For the first time since 2016, a Marylander was selected in the NHL Draft. Bryce Montgomery had his named selected by the Carolina Hurricanes at pick 170. The Bowie native, currently playing with the London Knights, came up through the Washington Little Capitals and Team Maryland programs, while spending a brief time at DeMatha Catholic.
Scouting reports on Montgomery is that he has all the tools a ready-made NHLer needs with his size and speed, with varied opinion on other things. However, many believe he was undervalued in the draft and will be considered a steal at the 170th overall pick.
One of the things that really hindered Montgomery’s exposure this season was the lack of an OHL season due to the pandemic. While training is one thing for a player, in-game scenarios and actual play is another for scouts. Montgomery did participate in the FloHockey PBHH Invitational that was put on for junior players for scouts to see them in a showcase aspect.
Montgomery becomes the 10th player from Maryland to be drafted into the NHL. Others include Graham McPhee, Jeremy Duchense, Jeff Brubaker, Jarred Tinordi, Steve Shirreffs, Tyler Scott, Steve Scheifele, Tim Chase, and Jason Kostadine. In the link above from WTOP that Ben Raby put out, Montgomery talks about his pride when it comes to being from the area.
“Maryland is my home and the D.C. area — that’s where I was born,” Montgomery said to Raby. “I take great pride in being able to represent my area. I have a long road to go still, but I’m thankful to be one of the main representatives from our area for hockey.”
Here’s hoping that a full season in the OHL next year will provide Montgomery the space for him to shine through and prove himself as a sleeper pick for this draft and a big steal for Carolina. There’s still work to be done, as there’s plenty of top-tier talent on the blueline in Carolina’s system; it’s a matter of honing his skill in the next few years to really set himself apart from the field.
The 2021 NAHL Draft has come and gone, with the Maryland Black Bears taking seven players overall, including one familiar face returning to The Den for the 2021-22 season.
With the 18th pick in the first round, the Black Bears picked forward Tyler Young from the Islanders HC of the NCDC. Young is committed to Providence College, but has quite the past for where he’s played. Along with Islanders HC– where he had 14 points in 15 games, Young played in 16 games with the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL. In 2019-20, Young was in the BCHL with the Wenatchee Wild, potting 28 assists and 37 points in 56 games.
In the second round, Maryland picked defenseman Nolan Hayes with the 43rd pick. Hayes also comes from the NCDC with the South Shore Kings, where he had 19 points from the blueline in 35 games. Hayes also comes from the vaunted Cushing Academy, where he had 20 assists and 30 points in 2019-20. Hayes is committed to Sacred Heart University.
Staying in the second round– as well as the NCDC and a defender– Matthew Davies was the 47th pick. Coming up in the Omaha AAA program, Davies moved to the New Jersey Rockets last season, with 15 points in 42 games. Part of a hockey family, Davies’ grandfather Dave played three seasons for St. Louis University, his father Dan played four seasons for Air Force Academy, and his brother Andruw is coming up through the Islanders HC program in the USPHL.
A familiar face in the third round, as Miles Gunty was picked 71st overall by Maryland. Gunty appeared in four games for the Black Bears last year, and while he didn’t register an official point, his shootout goal in the last home game, coupled with his energy for that entire series gave a good outlook on what’s to come for the Black Bears this season. Gunty, a Brown University commit, also spent time with Youngstown in the USHL and Team Maryland’s 16U program.
Maryland then went back to a familiar country, as Sweden’s pipeline continues with the selection of Ivan Bjorkly Nordstrom in the 5th round. The forward comes from the Malmo Redhawks’ program and put up six goals and 12 points in 16 games last season. Nordstrom holds dual Swedish and Scottish citizenship, as he was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. With his size and skill, many think he has an outside chance of being selected in the NHL Draft.
[Editor’s Note: In an earlier version, I listed Nordstrom’s height. Elite Prospects and Dobber’s Hockey listed Nordstrom as 6’7, 216; while Malmo has him listed at 6’3, 211. We’ll have to see when he shows up to camp.]
The Black Bears also picked a goalie in the 5th round, with Luca Di Pasquo being selected 126th. Limited time for Di Pasquo this season with the Robertson Cup champions in Shreveport; but he does comes out of the Detroit youth scene, playing for Honeybaked, Victory Honda, and Compuware– three of the four heavy-hitters in that area.
