Black Bears Weekend Takeaway: November 13-14 vs. New Jersey

Photo Credit: New Jersey Titans Twitter/@NAHLTitans

This is a new bit I hope to keep up with where I give an opinion of what I saw from the weekend’s Maryland Black Bears games. Rather than a regular game summary, this will be a bit of a Cliff Notes approach to it all.

Coming off of two weekend that were cancelled and much time off from practices, the Maryland Black Bears went into Middletown, New Jersey a bit rested and ready for game action. On top of the time off, the Black Bears were missing several key players form their line-up. After call-ups from Team Maryland and the Mercer Chiefs, the Black Bears did all they could against the streaking New Jersey Titans, but were only able to come out of the weekend with one point. What was good, what could be better, what’s what from this weekend in New Jersey

With many players out– Luke Mountain, Thomas Jarman, Jack Hillman, and Matthew Shanklin to name a few– the Black Bears still looked like a solid, cohesive unit. Getting reinforcements from Team Maryland in Collin Berke and Rory Gresham, while Jakob Grace came from Mercer; the team looked, on the surface, to have no missed a step from lack of game play. Gresham really took a step forward, logging solid minutes in Saturday’s game and looking like he could stay with this team for a bit if they needed him there.

It wasn’t just the call-ups, but guys like Brad McNeil, Hunter McCoy, and Grady Friedman really stepped their game up with a bigger role on the ice. With the like of Reid Leibold, Daniel Colabufo, and Garrett Szydlowski playing fairly well; the McNeil/McCoy/Friedman line stood out this weekend by causing turnovers, creating chances, and burying their opportunities.

Coming into the season, the power play was lacking in a big way. That trend continues, as the Black Bears are on a 21-attempt goalless skid with their last power play goal coming in the second game of the year, which was Jarman’s winner in overtime against Johnstown. That’s not to say there hasn’t been chances, the puck just doesn’t seem to bounce the right way for this team when they have the extra man. Time for this team to start creating their own luck when it comes to the power play moving forward.

There was a lot left to be desired for the defensive coverage this weekend. In Saturday’s game, there were a lot of times that the Titans were able to get behind the Black Bears’ defense and create odd-man breaks in on Michael Morelli. While Morelli did what he could, he shouldn’t be expected to face that many breaks as the defense gets caught pinching or unaware of the opposition creeping behind them.

Holding a lead was another issue from Saturday’s game, as the Black Bears led after the first 2-0, but couldn’t find a bounce to go in for another goal, which allowed the Titans to claw back to tie the game late Saturday and have it pushed to the shootout loss. Again– not without their chances, especially with two Leibold breakaways where the puck couldn’t cooperate with the ice or Leibold’s stick; but there were other times where shots were coming from impossible angles, which led to a change of possession.

That said, the spirit of this team never waned. They were down three going into the third period Friday and got two goals within 1:18 of each other and were buzzing for more. Saturday, they carried that momentum in the first period, got some back for the third, but just couldn’t get the two points for the victory in either game. Yet, for a team that had two weeks off, keeping the game close should give them some morale boost they could use during this time.

The Black Bears are back in their temporary home in Abingdon Thursday morning and Friday night against the Northeast Generals and hope to get back in the win column and end their four-game winless skid.

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