the zone, but they couldn’t find another goal in those sequences. Things went from bad to worse, as Laker Aldridge got a five-minute major and game misconduct after hitting Testa-Basi in the head along the boards. New Jersey took a penalty during that to make it 4-on-4, the another Maryland penalty made it 4-on-3, then 5-on-3 where Young got his second of the night after a cross ice pass from Posma and Young made no mistake to make it 6-1. That’s how the game would end, as the Black Bears drop a crucial game and only get one of four points on the weekend.
As they fight for their playoff lives, the Black Bears head to Maine next weekend where they’ll take on the Nordiques for the last time this season in a rematch of last year’s East Division Final.
ODENTON, MD– Knowing there is pressure coming in the standings, the Maryland Black Bears looked to get back on track this weekend against the Jamestown Rebels. With only four wins in their last ten coming into the series, Maryland had to figure out their slump quickly as we enter the last few weeks of the season. Unfortunately for Maryland, clutch goaltending and last-second scoring by Jamestown stymied their weekend, as the Black Bears were swept this past weekend in some close contests.
FRIDAY, MARCH 11th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (1) vs. Jamestown (2): For their last home weekend for a month, the Black Bears wanted to get out to a hot start and set a tone. Jamestown kept the game in the neutral zone for the most part. There were a couple of chances for Maryland off the stick of Tyler Young, but Nolan Suggs was able to keep the scoreboard at zero. Though Maryland did have a couple penalties, the penalty kill did their duty, while also getting a couple of chances offensively for themselves. Luca Di Pasquo looked sharp early, making a post-to-post save later in the first period to keep the game scoreless.
Maryland did get the quick start they wanted in the second period, as Tyler Young tapped in a rebound off a Connor Bennett wrap-around attempt to get the fish-flying and put the Black Bears on the board. Jamestown did fight back, starting to tilt the ice their way, but the Maryland defense was able to keep threats to a minimum and make Di Pasquo’s job easier. Jamestown continued their pressure, drawing a penalty off a Bennett double-minor for high sticking and the penalty kill did their job for the most part, until the end of the penalty when Luke de Vries fired a shot off the face-off as the penalty was expiring and hit a Maryland body in front and passed Di Pasquo to tie the game late in the frame. On the next shift, the Black Bears tried to get the lead back on a wonderful Jacob Brockman backhand, but Suggs stopped him to keep it tied into intermission.
Despite a quick start to the third period, the Black Bears couldn’t get many big threats onto Suggs. Their puck possession was solid, but Jamestown would be the one to break the tie as Lucas Klemm took a drop pass at the top of the circle and fired it through a crowd to give the Rebels the lead. Maryland continued the possession chances, but couldn’t find the equalizer, despite good chances from Dimitry Kebreau down low and some looks on a late power play. A last-ditch effort with the goalie pulled didn’t yield a goal and Jamestown eeks out a 2-1 win.
SATURDAY, MARCH 12th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (2) vs. Jamestown (3) SO: The first frame saw the Rebels get most of the offensive chances, but Michael Morelli played solid between the pipes and held the Rebels scoreless in the first frame. Maryland had their chances at the other end, but not as many as they mustered in Friday’s game; which allowed Nolan Suggs to hold a clean sheet at the other end for the first 20 minutes.
Maryland got into some penalty troubles to end the first period that carried over into the second period. Just like in Friday’s game, as the penalty was ending; the Rebels scored on a tic-tac-toe play that resulted in Ethan Janda’s seventh of the year to help Jamestown break the ice. Maryland had more offensive chances in the second period, starting to carry the pace after the Janda goal, but couldn’t beat Suggs. Chances from all around couldn’t find the back of the net until there was 4:31 left in the period and Vlad Polegoshko picked up a Jesse Horacek rebound in the slot and put it home for his sixth of the year to tie the game going into the second intermission.
Going into the third tied at one, Maryland tried to build off the momentum from the Polegoshko goal. However, the Rebels had other plans by holding Maryland to the outside, getting into lanes, while also not allowing Maryland to get many rebounds. Jamestown counterattacked off a turnover in the neutral zone, but Morelli came up big to keep the score knotted at one. It took until late in the game on an abbreviated power play where the Black Bears took the lead from an unlikely source, with Aidan McDowell hammering home his first goal of the year to put the Black Bears up with 1:17 to play. Yet, just as the Black Bears were about to celebrate a home win, Owen West got a near impossible pass from Ryan Waltman and put home the game-tying goal with 0.5 left on the clock to send it into overtime.
Though both teams held possession equally in the overtime, their lone shots did not go in and it went to a shootout. In the shootout, Jak Vaarwerk scored the only goal and Suggs shut the door to give the Rebels both points. Maryland dropped their third straight in heartbreaking fashion and now go on the road for the next month. It doesn’t get easier for the Black Bears, as they start the road trip against the first place New Jersey Titans next week, a team riding a three-game winning streak and having won nine of their last ten games.