With their last pick, the Black Bears when with Connor Bennett in the 6th round, 155th overall. Playing with the Peoria Mustangs in the NA3HL, Bennett had 14 goals and 29 points on the season, while accumulating 101 points in 133 games in the NA3. With plenty of potential, he could be a nice sleeper pick to provide some impact in the line-up.
The Maryland Black Bears made a move less than a week before the NAHL Draft by trading Jude Kurtas and Grady Friedman to the Corpus Christi IceRays for a Tender contract, a 5th round pick in the 2021 NAHL Draft, and Conditional 2022 NAHL Draft Pick. The duo of Kurtas and Friedman connected on one of the biggest goals in Black Bears’ history with the series-winning goal against Johnstown in the playoffs.
A homegrown talent coming up through the Mercer Chiefs system, Kurtas played 97 regular season games for the Black Bears, putting him fourth on the Black Bears career list, while he is tied for third for career goals on the team with 17 and tied for second in franchise history with four game-winning goals. Friedman came to the Black Bears after time at Northfield Mount Hermon Prep School and put up five goals and nine points in his season. Friedman wasn’t afraid to mix it up, trying to play the role of energy guy for the Black Bears.
While it’s tough to lose the veteran presence these two over-aged players would have brought to this coming season; it remains to be seen what will come from the tender contract and the draft pick. The Black Bears have had some success with later round picks being a big part of the team with Luke Mountain, Luc Salem, Thomas Jarman, and Brayden Stannard all being picked past the fifth round. The tender contract is always something good to have in the holster to use or leverage for something else.
In the end, it’ll take time to see how this pans out, but both Kurtas and Friedman have been cemented in Black Bears lore and won’t be forgotten any time soon.
Though the Robertson Cup was recently handed out, there is no rest for the wicked. The NAHL and their member teams released their 2021-22 schedule on Tuesday and the Black Bears have some highlights when it comes to their schedule.
For a third time in their four-year history, the Black Bears will open up at home against New Jersey. Each of the last two times, New Jersey has swept the series.
One big note is the start times for the home Black Bears games are not 7:45 PM anymore. Friday’s games will be either 6:30 PM ET or 7:30 PM ET depending on the weekend, while all Saturday dates are at 7:00 PM ET.
The Jamestown Rebels are back after a year hiatus. Maryland faces them in three home and three away series, including the home season finale at the Den.
Maryland faces Jamestown and New Jersey six weekends, with the other four teams in the East taking up four weekend during the season.
After the first weekend, the Black Bears and the NAHL are off to Blaine to take part in the NAHL Showcase were the Black Bears will take on four non-divisional team– which will be announced at a later date.
The Top Prospects Tournament is back to early February, after which– the Black Bears will take part in their lone afternoon weekday series against Northeast. There’s no note about it, but it’s probably safe to say that the TPT is back in Attleboro, home of the Generals.
Their first away weekend is a wild one in October, as the Black Bears playing New Jersey Friday and then Johnstown on Saturday.
It’s short and to the point, but let’s get thinking about the 2021-22 season– as the Draft is only two weeks away and then camps should start rolling in.
It was announced on Wednesday that the Royal Farms Arena is finally get a renovation to the tune of $150M thanks to a bid from the Oak View Group in association with Thirty Five Ventures, a firm partnered by NBA player and Maryland-native Kevin Durant. It is a project that is about two decades in the making and will give a much needed spruce up the almost 60-year-old arena.
But before people get too excited about this renovation and start plotting ways for either expansion or relocation of minor league hockey teams– we have to give it a pause for a moment. In the news stories put out, nothing has been mentioned about the ice plant, playing surface (currently 195′ x 85′), or locker rooms being upgraded by this renovation. If anything, it seems that the “front of house” side of things (ie: seating, concourse, exterior, lighting) will be the most changed over this.
Does that mean it’s not going to happen?? Not necessarily, but it probably is down the line in terms of priorities. Not to mention, rumors of anyone using Baltimore as a leverage piece for relocation haven’t happened in a while, so it’s not as if it would be treated as a priority. While there has been stumping for Baltimore to get hockey back into RoFo, I wouldn’t hold my breath– especially if nothing is done for a new ice plant and resizing the arena for hockey.
