Following a pair of 4-1 losses to the Maine Nordiques this weekend, the Maryland Black Bears are fighting for their playoff lives in an attempt to win the East Division. While four of those goals from Maine were with an empty net, the Black Bears couldn’t find a way to break through offensively for more than a goal a game.
In Game 1, most of the action happened in first period. After a boarding minor to Jack Hillman, the Nordiques used the power play to its almost full time before converting with James Philpott finding the puck on the right face-off circle from a deflected shot to shoot it past Hannes Kollen for the first goal of the game. Maryland tried to get back the goal, but Maine would go up by two goals with Luke Antonacci scoring almost from the same location; going over the blocker of Kollen to make it 2-0. It was the third time in the last four games the Black Bears had gone to a 2-0 hole. Josh Nixon was able to get the Black Bears on the board with a goal from the slot thanks to the forecheck from the Black Bears.
Maryland got off to a quick start, trying to push for the equalizer. Despite the push, they were not able to break through Tyriq Outen in net during the second period. Kollen was able to get a lot of action, stopping three straight breakways in the frame, keeping Maryland in the game for the moment. The Black Bears got off to a quick start in the third period, as well, but were unable to get the equalizer before Maine was able to get two empty net goals to seal the Game 1 victory for the Nordiques.
Knowing they needed a win to not go down two games to none, the Black Bears needed to hunker down for Game 2 of the series. While they tried to push the pace a bit, the first period was a bit of a neutral zone battle. Not many top chances coming from Maryland, as Maine kept the Black Bears to the outside. In the second frame, the Nordiques dealt with some penalty troubles, but thanks to their ability to limit Maryland’s advances to the middle; no goals were tallied.
After Maine’s second penalty of the period, they found their first goal after Stefan Owens found Isaiah Fox streaking to the net and Fox put it to his backhand to beat Michael Morelli to open the scoring. Maryland went back on the power play not long after that and pepper Outen with shots, but the 6’3 Tampa native was equal to the task. With 5:01 left in the period, Patrick Schmiedlin put on what looked to be a harmless wrister, but it found an opening and went past Morelli for another 2-0 lead for Maine.
The third period got a little more physical as Maryland knew they needed to take some risk and make some plays, while Maine countered with some big hits and plays of their own. Almost seven minutes into the frame, Nixon and Maine’s Caden Pattinson got into it behind the Nordiques net and continued jaw-jacking in the penalty boxes, leading to ten-minute misconducts on top of their two minutes for roughing. Maryland continued to push, try to break into the Nordiques’ fortress, including a Luke Mountain breakaway and Hillman ringing a shot off the post. The Black Bears broke through with three minutes remaining from a Brad McNeil tip from a Philip Törnqvist shot to cut the lead to one. However, Maryland couldn’t find the equalizer and gave up two empty net goals to drop Game 2 by the same score as Game 1; 4-1.
The only task now for Maryland is to win every game. These games could have went either way and Maine did a great job keeping Maryland to the outside and not allowing many second chance opportunities. When Maryland was pressing Maine on the forecheck, they were able to create a bit of havoc on in the offensive zone and turn it into quality chances. Trying to break through on the power play is something that’ll be needed, as the Black Bears went 0-for-6 with the extra man this weekend. Getting traffic in front will be another thing to do, as Outen was able to see the majority of the shots thrown at him.
But it’s time for some home cooking. It’s time to have the crowd behind you and take it a game at a time, a period at a time, a shift at a time. They aren’t going to win three games in a single night, so time to break it down bit-by-bit and then let the pucks fall where they may. The series isn’t over until one team wins three games in the series– and I’m not great at math, but I don’t think Maine has reached that point just yet.