Black Bears Offense Fires on All Cylinders in Weekend Sweep

SEWELL, NJ– In what could be the most dominant weekend for the Maryland Black Bears, they travelled to the Philadelphia-adjacent area to take on the newly-minted Philadelphia Rebels and swept the weekend with a high-powered offense and tight defense to carry them to victory. 

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

SEPTEMBER 23rd, 2022: BLACK BEARS (5) at Philadelphia (0): Off the hop, the Black Bears were smothering the Rebels defense, with Samuel Stitz creating a turnover at the blue line and finding Hunter Ramos for the early 1-0 lead under 90 seconds into the game. Maryland continued the pressure with Christian Catalano and Jesse Horacek trying to set one-another up, but could not connect with the back of the net. The speed of the Black Bears caused havoc and turnovers, with the penalty kill even getting some solid chances– but the Black Bears had to settle with the 1-0 first period lead. 

The barn doors opened for Maryland in the second period, with Dimitry Kebreau getting the scoring started 1:14 into the middle stanza, shorthanded, thanks to a chip off the glass by Gabriel Westling to make it 2-0 for Maryland. The Black Bears opened up a firing range, outshooting the Rebels 23-3 in the second, which created many more goals. Kebreau struck again just past the midway point, coming in and sniping a shot to make it 3-0 for Maryland. Keeping the pressure on, Jesse Horacek grabbed the rebound from the Adam Schankula breakaway to make it 4-0 late in the second, when 10 seconds later, Kebreau finished the hat trick with a snipe from the top of the slot and the Black Bears go into the locker room up 5-0. 

It wasn’t a prevent defense situation, as Maryland kept their attack going, making sure they made a statement out of this game. Not to be overshadowed, the defense was able to limit the Rebels to only one shot in the final frame and helped William Hakansson have a basic night, leading him to an 11-save shutout as the Black Bears took it 5-0. 

SEPTEMBER 24th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (2) at Philadelphia (1): The offense was once again dominant for Maryland, as they put 26 shots on goal, tilting the ice towards Rebels goalie Jake Fiolkoff– who took over in the third of Friday’s game. Fiolkoff was stymying the Black Bears, making solid saves and keeping the game scoreless through one. 

Maryland’s Jack Wieneke made his second start in net and made some solid saves in the few chances he faced through the first two periods. Weineke got some goal support in the second frame, as well, with Catalano getting the first goal of the game and his third of the season after tapping home the rebound off a Horacek shot and putting Maryland up 1-0. Try as they might, the Black Bears only had eight shots in the frame to Philadelphia’s five. 

The pressure was put back on from Maryland, trying to get the insurance marker for themselves, putting plenty of shots on Fialkoff, but nothing was able to get through in the first part of the period. However, it was the man-of-the-weekend, Kebreau, who was able to get the all important insurance goal for the Black Bears, crashing the net on a Quinn Kennedy pass and getting his four goal of the weekend. Maryland would give up a goal, as Klaus Jogi scored on the rebound passed a diving Wieneke to get the Rebels to within one. Maryland held strong, though, keeping the Rebels at bay and took home the 2-1 victory and the weekend sweep. 

The Black Bears are back in New Jersey next weekend, this time to take on the Titans up at the Middletown Ice Arena Friday and Saturday night.

Black Bears Get Three Wins in Statement Showcase Appearance

Photo Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

BLAINE, MN– This won’t be your typical weekly review. The Showcase being four games would be plenty of writing and not really give the proper service to what was shown out of the Maryland Black Bears this week. This Showcase showed what this Black Bears team is capable of and what we can expect out of this team going forward. 

The team was adaptable and were able to fix things on the fly. Looking at Wednesday’s loss against Janesville, the big concern there was play in the defensive zone. All three of Janesville’s goals were a result of the Black Bears not being able to clear the zone and turning it over in their own zone. Maryland did stay in the game, got the equalizer late into the second, but also gave up another goal with under 90 seconds left in the frame, with Janesville’s last goal being the deciding factor. 

On Thursday, some defensive changes were made and the Black Bears locked it down. They were able to keep El Paso at bay for the majority of the game. It also helps when they strike early and often, getting goals from their depth players; Dimitry Kebreau tallying two goals and an assist; while also getting scoring from the blue line thanks to Gunnar VanDamme’s two assists. 

