The first weekend back of the new year for the Maryland Black Bears ended up in a split in New Jersey. With a month off between games, the Black Bears looked solid off the hop on Friday. Though, the less said about the Saturday match-up, probably the better, but we digress.
The star of the weekend had to be newcomer Jack Brackett, who had four goals on the weekend in his first games in the NAHL. Brackett comes to the Black Bears after RPI cancelled their season due to COVID and Brackett needed a place to play. The former Powell River King showed off his skill even with being off for 11 months between game action. His ability to find the puck in the offensive zone and create scoring chances in the smallest of areas is a nice addition for the Black Bears moving forward. A great first impression for the Manassas, Virginia native.
A point of concern, especially on Saturday, was the turnovers in the defensive zone. I believe it was twice on Saturday that turnovers directly turned into goals for the Titans. Errant passes up the middle of the ice from the defensive zone and less than optimal breakouts led to the turnovers. On top of that, Saturday showed that the Titans looked to stretch the ice a lot, which didn’t get picked up too well by the Black Bears defense. It was very similar to the December 4th game, where the Titans stretched the ice and got a 6-1 victory over Maryland.
You’ve got to feel for Michael Morelli in the Saturday game, letting up all nine goals due only due to protecting the recent signee in Klayton Knapp, who was called up from NAPHL 18U Tri State Spartans. Morelli did play well on both days, but the bounces seemed to be against him on Saturday more than Friday. He had his number of highlight reel saves and probably kept the Titans from putting up double-digits on the scoreboard. With a short week to get ready, hopefully Morelli can put this in his rear-view quickly.
There was one thing that I didn’t understand was the extracurricular activities when the game was well out of hand. I could see the Brad McNeil fight being viable– the Black Bears were down 4-1 and maybe could have sparked a comeback. However, the Titans scored right off that faceoff from the fight– and it should have ended there. Grady Friedman dropping the gloves due to just normal play in front and Garrett Szydlowski getting into it right after didn’t make sense to me. It was 8-1 and 9-1 respectively and seemed like fighting for fighting sake and could have resulted in injury and possible suspensions. Just seems like a frivolous thing to do when it’s that out of hand, no need to make it more out of hand.
To end on an up note, the power play looked very solid. While they only connected on one goal out of the four they had on the weekend, they did create a lot more chances and had plenty of possession within their offensive zone. Whatever adjustments made were a welcome change and let’s hope this can carry onward through the season.
Up next, the Black Bears head to Maine for an unusual Thursday night/Friday afternoon schedule for the first meeting of the season between Maryland and the Nordiques, as well as the first weekend of the home-and-home weekends coming up. It should a solid match-up between the two, especially with Maine leading the division and the Black Bears being six points behind in third place. Both teams have six wins in their last ten games and the Nordiques will be happy to see someone other than the Northeast Generals, who they’ve played their last eight games against due to travel restrictions in the Northeast US.