In fact, the ice surface hasn’t been used for hockey since 2013 when the 2nd Baltimore Hockey Classic happened and was a calamity of errors due to melting ice, dropping attendance, and other behind-the-scenes situations that caused the idea to be scrapped by the Washington Capitals. The 2011 game against Nashville provided a crowd of 11,384, but when the 2013 games that featured the Bruins only garnered 7,634; the Caps decided to keep the gate at Verizon Center and left Royal Farms Arena out of their plans.
While Royal Farms Arena does host Disney on Ice for a stint, you’d have to think that more tangible interest would be needed to address the concerns for the hockey side of things. With all the news out there, it seems as if the focus is on concerts, family events, and other sports with nothing about ice being addressed.
Truth be told, the only way hockey comes back to Baltimore is with a new arena– point blank period. The side of the Royal Farms is much too big for a team to turn a profit now, much less with the seating expansion being proposed. The surface, ice plant, and other amenities would also be better suited if building a new arena. Despite accessibility being great to the arena with the Light Rail right outside– don’t expect to be going there for hockey any time soon.
This news is great for the Baltimore area in giving the venue a much needed face-lift and refresher. However, if you expect hockey to be a part of this new shift forward– maybe tamper those emotions just a little bit. Not only that, but there’s plenty of solid hockey during the season in Maryland already, it’s just a matter of going to it.
This past weekend, the NAHL held their Top Prospects Tournament, a yearly occurrences to give players who have not committed to a college a chance to show themselves off against other players in league who are in the same predicament. This event has been hosted in the last two seasons in Attleboro, MA in mid-February, but with the way the world is today; the league decided to have this event coinciding with the Robertson Cup Finals. This year, the Maryland Black Bears had six representative for the event, their most in their three year history.
First and foremost, wonderful job by the NAHL to keep this event going, especially this season. Recruiting wasn’t as up-close and personal this season, but for the league to find a way around it and to be able to put this in during the Robertson Cup festivities was tremendous and they were able to run it as smooth as possible throughout.
Onto the Black Bears side of things, six players and head coach Clint Mylymok attended this event: Michael Morelli, Kevin Scott, Sean Kilcullen, Conor Cole, Tanner Rowe, and Jude Kurtas. For the most part, coach Mylymok kept the team forwards as a line, as well as keeping the defense pairing together. Twice, from what I saw, all five Black Bears were on the ice at the same time. Morelli split time with Northeast’s Anton Castro in net, with Morelli stopping 18 of 19 shots, his only goal-against being a breakaway goal from Minot’s Jay Buchholz. Morelli was able to see through screens, reposition quickly, as well as keep the puck out at all costs in traffic situations.
Defensively, Kilcullen and Scott played strong in their own end. Both of them were able to keep plenty of chances to the outside, as well as take away some passing and shooting lanes on the rushes into their end. They had some chances offensively, with Scott getting the bulk of those when there was a power play to be had, though Kilcullen made time and space of himself to get a couple of shots off.
On the forward side of things, it was a mixed bag. There were some chances the trio had, but what they did for the intangible portions could probably get them noticed more. Cole was solid in the face off dot, as well as the forecheck. Rowe was strong on the forecheck and putting the body on the puck carrier when he could to muck up the neutral zone. Kurtas was solid on the breakout, making some decent decisions with the puck in his own end to get out of the zone, while also getting some shots towards goal.
Coach Mylymok did a solid job of keeping players with guys they were familiar with. In an event like this, you want to make sure the players show off their best and to keep them with teammates or guys they’ve played with before is something that will make guys looked better in front of scouts overall.
All in all though, this isn’t the way the team would have liked to have visited Blaine this week. When speaking with Mylymok, he mentioned the takeaway that this weekend could bring to the players in attendance.
“It’s not the way we would like to be here, obviously,” remarked Mylymok, “But I think it’s good for the guys to be here to watch the (Robertson Cup) games. Just to sit in the stands and see how good all these teams who got there are and the style they play and take it all in.”
You’d have to also think that these players being able to play with their rivals and against players they may have never crossed paths with will only add to what these players take away. A fresh look at the game and how others play it, as well as being able to measure themselves up to the competition and hearing feedback from potential schools looking at them.