Friday was keeping pace with an elite program in Aberdeen. The first two frames were evenly matched and both teams were able to punch and counterpunch. Four unanswered goals were the difference, with Gabriel Westling and Adam Schankula having multi-point games and William Hakansson playing solid throughout to give Maryland a big 4-1 win, assuring at least a two-win Showcase; a tradition of this team. 

However, they wanted that extra win and wanted it in grand fashion. Early start be damned, as the depth comes back for Maryland again. Kal Essenmacher got things going, Kareem El-Bashir netted two goals trying to cement an every-game slot in the line-up, VanDamme showing he’s an elite puckhandling blue liner. Not to mention Christian Catalano continuing his top-notch play and Sean Kilcullen quietly having a breakout start to his season. A big win against a Robertson Cup Final Four team  from last year put the exclamation point at the end of this Showcase for Maryland. 

To not be haunted by a late goal that was the game-winner and then turning it into two goals early in the next game, while also making sure those mistakes don’t become a frequent occurrence shows the quick growth and adaptation of this year’s team. Depth was shown with 11 different goal scorers and solid play from all three goalies who got into net. Maryland was 15/16 on the penalty kill, which is good, but to give up almost four power plays a game isn’t ideal; however, Maryland does know how to get offense from defense with several shorthanded chances throughout the weekend. 

Last season ended terribly. Sure, they closed out the season with a win, but they didn’t hold their playoff fate in their hands thanks to losses earlier in the season. For the returning players, you have to think that is weighing on them and they are letting the newcomers know about it. This looks like a more determined Black Bears team, a team on a mission to make sure they don’t have to rely on anyone else to get to the postseason. While it’s only four games in a weekend, you can tell a lot by a team in that span, especially when it’s against four different opponents. 

Maryland gets back to divisional play on Friday, travelling the Hollydell, New Jersey to take on the new look Philadelphia Rebels.

Towson Women’s Squad Shutter For 2022-23 Season

While we were celebrating the revitalization of the women’s Crab Pot Tournament, we start this week off with some bad news when it comes to women’s club hockey. On Sunday, it was announced that Towson, due to lack of players, will not participate in a competitive season for the 2022-23 season. The announcement was posted on Facebook by players Lane Sky, Kiana Craven, Mikaela Prien, and Halyna Sokoliouk. 

It has been a rough go for the Towson squad the last couple of years. Last season, they posted a 3-9-1 record after losing the entire 2020-21 season to COVID regulations However, they also lost five of their 13 players from last year to graduation. In 2019-20, they scored their first win in over two years on opening night, but didn’t fare too much better after before COVID hit. 

Though the days have been dark, this isn’t a program that has always had struggles. The Tigers were back-to-back-to-back DVCHC champions from 2014 until 2016, but with any program, rebuilds happen. Especially at the club level where recruiting is tougher than most, it’s harder to maintain the excellence like they had in the middle of the 2010s. 

As a bright side to this is that the team will still practice, still hold events, and still be prominent on campus. While the team were 3-5 players short at a minimum, it’s good to know they’re going to keep their names out there and maybe use some practice time to get some first-time prospective players out on the ice to see if it’s for them or find some people who may be too timid to have shown up previous. 

While this does stink considering the circumstances, full marks for the players knowing that going into the season shorthanded wouldn’t make matters better for them and knew when to call it quits, as tough as it may have been for them to do so.

Black Bears Sweep Defending Champs in Opening Weekend

ODENTON, MD– It was 147 days since the Maryland Black Bears touched the ice at Piney Orchard, but the time has come for a new season where hope springs eternal in the chase for the Robertson Cup. But to be the team, you’ve got to beat the team with the team now being the defending Robertson Cup champions in the New Jersey Titans. Familiar foes on opening weekend, but the Black Bears kicked off their fifth anniversary season in strong form with a weekend sweep of the champs. 

Photo Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 9th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (4) vs. New Jersey (2): It was an inauspicious start for the Black Bears, as New Jersey struck less than a minute as William Hakansson got tangled up behind the net and trapped there, as Ryan Novo tipped home a Eric Charpentier shot to make it a 1-0 scoreline. Maryland would strike back not long after, as Jesse Horacek came streaking down the wing and was able to pot one past Ben Charette to level the game. Maryland kept pressing, as captain Brad McNeil got in on the action with a tip off a Christian Catalano shot to gain the lead for the Black Bears. Hakansson settled down the rest of the frame and came up with some key saves in order to keep the Black Bears ahead going into the first intermission. 

