Black Bears Weekend Takeaways: December 11th at Johnstown

Photo by Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

What was supposed to be a two-game set turned into a frenzied one-game affair. The overtime loss salvaged what otherwise was a very subpar game from the Black Bears. If anything, it felt like the previous Friday’s game against New Jersey where the Black Bears got outworked and it wasn’t until the end of the game did the offense finally got started.

First and foremost, the play of Michael Morelli in net to keep the Black Bears in the game for the first 57 minutes of play was astounding. Morelli has been the work horse in net and this game was a culmination of how well he’s play in the first 15 games of the Black Bears’ season. While I was assured that he wouldn’t get hurt flailing around as he does, it still worries me when he makes one of his dramatic desperation saves that he might pull or strain something in those attempts. Either way, Morelli has been a great bright spot for this squad in net this season.

Defensively, there were still some hiccups when it comes to dealing with turnovers in the Black Bears’ zone, including dealing with the opposition’s forecheck and creating enough havoc to cause turnovers. While it could be adjusted by being quick with their breakout passes out of zone, It’s all a matter of timing and hopefully when the team regroups, the transition game will be a little swifter as they head into the 2021 calendar year part of the schedule.

On the other side of the puck, there’s not much to write home about. Aside from the last 2:31 of regulation and maybe the first five minutes of the second period, the offense had some struggles. Only 11 shots in the first 40 minutes doesn’t usually bode well for many teams, especially with only three shots from the first 20 minutes of the game. As mentioned prior, it seemed like this Friday’s game was like the previous weekend’s game against New Jersey where the offense didn’t look so stellar until the second half of the game and couldn’t get much going until they figured out the forecheck early. It’s not like they can’t produce because once one goal goes in, the Black Bears get that quick shot in the arm and they wake up. It’s a matter of waking earlier and getting on the opponents early so they don’t get behind.

Special teams were a mixed bag. The penalty kill did very well going 3-for-3 on the night, the 0-for-5 mark on the power play is something that still is concerning. The upside is that they did move the puck around better in this game, they tried out more things on their power play and tried different looks, which is something that hasn’t usually happened because of their inability to get into the offensive zone in the first place. Some progress with the extra man, but still waiting for consistent power play scoring for this squad.

The Black Bears are now off until January 1st when they are schedule to trek up to Maine and take on the Nordiques. Obviously results may vary when it comes to the pandemic, but one can hope things keep going smooth and games are able to get in during their schedule times.

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