As far as this weekend was concerned, it’d be interesting to see if these two events will intertwine in the future or will stay their separate entities. For a scouting outlook, it’s really a good one-stop shop for schools to go to, especially since it will be out of season for them. That said, the four teams in the Robbie Final didn’t participate, which could lead some to believe they get missed out in playing outside of what their team is– which is good or bad depending on how it goes. It also puts a big load on the shoulders of the league– though it takes out a travel date for them to have things set up in a certain area.
From this experience in being there– it worked well. There was little down time between games, but scouts were out and about, talking to players while not missing out on action and all that jazz. Add the Robbie Cup games in there, it worked to be able to have it all in one spot, but we’ll have to see what next year brings for the league and the look at scouting by that point.
With the Black Bears wrapping up the 2020-21 season, it’s time to look ahead to what’s next. A foundation season is only as meaningful as the seasons that come after that and how it shapes the team and players going forward. So, here’s my personal three wishes heading into next season. Disclaimer, I have ZERO clout when it comes to the decision makings, this isn’t what I think is going to happen, it’s what I wish would happen.
1. Keeping the Home-Grown Pipeline Going: There were a lot of players who played this season that are a part of the Black Bear Sports Group pipeline of talent. Quinn Kennedy, Miles Gunty, Dimitry Kebreau, Jesse Horacek, and Rory Gresham came up through the Team Maryland pipeline. Being able to give them a chance and let them show off is a great look to the future, especially with plenty of spots up for grabs this coming season. Currently, Sean Kilcullen has become an everyday player after being in that pipeline. Add in the mix Jude Kurtas and Aidan McDowell after they came up through the Mercer Chiefs, the growth from within is strong and the talent is definitely available in that pipeline.
2. Returnees Help That Younger Pipeline: The Black Bears had 11 full-time returnees at the start of the season from the 2019-20 season. Even with some trades, Maryland used that older core to help the incoming players transition with what the game-plan from the previous season. A chunk of players will be gone due to aging out or heading to college next season, which is great for their advancement and shows how prepared they are for the next step. That said, to be able to keep some players who know the system could help ease the transition for the incoming players and keep the success going off of this season.
3. Go from Underdog to Favorite: With the Black Bears upsetting the top-seed in the division, the Black Bears left their mark in showing they belong in the hunt of the East Division elite. If not for a 12-game slump, they could have gotten a higher seed– but they showed that they weren’t out of place. It’ll be a little tougher next season with another team in the division as Jamestown returns, but the mindset now shouldn’t be about making the playoffs, it’s about getting the higher seed. Each year is going to be about taking that next season. Going from an expansion team, to a contender, to an underdog– the natural progression is to become a favorite from this point forward. With the make-up of the coaching staff and possible returnees– that shouldn’t be a problem for this squad.
And that’ll do it for the 2020-21 season. The NAHL Draft is July 14th, which should mark the basis for the next season. It was a fun ride this year, now it’s a time to build off this foundation.
It’s one of the more difficult posts to write on the year in junior hockey, it’s the players who won’t be with the team next year due to them being over the junior age of eligibility. For some of these players, they’ve been with the squad only a year, maybe less; for one, since day one. So, let’s remember these players moving on next season.
LUKE MOUNTAIN: A day one Black Bear, Mountain was picked in the 12th Round of the 2018 NAHL Draft and has been the team ever since. He created one of the bigger moments in the Black Bears’ first year by scoring in overtime with 2.3 seconds left in the home finale over the New Jersey Titans. Mountain’s workman-like game provided all-around coverage for the Black Bears, active in any kind of situation that was needed out of him. An alternate captain in 2019-20 and then the fourth team captain in history this past season, Mountain continues the line of heart-and-soul players to wear the “C” for Maryland. Mountain made the NAHL East Division All-Rookie Team in 2018-19 and was a three-time East Division Star of the Week over his three seasons. As he leave Maryland, Mountain holds the regular season franchise records for games played (152), points (82), goals (44), assists (38), and game-winning goals (7). Mountain is headed to the University of Vermont to continue his career.