Business picked up on both sides with plenty of physical play, some of it going over the line– as it was a penalty filled frame in the second. Maryland would cash-in on the power play on their third attempt of the period with Elliott Lareau putting it home after great possession down low by Dimitry Kebreau and Quinn Kennedy to create the third goal for Maryland. It wasn’t until late in the frame when New Jersey got within one, as Charpentier got and outlet from Charette and beat Hakansson high glove to make it a 3-2 game just before the intermission. 

The late goal didn’t affect the Black Bears going into the third period, as Hunter Ramos would help regain the two-goal lead with a great one-timer from a Samuel Stitz feed to make it 4-2. The forecheck was aggressive all night, clogging the lanes when they needed and not giving the Titans much to work with. Hakansson came up big late in the game to secure the team’s second-straight opening night win by a score of 4-2.

———

Photo Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (3) vs. New Jersey (1): With first night jitters out of the way, both teams were able to play a tighter first period of play. Hakansson had some big stops early for Maryland, including two point-blank saves to keep the game scoreless early. The Black Bears had plenty of zone time in the middle of the period and the pressure paid off with Stitz cleaning up the garbage in front and sliding it behind Zakari Brice to give the Black Bears a 1-0 lead. The pressure kept going, as Catalano was able to weave through the defense to set up Horacek, but the puck rolled off Horacek’s stick and was unable to extend the lead for Maryland. 

Chippiness continued through the series and into the second with plenty of matching penalties and even the coaching staffs were getting a little friendly verbally with each other. Maryland did get into some penalty troubles on their own, with some roughing, slashing, and too-many-men calls against them. One of those calls would even up the game, as Johnny McMahon ripped one home off the wing to beat Hakansson to tie the game at one. With a power play late, Maryland cashed in with the extra man again as Luke Van Why threw a seeing eye shot at the net and Adam Schankula got the drive-by tip in front with 2.6 seconds left to give the Black Bears the 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission. 

Maryland was able to goad New Jersey into some penalties with their speed and getting into lanes and with great movement on the power play, they gained a two-goal lead with Sean Kilcullen getting his first of the year off a great set-up by Catalano and crushed it behind Brice close to the midway point of the period. Tempers flared with Schankula was driving the net and was shadowed by Sylas Oberting, who guided Schankula and tossed him into Brice. Ryan Novo and Brendan Dumas looked for Schankula after with Novo, Dumas, and Schankula getting major penalties and game misconducts. The Black Bears didn’t cash in on the majors, but they were able to keep the lead and sweep the weekend with a 3-1 final and their first opening weekend sweep in team history.

Up next, the Black Bears head to Blaine to take part in the NAHL Showcase starting on Wednesday.

Women’s Crab Pot Tournament is Back!!

Back in November, I mentioned that it might be time to look at reinstating the Crab Pot Tournament for women’s hockey. It only happened twice in the past and with the growth of club hockey teams in mid-Atlantic corridor, it’d be foolish not to do it– as not all teams have to be Maryland-based, as we’ve seen with the men’s and women’s side.

Well, it’s back!!

Thanks to the Loyola Greyhounds schedule release, the Crab Pot Tournament for the women is going to take place October 28th through 30th. As it stands right now, you’d have to think that Navy, the common host of the men’s event, will join Loyola; but no other details have been released. You’d also have to assume that it would be held at McMullen Arena, as well.

Regardless, it’s great to see this on the schedule for the women’s side. The growth of women’s hockey at the club level has been solid and to have a tournament like this is a great tradition to start for Navy and have a parallel to the men’s event at the end of the year. With four Maryland-based teams, you could theoretically keep it as an in-state rivalry tournament– but that remains to be seen.

For now, just circle it on your calendar and get ready for more information about who is in it and how you could attend.

Welcome the Defending the Den Podcast

Coming this 2022-23 season, PodcastMonsters.com and Chesapeake Hockey Week will welcome the Defending The Den Podcast. This latest podcast will follow the Maryland Black Bears and the ins-and-outs of their season.

While it used to be a big part of the Chesapeake Hockey Week, I felt it was time for a change. The Black Bears took up half of the Chesapeake Hockey Week in content, so in order to give Black Bears fans their big fix of news and reviews; as well as respecting the content of other Maryland teams in the Chesapeake Hockey Week– why not divide it up??

The Chesapeake Hockey Week will continue to bring people the latest in Maryland-based hockey and Maryland-born athletes, but it will now allow more time to focus on those areas rather than have it feel rushed.

