In the end, it just was not to be for the Maryland Black Bears. Thursday proved to be the final game of the Black Bears season, as they dropped Game 3 to the Maine Nordiques by the familiar score of 4-1 and drop the series three games to none.
Game 3 started big for Maryland, as off the hop you could tell that they knew what was at stake. Plenty of chances to start off the game and maintained possession in the Maine zone gave a pick-me-up to this team, who needed to find a way to win. However, 4:47 into the frame, Maine got on the board first as Stefan Owens got the puck out of the corner to Isaiah Fox, who got it to Andrew Noel and put it past Hannes Kollen. Maryland played undeterred from that, as they tried to keep the pressure going, which finally paid off. Chances in front of Tyriq Outen kept happening until Hunter McCoy was able to slide one past the 6’3 goalie to even the score in the first.
The second period saw Maine start to pace the Black Bears offensively, have more zone time and be able to get more chances on Kollen. Maine eventually got the lead back off a face-off win that got back to Matt Connor, who shot through a screen to give the Nordiques the 2-1 lead. After a late, borderline high hit by Kevin Scott, Maryland went to the penalty kill and almost tied the game up with Reid Leibold getting a semi-breakaway, but the puck would not cooperate and rolled off his stick. Tensions got higher, as Cam Gaudette and Caden Pattison got into a physical and philosophical discussion towards the end of the frame.
With possibly 20 minutes left in their season, the Black Bears started to press in the third. A couple of chances either got deflected on the pass or shot or the puck took an odd hop away from the intended receiver and went into the corner. Maine went up 3-1 when Maryland’s defense pinched a little too much and Jack Strauss took a 2-on-1 for himself and beat Kollen. The Black Bears still tried to push the play and the attack, but Maine’s shutdown defense was able to withstand the pressure and convert on a rebound in front as Pattison put the dagger into the season for Maryland with the 4-1 final.
For Maine, their ability to play the shutdown role in the playoffs have earned them a chance at the Robertson Cup next weekend and all the best to them in that.
For the Black Bears, it ends the most successful and promising season in the team’s history. With all the ups and downs this team had to deal with from sickness to injuries to regulations in their home county– they were able to make it a winning season, a playoff season, and get to the East Final. Heck of a job by this team and everyone who surrounded it, for doing their part to make sure this season was played smart, safe, and successful
Next week, the annual three-part season in review to review the season, bid a farewell to the graduating players, and my three wishes for next year.