What’s better than a sweep last weekend?? A second sweep this weekend. The Black Bears keep rolling along as they took both games from the Johnstown Tomahawks to take the lead in the NAHL East. In both games, the Black Bears had to come back from a deficit, but this weekend showed a bit of growth from the sqaud.
That growth really shone through on Saturday afternoon, as the Black Bears were down 3-1 and could have just folded up shop and went to the next weekend. However, this team really showed their maturity and didn’t give up on the game. Shift by shift they kept chipping away at the Tomahawks and shifted the balance of the game, especially after Conor Cole’s goal cut the Johnstown lead to one.
Plus, when they needed it the most, the power play clicked in a big way. Thomas Jarman, who had the last power play goal, connected on Maryland’s last power play of the day to put Johnstown away. While they can now start anew with the extra man, the Black Bears were 0-for-36 on that front before the goal. Not without trying, as many of the attempts from the power play was missing the net or getting blocked. That’s when things were going right, as some missed zone entry attempts slowed the power play from getting set up.
Penalty taking was another thing that needs the address and while the penalty kill has been played solid this year (9th in the NAHL), you can’t rely on them to continuously bail you out. Sometimes you can’t control how the referee’s control a game at all with doling out extra-curricular things; but being careful with stick infractions is a thing the player’s can control.
A big shot in the arm was the addition of forwards Josh Waters and Josh Nixon. Both Waters and Nixon played solid in their debuts, with Waters playing well off the puck on the forecheck and Nixon gathering two assists on the weekend. Waters came to the Black Bears after Dartmouth College suspended their season, while Nixon joins the team after playing with Sioux City in the USHL last year. Miles Gunty from Team Maryland 16U-AA program also saw time this weekend, mixing it up more on Saturday than Friday; but showed off some board work in that time. A final addition was Karsten Bourgoine from the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild (who also suspended their season), but as a back-up goalie– didn’t see anytime in net outside of warm-ups.
And you have to wonder when Bourgoine or any back-up will see some time, as Michael Morelli has taken over the crease for the Black Bears. Not only has he played in six-straight games, but with four straight wins; it’s almost his spot to lose. In this six game span, Morelli is 5-1-1 with a 2.30 GAA and a .929 save percentage. The key is to not wear him down too much, even though he has been very solid in this three week span.
Next up for the Black Bears is the New Jersey Titans, the team had gave them their only blemishes in this three weekend span. Both teams hold a regulation win and shootout win over the other in four games this season, with both regulation wins being a score of 5-3 on each side. It’ll be a war of attrition, but should be a closely contested weekend.