ODENTON, MD– In finishing their five games in eight days stretch, the Maryland Black Bears welcomed their rival from Western PA, the Johnstown Tomahawks, to The Den. These games were not without their drama, including a heartbreaker on Saturday night– but allowing the Black Bears to chalk up three out of a possible four points on the weekend.
FRIDAY JANUARY 28th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (4) vs. Johnstown (1): Donning their Military Appreciation jerseys, the Black Bears looked sharped aesthetically and looked determined mentally in order to shake off the bad vibes from Tuesday night. The game was also a celebration of Aidan McDowell’s 100th game as a Black Bear (99 regular season and one playoff), which is following his commitment to Stevenson University.
While the first period was a bit of a feeling out period between the two, the Black Bears finally got on the board first, as Ryan Bottrill was left alone in front and took a Branden Piku pass and put it behind Johnstown’s Matthew O’Donnell to make it 1-0 late in the first period. On the other end, Luca Di Pasquo was sharp for the Black Bears, stopping all 17 of the Tomahawks’ shots in the frame.
Maryland picked up the physical game with several big hits on Johnstown to start to assert themselves, while also using it to help their turnover numbers and transition those to odd-man rushes in the Johnstown end. The offense even came from the penalty kill, with a Jacob Brockman breakaway getting denied, but then leading to a Johnstown breakaway which Di Pasquo handled easily. Di Pasquo also fended off a wide-open chance from Johnstown’s leading scorer, Jake Black, to keep his slate clean. The Black Bears finally struck on their own power play, as Conor Cole found the puck off a Brockman shot and put it past O’Donnell to make it 2-0. It only took another 1:47 for Maryland to strike again, this time Elliott Lareau crossing the blue line and ripping a wrist shot past O’Donnell to make it 3-0. Trying to get one back on the power play, Johnstown finally broke the shutout with Zach Murray wired a shot from the circle past Di Pasquo to go into the locker room only down two goals.
Trying not to have a repeat of Tuesday, the Black Bears had to withstand a massive attack from the Tomahawks, while not getting much offense of their own in the third stanza. Goaltending and defense were huge for Maryland in the third, having to deal with 17 shots on goal, again, in the last frame. Maryland kept plugging away, getting some solid zone time thanks to Jack Blanchett’s ability to keep the zone at the point and use it to kill some time off the clock. With only a second left, Brockman seals the deal into the empty net to give Maryland the 4-1 victory. Di Pasquo made 43 saves in the win, with Piku registering three assists on the night.
SATURDAY JANUARY 29th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (1) vs. Johnstown (2) OT: The first period was a back and forth affair, as Johnstown and Maryland traded chances throughout the period. Both Matt O’Donnell and Luca Di Pasquo came up big for their teams to keep it scoreless. Maryland did get into some penalty trouble, which activated the Johnstown power play– but the PK and Di Pasquo did their jobs to keep the puck out of the net.
The rough stuff made an appearance in the second period, as both teams were getting their licks in, including Brad McNeil getting his lid knocked off and he got the penalty, as well as Aden Bruich using his size to let the Tomahawks know he’s there. However, Johnstown was buzzing towards the end of the frame, which turned into Egan Schmidt getting the opening goal with 5:41 left as he picked it up around the net and fired it past Di Pasquo for the 1-0 scoreline. Maryland tried to counter back on a late power play, but could not sneak one past O’Donnell through 40 minutes.
Maryland knew they had to press against the tight Johnstown defense in order to get the equalizer, but two penalties against them deadened the momentum a little bit. Luckily, the penalty kill was solid again, while also creating chances on the other end. The Black Bears also caught a break with a puck that appeared to go in– even having the goal judge light the lamp– but the referees determined otherwise, keeping the game at 1-0. Maryland would finally break through as Brad McNeil tipped Leo Schwartz’s shot to tie up the game halfway through the third period. Plenty of neutral zone play happened, as neither defense wanted to give up an inch late in the frame. Because of that, everyone got a point and the game went to overtime.
In the overtime, more back and forth play and neither team held possession for too long, totaling nine shots for the five minutes of action. It wasn’t until the very last season– literally– when Johnstown’s Jake Black got his 24th goal of the season, throwing a shot at the net as time ran out and beat Di Pasquo for the game winner. Maryland takes three out of four points on the weekend, as they end their five games in eight days stretch with six of ten points.
The Black Bears stay at home next week as Jamestown comes into town. Tickets are available at Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com through the Severn Bank Ticket Center.