Publish day for Defending the Den is tentative set for Wednesdays with the first show on Wednesday September 7th to preview the upcoming Black Bears’ season. A new Twitter has come up as well, @DefendingDenMBB– which will house most of the information and in-game notes moving forward. Written reviews will still be on ClutchAndCrabHockey.com.

Coaching Changes, Captains, and Camp– Oh My!!

Partially out of hibernation, the Maryland Black Bears made plenty of noise this week as they opened their main camp. Some coaching changes and naming of the 2022-23 captain were revealed as things get started back up at The Den at Piney Orchard.

First, the Black Bears announced Kim Weiss has been boosted up to Associate Head Coach alongside Head Coach Clint Mylymok. Weiss joined the Black Bears as an assistant coach last season and made an immediate impact on the players with the skill set she brought over from her time with the Washington Pride teams as a coach and her time playing with Trinity College.

Photo Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

“Kim has been a great fit for the Maryland Black Bears, and we are excited to promote her to Associate Head Coach this season. She is a tireless worker, and an extremely talented coach,” said Mylymok in the Black Bears release. “The most important aspect is that she has the players’ trust and does a great job helping them develop as people just as much as she develops them as players.”

While Weiss is moving up, last year’s other assistant is moving on– as Dylan Schoen has left the team to take on a coaching role at Bemidji State University. The Ellicott City native comes off his first year as an assistant and second year as coach in the NAHL– previously being the goaltending coach in Amarillo.

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

“Just as it is with the players, Maryland prides itself on developing their coaches and helping push them to the next level. Dylan was a great addition to our staff last year, and made it fun coming to the office,” mentioned Mylymok in a release. “He was great with the players, is very knowledgeable, and more importantly, Bemidji is getting a really good person involved with their program. We wish Dylan all the best in his next endeavor.”

No word on when a new assistant coach will be named.

To round out the news ahead of camp, Brad McNeil was named the captain for the 2022-23 season. The Royal Oak, Michigan native will be the sixth captain in team history and is coming off a solid campaign which saw him register 29 points and show off his intangibles in playing every situation that was thrown at him. McNeil will be coming back for his third season with Maryland.

“I’ve learned so much from the previous leaders that I’ve had the opportunity to play with in my time here. I look forward to coming back for a third season and playing in front of our great fans,” McNeil said in a the team release.

“Brad McNeil epitomizes what leadership is. He does whatever is asked of him; always puts his teammates first; represents our program with class, on and off the ice; and is an extremely hard working individual,” coach Mylymok stated. “This kid could play in any era of hockey and have success. We are fortunate to have him in Maryland.”

And that’s just ahead of the first day of main camp. Plenty of time left to see the camp for yourself, with the Futures Game and All-Star Game being played on Sunday. It’s all free of charge to attend, just check out MarylandBlackBears.com for more information on exact ice times.

Ottawa Picks Two Maryland-Born Talents in NHL Draft

The 2022 NHL Draft has come and gone and the Ottawa Senators should be the talk of the Old Line State, as they chose two Maryland products during the draft. Stephen Halliday (Glenwood) and Cameron O’Neill (Odenton) were both selected on day two of the Draft after both had very impactful seasons in 2021-22.

Photo via NeutralZone.net

First to go was Halliday, who went in the 4th round (104th overall), is coming off a stellar campaign that saw him net 35 goals and 95 points in the USHL. With that scoring, Halliday was able to eclipse the Dubuque Fighting Saints all-time assists and points record with 123 assists and 181 points in 160 games with the Saints. Born in Glenwood, MD; Halliday plied his craft in the Greater Toronto Area as a youth player before heading to the USHL. He’ll be heading to the Ohio State University next season.

“Halliday is an older kid coming out of the USHL and he’ll go to Ohio State next year,” Ottawa assistant GM Trent Mann mentioned to the media. “If you look at the numbers, he’s a high offensive kid. He’s a bigger kid, as well. He’s the type of kid we’ve kept an eye on and we like where he’s at right now.”

Photo via NeutralZone.net

O’Neill went the next round at 143rd overall after a big season at Mount St. Charles Academy. The former Spalding High School and Team Maryland forward put up 66 goals and 145 pints in 18U play, while also netting a goal and assist in his four games with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL. A UMass-Amherst commit, O’Neill will most likely make the jump to the USHL for a full season there in 2022-23.

“He’s a kid with offensive upside and players the game hard, as well,” Mann said of O’Neill. “This is a kid who’s going to take a little time, but we’re comfortable with that with where we’re at, so we can afford to wait a little longer on him.”