CAM GAUDETTE: Maryland made a big move in acquiring Gaudette in the off-season from the Northeast Generals, but it proved to be a great move in gaining added leadership and veteran presence on the team. Gaudette played both sides of the puck well, being a shutdown defenseman when needed, chipping in offensively, as well as adding a physical part to the game when called upon. Gaudette helped anchor the Maryland defense and helped the team post a 2.94 goals-against-per-game average, lowest in team history. In November of 2020, Gaudette took home NAHL Defenseman of the Month honors. Northeastern University is Gaudette’s next stop, the school his brother Adam attended, as well.
HUNTER MCCOY: Coming from the BCHL, McCoy helped play an key role in the Black Bears offense, while also providing timely plays in his own zone to help keep shots away from the net. With a quick shot and ability to get into the proper scoring areas, McCoy set a single-season Black Bears’ record with four game-winning goals while also being tied for second all-time in that category. McCoy also provided on the penalty kill, scoring three shorthaded goals, placing him second in the single-season and all-time record books for Maryland. This season, McCoy also garnered two East Division Star of the Week honors. After some time thinking, McCoy was recruited by the United States Army West Point for his next chapter in life and hockey.
JOSH NIXON: A late-comer to the party, Nixon made an impact almost immediately thanks to his smooth skating and stick-handling abilities. A product of the OJHL and USHL, Nixon’s vision of the ice allowed him to make time and space for himself when it looked like none was available. He really turned it on late into the season, as well as the playoffs where he lead the team in scoring with four goals and eight points. The next chapter for Nixon will be at Lake Superior State, as he will be an offensive asset for a team that is continuing to improve in the NCAA ranks.
BRIAN SMITH: Coming over after some time with Odessa this year and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year, Smith only saw nine games of regular season action and two games of playoffs. Even with the limited playing time, the character of Smith to be there when called upon is an admirable trait that will serve him well down the line in life and in hockey. Smith was part of a deep defensive squad and helped the team keep the goals-per-game under three this season. Smith will attend Bethel University next season, playing along side former Black Bear Luke Posner.
For the Maryland Black Bears this year, much like others in the NAHL, there were plenty of hurdles to actually get the season rolling and completed. They started their season at their sister rink north of Baltimore, they had pauses and postponements for one reason or another, and then dealing with a big slide during the season. Yet, at the end of the day, the 2020-21 Maryland Black Bears team was their best yet, securing a winning record, a playoff spot, and their first playoff series victory. Despite falling short in the East Divison Final, the foundation of success has been laid for this organization.
The start was a little rocky, as the Black Bears couldn’t play at their home rink in Piney Orchard due to local regulation when it came to what were deemed high-risk contact sports in Anne Arundel County. Luckily, the Black Bears had a home in their sister rink in Abingdon, Maryland that they could play in, so the operation shifted there, but without the use of the locker rooms; meaning players had to dress outside before coming into the rink and had to stay on the bench between periods. Notwithstanding, they had a place to play– which is more than some teams could say.
Despite dropping their first game of the season in overtime, the Black Bears went 12-6-5 by Groundhog Day, sweeping New Jersey, Johnstown, and Northeast in that run. It was also the first time Maryland saw the top of divisional standings that deep into the season. The IceWorld era ended after the February 8th and 9th games, but it started as big slide with Maryland dropping their next 12 games with five of those games being one-goal affairs. Even a return to The Den at Piney Orchard couldn’t cure the losing woes. After going through that and the playoff picture being more cluttered, the team knew they had to dig deep and not let the great start to the season end with a floundering second half of the season.
Splitting two series with Danbury and Northeast after, the Black Bears got back to their early season success. They reeled off a franchise record seven-game winning streak, which included their first two shutouts of the season and their first two wins at the War Memorial in Johnstown. Also around that time, it was announced that the East Division would have their playoffs settled by points percentage due some teams playing more than the 54 games that was the minimum requirement for the season. With that, the Black Bears were in the driver’s seat for the last playoff spot, but still had to scoreboard watch and then garner points against Northeast and Danbury, whom they were fending off.
Maryland went 3-0-1 against Northeast down the stretch and split against Danbury, which was enough for them to clinch the final spot in the East Division ahead of the least weekend, thanks to some help from elsewhere. In that, the Black Bears also secured their first over-.500 season in franchise history being four games over the .500 mark, as well as holding their lowest goal-against total for the franchise.
