Black Bears Split Series in Maine

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

LEWISTON, ME– Meeting for the second straight weekend, the Maryland Black Bears this time went up to Lewiston, Maine to take on the Nordiques. A usually mild-mannered rivalry took a turn this weekend with plenty of rough stuff spreading over from Friday night into Saturday’s affair. At the end of the weekend, both teams took home 4-2 wins, with Maryland retaining their East Division lead. 

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 12th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (4) at Maine (2): In their third straight meeting, the Black Bears got off to a little of a slow start, allowing Maine to get the upper-hand offensively, as well as suffocating the Maryland breakout with their forecheck. Due to that, Maine was able to get the upper hand, as Jonny Meiers continued his hot streak against Maryland, as he ripped a shot from the top of the circle through a drive-by screen in front of Luca Di Pasquo, resulting in a deflection off a Maryland defender and in. The Black Bears were able to get things going after that, starting to find their offensive footing and pressure Gus Holt’s net. However, even with some solid chances in front, the Nordiques kept the lead. Maine increased their lead with Meiers again, this time he drove to the net and was able to fend off sticks in front and slide it past Di Pasquo to make it 2-0. Maryland got on the board late, as Elliott Lareau was patient across the slot and wristed one home to cut Maine’s lead in half. 

The second frame started a little dicey, as Di Pasquo lost the puck in his feet when trying to stop it behind his net, which made him take a tripping call in the madness that happened from it. With the penalty killed, the Black Bears continued their pressure, as they kept Maine in their own end, while really clogging up the neutral zone to stop any Maine counterattack. That effort would pay off with a textbook give-and-go between Dimitry Kebreau and Miles Gunty that resulted in Gunty’s second goal of the season and tied the game. Things really started to get wide-open with the referee putting his whistle away for a lot, as both Maryland and Maine got away with some noticeable penalties– which would come into play later on in the game. 

Maryland continued their offensive push in the third, as well as showing their defensive prowess. Kebreau used a second and third effort to get the puck out of the defensive zone and sprung Conor Cole for a two-on-one with Gunty, resulting in Gunty’s second goal of the game and giving Maryland the lead. Things really started to get chippy with Brad McNeil– who was snake-bitten offensively all game– and Reese Farrell got into a small tussle in the Maryland zone, then Matthew Connor hitting an unexpecting Black Bear in the neutral zone, which sparks plenty of ire from the Maryland bench. Luke Van Why would get the insurance goal with 45 seconds remaining, coming off the half-boards and putting it through Holt for the 4-2 lead. 

After that, things went to clownshoes level, as Cole and Meiers got 10-minute misconducts for a tussle before a face-off, then Connor Bennett and Zion Green getting into it, landing them a two for roughing and continuing altercation penalty. With only two penalties in the first 40 minutes and countless calls being uncalled; much of that boiled over and the loss of control from the officials came home to roost. Luckily, no one got hurt in all of it, but Saturday’s tilt might be much different. 

Di Pasquo had 15 saves in the win, which was his sixth straight win in net.

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 13th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (2) at Maine (4): The aggression continues into the beginning of game two, with more being called in the first frame. Even with each side having multiple power plays, neither team could cash in. Another scary hit by Matt Connor of Maine as he blindsided Matthew Davies, but Davies was able to continue. Luca Di Pasquo and Avery Sturz put on a show with the chances they had against them, Di Pasquo getting more high-quality chances against him. Because of their play, the game was scoreless after 20 minutes. 

More penalties for both sides in the second, as the referee seemed to want control over the game before it got to levels like last night. Maine struck first at even strength, as a turnover created at the Maryland blue line sprung Zach Whitehead, beat Di Pasquo to make it 1-0. One minute and six seconds later, while Davies went off for tripping, Maine used a strong breakout to beat the Maryland forecheck and ended with Patrick Schmiedlin going far side on Di Pasquo for the two goal lead for Maine. Schmiedlin then got himself an elbowing call, which allowed Maryland to go to work on their power play, which only took 12 seconds before Laker Aldridge picked up the Elliott Lareau rebound to cut the Maine lead in half. Towards the end of the frame, Maryland got to work on the power play again, this time with Ryan Bottrill finishing the play by finding open space in the slot and going high glove on Sturz to tie the game with 1:01 left in the second. 

Tempers had calmed in the third period, both teams knowing points were on the line. Maryland had plenty of chances, ringing plenty of shots off the post and the side of the net, but Maine did a good job of keeping the Black Bears to the outside and limited chances in close. Maine retook the lead midway through the period, as Jack Kurrle got his first NAHL goal, ripping one off the wing and going past Di Pasquo. Maryland tried hard to get the equalizer, but Maine was able to hold off the pressure and Kurrle got his second of the night on an empty net to seal the game 4-2. 

The Black Bears are off next weekend before hosting Danbury on November 26th and 27th at The Den. Tickets are available at Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com through the Severn Bank Ticket Center.

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