Black Bears Maintain First Place With Sweep Over Danbury

Photo via @JrHatTricksNAHL

DANBURY, CT– Coming off a split weekend against Northeast, the Maryland Black Bears traveled to Danbury for a weekend afternoon set against the Jr. Hat Tricks. Game One had frantic pace in the last frame, Game Two had frantic pace in the first frame, but Maryland stood tall and were able to get the sweep.

Overshadowing the weekend, however, was the injury Aden Bruich in Game Two. With 15:05 remaining, Bruich was on the backcheck when he tried to initiate a hit in the corner of the Black Bears defensive zone. The Danbury puck carrier stopped after he dumped the puck into the other corner to avoid the hit and Bruich went crown-first into the glass. Bruich was on the ice for several minutes as EMS tended to him. He did sit up before being stretchered off, with both teams going to his side as he left and then a moment of reflection by both sides at center ice before play resumed. Bruich was responsive and moving his extremities as he was going off the ice.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (4) at Danbury (3) OT: In the first meeting of the season between the two, the first 40 minutes didn’t yield much in the way of scoring. The first period, Maryland were more aggressive offensively with a 16-5 shot advantage, but Michael Morelli was tested in those five shots, showing that the time between shots wasn’t spend getting cold in net.

The tempo started to even out in the first five minutes of the frame, as Maryland and Danbury exchanged end-to-end rushes, putting Morelli and Danbury’s Adam Johnson on their toes. Midway through the second, Maryland got themselves into penalty trouble with three straight penalties. However, their calling card for the year has been solid penalty killing, which they did on all three to keep the game scoreless.

Business picked up early in the third period, as on a delayed call, Philip Törnqvist crashed the net, following up on an Aden Bruich drive to the net and put home the rebound to make it 1-0 Maryland. Danbury answered 31 seconds later with Jake Howard throwing a shot off the side wall through a maze of people to tie the game at one. The Jr. Hat Tricks did get into penalty trouble, giving Maryland a two-man advantage, which they capitalized on. Ryan Bottrill pounced on a Laker Aldridge rebound into the yawning cage to make it 2-1 Black Bears. Maryland kept pressing for the rest of the power play, but Danbury scored right after it expired with Mike Salandra putting Danbury even with Maryland.

The Black Bears tried to shift the momentum, creating plenty of top notch opportunities at Johnson, but he did not falter during that barrage. However, Danbury persisted and with Maryland unable to get it out of their zone, Ben Biester got the puck down low and patiently cut across the top of the goal mouth and put it home to give Danbury the lead with just over half a period to play. The game could have turned bad for Maryland moments later when a turnover just outside of their zone led to a Danbury chance, but Morelli kept his team in it. The Black Bears tied the game after Dimitry Kebreau took advantage of a Danbury defender blowing a tire following a Luke Van Why alley-oop pass, leading to Kebreau putting it past Johnson to tie the game. Despite chances late, both teams would earn a point.

In the overtime session, Maryland sustained possession and pressure for 40 seconds on a delayed call to Danbury before Conor Cole set-up Törnqvist for his patented one-timer to take the game 4-3 and push Maryland to 11 wins on the season. Morelli made 21 saves in his seventh win of the season.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (5) at Danbury (0): Maryland carried over their scoring from Friday afternoon right into the first period of Saturday afternoon’s contest. After a headbutt by Danbury’s Boris Skalos to Philip Törnqvist, Maryland went on an extended power play. Thanks to great movement around the perimeter, the puck found Conor Cole’s stick from Sean Kilcullen and Cole made no mistake to put Maryland up early. Maryland carried the play in the offensive side, where three and a half minutes later, Elliott Lareau tapped in his third of the year after Ryan Bottrill came down the left side, pulled up, and found Lareau on the other side to make it 2-0. Jesse Horacek found the net three minutes after that, picking up the rebound from a shot by Lareau to make it 3-0. The eventful first ended when Bottrill got his own goal, splitting the Danbury defense and putting behind Adam Johnson to cap the period at 4-0 for Maryland and ending Johnson’s day.

Mustering only one shot in the first, Danbury tilted the ice in their favor in the second, creating plenty of offense, as well as drawing penalties to keep the Black Bears penalty kill working. However, Luca Di Pasquo played solid in the period, fending off screens and tracking the puck well to keep Maryland in the lead. The Black Bears were only able to get five shots on Josh Seeley in the frame.

After the Bruich incident, both teams seemed to be going through the motions at the start. Danbury get on the attack quicker, with Di Pasquo facing some tough shots; but he was in control, playing his angles and smothering rebounds to keep Maryland’s lead. Late in the third, Bottrill picked up the puck in the corner, wrapped around the net and found Branden Piku in front for the tap in to make it 5-0; the eventual final score. Di Pasquo stopped all 26 shots against him for his first NAHL shutout.

The sweep is the third in the last four weekends for Maryland and has them maintaining the East Division lead. Maryland returns home next weekend to host the Maine Nordiques. Tickets on sale now at the Severn Bank Ticket Office at Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com.

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