For their playoff draw, they had to go against the biggest thorn in their sides, the Johnstown Tomahawks. While Maryland had played Johnstown close this season (10 of the 14 games were decided by one goal), the overall success wasn’t the best with a 7-21-7 record against Johnstown all-time in the regular season. Undaunted after a 5-3 Game One loss, the Black Bears came back for three goals int he first period of Game Two that carried them to a 6-4 victory for their first playoff win in franchise history. Coming back to The Den, Maryland took Game Three, overcoming a two-goal deficit to win 3-2; but they weren’t so lucky in Game Four, as another two-goal deficit couldn’t be overcome, sending the series to a decisive Game Five. Midway through the third period of Game Five, Maryland was down by one goal, but two goals in 37 seconds coupled with the stalwart defensive performance lifted the team into the second round in a big upset in the East Division.
Riding high, the Black Bears looked to use their emotional win to carry them into representing the East Division at the Robertson Cup Finals, but had to face off against a tough Maine Nordiques team; whom they had difficulty against in limited match-ups this season. While they did show offensive bursts, Maine’s suffocating defense limited the Black Bears to only three goals in the series, while putting up 12 of their own; winning the East Division in a sweep with all games ending 4-1.
It did not end the way the team wanted to, with hopes of the Robertson Cup being theirs. At the end of the day, given all the trials and tribulations– the Black Bears did more than some people may have expected to. On top of that, they brought in a good mix of experience and bringing in talented youngsters and affiliated players to look at what the future could hold for this team in the future.
Some might argue that using the term “historic” so much when talking about the accomplishments of the season could be overkill for a fourth place team, but in these instances, it’s definitely not. They made plenty of history for their franchise, they put benchmarks out there for future teams to strive for, and they set the culture for this organization moving onward.
In the end, it just was not to be for the Maryland Black Bears. Thursday proved to be the final game of the Black Bears season, as they dropped Game 3 to the Maine Nordiques by the familiar score of 4-1 and drop the series three games to none.
Game 3 started big for Maryland, as off the hop you could tell that they knew what was at stake. Plenty of chances to start off the game and maintained possession in the Maine zone gave a pick-me-up to this team, who needed to find a way to win. However, 4:47 into the frame, Maine got on the board first as Stefan Owens got the puck out of the corner to Isaiah Fox, who got it to Andrew Noel and put it past Hannes Kollen. Maryland played undeterred from that, as they tried to keep the pressure going, which finally paid off. Chances in front of Tyriq Outen kept happening until Hunter McCoy was able to slide one past the 6’3 goalie to even the score in the first.
The second period saw Maine start to pace the Black Bears offensively, have more zone time and be able to get more chances on Kollen. Maine eventually got the lead back off a face-off win that got back to Matt Connor, who shot through a screen to give the Nordiques the 2-1 lead. After a late, borderline high hit by Kevin Scott, Maryland went to the penalty kill and almost tied the game up with Reid Leibold getting a semi-breakaway, but the puck would not cooperate and rolled off his stick. Tensions got higher, as Cam Gaudette and Caden Pattison got into a physical and philosophical discussion towards the end of the frame.
With possibly 20 minutes left in their season, the Black Bears started to press in the third. A couple of chances either got deflected on the pass or shot or the puck took an odd hop away from the intended receiver and went into the corner. Maine went up 3-1 when Maryland’s defense pinched a little too much and Jack Strauss took a 2-on-1 for himself and beat Kollen. The Black Bears still tried to push the play and the attack, but Maine’s shutdown defense was able to withstand the pressure and convert on a rebound in front as Pattison put the dagger into the season for Maryland with the 4-1 final.
For Maine, their ability to play the shutdown role in the playoffs have earned them a chance at the Robertson Cup next weekend and all the best to them in that.
For the Black Bears, it ends the most successful and promising season in the team’s history. With all the ups and downs this team had to deal with from sickness to injuries to regulations in their home county– they were able to make it a winning season, a playoff season, and get to the East Final. Heck of a job by this team and everyone who surrounded it, for doing their part to make sure this season was played smart, safe, and successful
Next week, the annual three-part season in review to review the season, bid a farewell to the graduating players, and my three wishes for next year.