Hopefully, the Senators enjoy a little Old Bay with the influx of Maryland talent coming into their organization.

NAHL Releases 2022-23 Schedule

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

The NAHL followed through on their promist, releasing the 2022-23 season schedule on Tuesday– less the NAHL Showcase games. Twenty-eight games at home, twenty-eight on the road, four in Blaine– it makes for a nice hype in the off-season.

It’s pretty basic, as the Black Bears will play their East Division foes constant, but there’s some highlights

-The Black Bears will start at home for their fifth straight year and for the fourth out of five seasons, it’ll be against the New Jersey Titans– the defending Robertson Cup champions. While both teams will have new looks; the rivalry will be a good jumping off points for both squads.

-Once they get back from the NAHL Showcase, Maryland will travel to their newest locale; Hollydell, New Jersey to take on the “Philadelphia” Rebels. This is the team that eneded their season last year, so vengence early on could be on their mind.

-Maryland will play two Tuesday night games in Hollydell against the Rebels in November and February. They’ll host the Johnstown Tomahawks for two three-game home set in October and March. The winter break spans between December 18th and January 5th.

The hype is real and ready to go. Now time to plan out your travel for this season. The full schedule is here and you can filter for Maryland by hitting CTRL+F and type in Maryland.

New and Familiar Faces For Black Bears at 2022 NAHL Draft

The 2022 NAHL Draft took place on Wednesday and the Maryland Black Bears decided that they could pick up some familiar faces along the way this year. After a flurry of tender signings in the past few weeks, the Black Bears were left with eight picks this year to fill out their protected list. 

Originally slated for the 16th spot, Maryland traded with the Maine Nordiques to get to the 7th spot where they picked their first familiar face– Brayden Stannard. After two seasons at the USHL level, Stannard was picked by the Black Bears in hopes to get him back into the fold in Maryland. In 2019-20, Stannad picked up All-East Rookie honors and NAHL 2nd Team Rookie honors with 13 goals and 22 assists. The Nebraska-Omaha commit didn’t seem to get the breaks during his time in the USHL, only managing 13 assists over 63 games. 

Waiting until the third round, Maryland selected Mitch Kohner from Estevan of the SJHL. Kohner brings a brunt of major junior experience, playing in the WHL with the Prince George Cougars and Spokane Chiefs. In 17 games with Estevan, Kohner had 11 assists and 14 points. Staying in the Canadian Junior “A” ranks, Gunnar VanDamme was the next pick for Maryland at 89th overall. The defenseman from Pittsford, NY recorded six goals and 24 points from the blue line in the OJHL

Another familiar face was picked at number 132 with Kareem El-Bashir getting the call from the team. El-Bashir played in two games for the Black Bears this season, while also putting on a clinic with Team Maryland’s 18U AAA team with 24 goals and 57 points in 42 games. El-Bashir also netted 10 goals in 10 games with John Champe/Light Ridge High in Northern Virginia, while also getting an NCDC call with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers. 

Going to the goaltending aspect, as Jack Wieneke was picked 161st overall. Wieneke played eight games for Fox Motors HC. Wieneke also had some NAHL game time with one game each for the Jamestown Rebels and Aberdeen Wings. In 2020-21, Wieneke had a 19-2-0 record for Maple Grove High School, helping them to a semifinal appearance in the Class AA Minnesota State Championships. 

Offense was next for Maryland, as Christian Catalano was selected from the Toronto Jr. Canadiens of the OJHL. In his first season in the OJHL, Catalano netted 34 goals and 73 points in just 52 games, while netting 14 points in 13 games to help the Jr. Canadiens win the OJHL title. 

Digging to the USHL well again, Maryland took Connor Welsh at pick 219, who played for Sioux City and Omaha this past year. Welsh had a stellar youth resume before turning to the junior ranks, but a change of pace in Maryland could help get him back on track going forward. 

Wrapping things up at pick 248, Logan Kroyman gets the last pick from the Black Bears from the Rochester Grizzlies. While he had some time with Kenai River this season, Kroyman helped Rochester to the NA3HL title with five goals in nine games from the point. With Maryland being notable for their defense, Kroyman will help with depth and some offensive contributions as well. 

The Black Bears have a history of players who play after they get drafted, regardless of where they’ve been selected. Stannard knows that well, as he was a seventh round pick in 2019 and was a top contributor for the team that season. Last year alone, Maryland had five of their seven picks in the 2021 Draft play considerable time for the squad this past year.