In Battle of the East’s Best, Maryland Takes Three of Four Points

ODENTON, MD– Getting back from holiday break, the Maryland Black Bears didn’t wait to get into it, as they took on the top team in the East in the New Jersey Titans. With some highlight reel goals along the way and solid blocks defensively, the Black Bears were able to take three of four points in a weekend split. 

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

FRIDAY JANUARY 7th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (3) vs. New Jersey (4) OT: After 20 days of no hockey, both these teams took the ice and you could see that one shook off the rust a little faster in the first frame. The Titans took the play to the Black Bears to start, despite a good first couple shift for Maryland. New Jersey were able to get behind the defense a couple times and get odd-man rushes. Luckily, Michael Morelli was sharp and kept the Titans at bay to start the game. The Black Bears would wake up towards the middle of the frame and finally find the back of the net, as newly acquired Jack Blanchett came in from the point the wired on past Andrew Takacs for his first goal as a Black Bear. Maryland was able to control the pace in the latter part of the frame, but Takacs was able to keep it a one-goal game. 

Maryland couldn’t add to their strong finish, as New Jersey got onto the Black Bears early and their persistence led to them tying the game on an odd-man rush and Anthony Calafiore scoring as a trailer on the rush. New Jersey continued to press, so much that they drew a penalty at the mid-point of the frame. Maryland did give New Jersey some issues when it came to their power play, creating some shorthanded opportunities; but with some sustained pressure late, Stephen Willey was able to bank home a rebound in front, just as the penalty expired to give New Jersey their first lead. The Black Bears then started their attack, putting plenty of chances on the Titans defense, but went into the locker room down a goal. 

Just under two minutes into the third, Ryan Bottrill cut through the defense to get an initial shot, picked up a pass, went around the net a few times before putting home his ninth of the season, showing his no-quit mentality to tie the game. Moments after that, Tyler Young made the Titans defense look foolish, walking through the defenders and going top-shelf on Takacs to give the Black Bears a 3-2 lead. It was short lived, as Ryan Coughlin tied the game 20 seconds later on a rush off the face-off and seemingly catching the Black Bears flat-footed. Both teams battled back and forth, as the Black Bears took the offensive side of things in outshooting New Jersey 12-4 in the period and had plenty of chances late in the frame. Even so, regulation would not be enough for this game. 

In overtime, the Black Bears would have some chances, they would often have one attempt and New Jersey would take over possession from there. The possession game for New Jersey paid off, as Nick Ring finished the game after a great pass from Coughlin to stretch the ice and make the final 4-3 for New Jersey. 

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

SATURDAY, JANUARY 8th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (4) vs. New Jersey (2): It wasn’t the start that the Black Bears wanted, as 33 seconds into the game Brendan Dumas ripped one behind Luca Di Pasquo after the Titans sustained some pressure quickly in their offensive zone. New Jersey kept the pressure on, as they had a couple more chances against Di Pasquo, but the Michigan State commit was able to keep them at bay. The Black Bears got on the board midway through the frame, as Ryan Bottrill was able to find Tyler Young coming down the slot and Young finished it off to tie the game at one a piece. Thanks to the Young goal and late power play, Maryland was able to sustain plenty of pressure in the New Jersey zone, but the period ended knotted at one. 

The momentum did carry into the second frame, as Maryland took the lead 32 seconds into the frame with Miles Gunty pouncing on a rebound from a Laker Aldridge wraparound to make it 2-1 Maryland. While the Black Bears were still buzzing, a questionable charging call sent Maryland to the box and allowed Tommy Bannister to get the equalizer at 3:59 into the middle period. New Jersey tried to capitalize, but Maryland was able to hold them without a goal thanks to timely blocks by the defense in front of Di Pasquo, the Titans couldn’t get the go-ahead marker. The Black Bears weren’t without their chances late, as Leo Schwartz beat Andrew Takacs, but not the post; keeping the game tied as the second intermission hit. 

A tense third period has emotions boil over when Luke Van Why was on the receiving end of a questionable hit by Coleman Nee. Van Why was the recipient of a couple of questionable hits and Jacob Brockman took umbridge to this hit and jumped to the chance to battle and had a spirited affair with Nee, which resulted in him getting an extra two minutes and game misconduct for instigating. Maryland was able to kill off the penalty and re-energize themselves. It wasn’t until late when Maryland struck, first from Branden Piku getting a wraparound goal to get by Takacs for the go-ahead marker. Only 1:28 later, Bottrill finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play between himself, Piku, and Young to give Maryland the insurance marker. New Jersey pressured the Black Bears late with Takacs pulled, but couldn’t find the goal, making the final 4-2 and giving the Black Bears three of four points on the weekend. 

The Black Bears are off this weekend, but then travel to Jamestown for the start of their five games in eight days run starting on January 21st.

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