ODENTON, MD– In the first of what will be many important weekends to come, the Maryland Black Bears welcomed the Northeast Generals to The Den for control of first place in the East Division early in the season. Thanks to the specialty teams of Maryland, the Black Bears were able to sweep the Generals and take sole possession of first place.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (6) vs. Northeast (2): Knowing that Northeast is prone to having quick starts, Maryland had to get ahead of that curve and dictate the pace of the game. It took 6:17 for the Black Bears to strike first, as Dylan Wegner got a Jacob Brockman pass and put it behind Cameron Kuntar for the early 1-0 lead. It took all of 27 seconds for Maryland to score again, as Jesse Horacek tipped a Philip Törnqvist shot in front to make it 2-0. The Black Bears kept the pedal to the floor, creating chances time and again, not giving the Generals time or space to move. The period ended with Brad McNeil using his body positioning in front to pick up a Vlad Polegoshko shot and bury it for the 3-0 lead.
Northeast started the second with an early power play, but Michael Morelli was strong in net to keep it a three-goal game. That changed with Adam Smith’s shot getting past Morelli to make it 3-1. Maryland kept pressing, though, trying to regain the three goal advantage– which happened near the half-way point of the frame. Aden Bruich’s forecheck helped Maryland get possession and as he threw it around the zone, Törnqvist picked it up and found the net to make it 4-1 and ended the night for Kuntar. Northeast needed to get things going, which happened at the end of the period when David Andreychuk came out from the corner to sneak one past Morelli to make it 4-2.
While the third period didn’t have many shots on goal– six for each side– Maryland made theirs count. First, on the power play Törnqvist loaded himself up and hammered home his second of the game after a well place pass by Luke Van Why to make it 5-2. The physicality picked up on both sides of the puck, with Northeast trying to spark something to get back into the game. However, Maryland added another dagger with Ryan Bottrill picking up a loose puck created by another solid forecheck by Bruich and Laker Aldridge and sniped home his fourth of the year to make it 6-2, which ended up as the final. Morelli stopped 22 shots in the victory.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 9th 2021: BLACK BEARS (4) vs. Northeast (1): The second game of a sweep is always the hardest for the team that won the night before. Maryland saw that as Northeast came out in a more tighter checking role than Friday night, dictating the physical and offensive side of the puck. Luca Di Pasquo was tested, but kept all 14 first period shots out of the net. Despite a couple chances by the Black Bears, it remained scoreless after one period.
Maryland got into some penalty trouble in the middle of the second, but an upside to that is having a solid penalty kill who can create offense. They added to their league lead in shorthanded markers with Trayce Johnson getting puck on the blue line after a 2-on-1 from Miles Gunty and Ryan Bottrill and firing it past Jed Baliotti to make it 1-0 for Maryland. Northeast tried to get any equalizer, but Di Pasquo and the defense kept them at bay. With under four minutes remaining in the period, Bottril picked up the puck and sped down the wing, keep the play wide, before cutting towards the net and finding a streaking Conor Cole to put it home to extend Maryland’s lead to 2-0.
The Black Bears knew they needed to finish strong and under five minutes into the third, they went up by three with Branden Piku, through a mass of humanity, deflecting the puck from his knees behind Baliotti to extend the lead. Maryland continued to press for more offense while protecting Di Pasquo’s clean-sheet bid, but late in the period; a Maryland penalty allowed the Generals to pull the goalie for a 6-on-4 power play and led to David Andreychuk to put home the power play marker and cut the Black Bears lead to 3-1. It was for naught, as the Black Bears kept the Generals to the outside and then used their forecheck to create an Elliott Lareau empty netter to seal the game at 4-1. Di Pasquo made 33 saves for his second win of the season.
While the forechecking was solid, the offensive was moving the puck around, the speail teams was a huge factor in this weekend. The power play went 2-for-5 and seemed to know where to filter their chances. The penalty kill went 10-for-11, while creating a number of chances and cashing in on one of them. While you don’t want to have your PK out on the ice a lot, Maryland has the tools to flip the script if given the chance.
Maryland will take first spot outright with a 7-3-2 record as they go to Jamestown for the first time since January 25th, 2020 to take on the Rebels in another crucial East Division match-up