Black Bears Split Weekend, Maintain First Place

ODENTON, MD– Riding a four-game winning streak, the Maryland Black Bears met the Northeast Generals at home for the second time in three weeks. Being atop the East Division, Maryland knew they were going to be tested by those chasing, which happened on Friday night in a loss; but they regained their swagger with a win on Saturday.

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

FRIDAY OCTOBER 22nd, 2021: BLACK BEARS (3) vs. Northeast (6): It was not the best start for the Black Bears. Northeast clamped down on them, much like they did on the second game of the series from two weekends ago. The Generals struck early with Paul Minnehan streaking on the weak side and had an easy tap-in off a Jared Scott pass to open the scoring for Northeast. With some untimely turnovers and overeagerness at the blue line caused some self-inflicted issues for Maryland, who weren’t able to get any sense of flow going offensively. Michael Morelli was solid after the goal, however, making some critical saves to keep the score at 1-0 until another turnover led to Scott breaking down the wing, losing his stick– but able to kick it over to Minnehan to make it 2-0 at the end of the period.

There were issues off the ice, as the scoreboard at Piney Orchard was malfunctioning by not running as it should. Constant problems caused the staff in the scorer’s box to go above and beyond with cell phone timing and continuous announcements of the time to keep the in-house audience and teams aware of the timing.

Maryland got started early in the second, create a couple of chances in the offensive zone and on the power play, but couldn’t yield a goal. That changed, as Dimitry Kebreau got a pass from Aidan McDowell, cut across the crease, and put it home for his first NAHL goal and to cut the Northeast lead in half. Northeast extended their lead just after the halfway point, as Kyle Schroeder found a loose puck in the slot and buried to to make it 3-1 Northeast on the power play.

Knowing they had to get the next goal, Maryland started to push, though it didn’t start that well. A couple of turnovers had Morelli tested, but he was able to hold Northeast at bay. The Black Bears kept getting their chances, with Elliott Lareau and Miles Gunty with some solid chances. It wasn’t until the line of Aden Bruich, Brad McNeil, and Laker Aldridge battled away in the offensive zone, keeping possession until finding Bruich in front for the second goal for Maryland. After a Bruich penalty, he got out of the box, created a turnover and a 2-on-0 with Lareau, but Cullen DeYoung was able to get a blocker on the give-and-go to keep it a 3-2 game.

After that rush, Northeast put up their fourth goal with a David Andreychuk shot through traffic to make it 4-2. Morelli was pulled for the extra attack and Northeast kept Maryland to the outside. Douglas Friberg was able to nail an empty netter to make it 5-2 Generals. The ensuing faceoff had Ryan Bottrill win the face-off, feed it to Kebreau, who buried his second of the game to cut the lead to 5-3. With the extra attacker on again, Brent Keefer put home another empty-netter to make the final 6-3 Northeast; snapping the Black Bears four-game win streak.

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

SATURDAY OCTOBER 23rd, 2021: BLACK BEARS (7) vs. Northeast (3): With a slow start dooming the Black Bears Friday, they got on the offensive quick to be able to dictate the play. Just 58 seconds into the game, Laker Aldridge got Maryland on the board after finding a rebound from Kevin Scott’s shot and put it past Cullen DeYoung to make it 1-0. While things started to get chippier, Northeast and Maryland traded chances, with Luca Di Pasquo making some key saves for Maryland. With 4:02 remaining, Miles Gunty took the puck over the blue line and let it rip past DeYoung for his first NAHL goal to give Maryland the 2-0 lead. Scary moment for Maryland as Aden Bruich was hit from behind in front of the Northeast bench and had to leave the game. It’s the fourth time this season Bruich has been hit from behind. There was no penalty on the play.

The second period started with more chippy activity with Maryland being the beneficiary of a missed call on a cross-check to a Northeast player. Philip Törnqvist’s heavy shot hit Ryan Bottrill in the back with Bottrill on the screen and then caught a linesman in the head on a dump-in. Northeast got on the board as Matt Boczar took the puck off a face-off to beat Di Pasquo and cut the lead to one. Nearing the midway mark, Maryland went back up by two goals when Branden Piku threw a dart to Connor Bennett for a breakaway and Bennett’s first NAHL goal. However, Maryland would give Northeast a gift with a turnover in their own zone on a power play, leading to a Brent Keefer shorthanded goal. With the Generals on the attack, Di Pasquo made a big glove save to allow Maryland to keep the lead heading into the second intermission.

While Maryland had a power play to start the period, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Piku evened it up. As Piku came out of the box, he joined the rush where Aldridge found him on the wing and Piku put it behind DeYoung to make it 4-2 Black Bears. Maryland wasn’t so luck in their next penalty, as Northeast’s Paul Minnehan found the back of the net on the back side to make it another one-goal game. Maryland kept pressing to regain the multi-goal lead, which happened after Piku found Conor Cole, who delayed enough to find the open spot amd make it 5-3. Both teams battled, with their shot counts being even at 18 in the period– but Maryland would net two empty-netters from Aldridge and Dimitry Kebreau to make the final 7-3 for Maryland and give them the split on the weekend.

The Black Bears head on the road for next weeeknd, with their first trip to Danbury on the season to face the Jr. Hat Tricks.

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