ODENTON, MD– Another match-up of the top two teams in the East Division was showcased this weekend with New Jersey coming to visit the Maryland Black Bears. After splitting every weekend in 2022 so far, the Black Bears were only able to find the back of the net once in the week, leading them to being swept on home ice for the first time in the 2021-22 season.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 18th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (1) vs. New Jersey (4): The Titans got on the Maryland defense quickly, testing Luca Di Pasquo by getting behind the defense and creating top chances for themselves, but nothing to show on the scoreboard. Defensive zone coverage would be an issue in the first part of the period, but Maryland would get the offense going against former Black Bear Andrew Takacs, but Takacs would turn away the chances for Maryland. The Black Bears would then go shorthanded the rest of the game, as Laker Aldridge got a game misconduct for being an aggressor for a fight against Coleman Nee, when Nee didn’t want to be a willing participant. Maryland’s PK was strong in killing the major penalty, while also getting some chances for themselves. Going to the break, it would be scoreless.
Maryland killed off the last part of the major, while also drawing a penalty for themselves to get their first, and only, power play of the night. However, the bad breaks started on this power play, as New Jersey turned a bobble at the blue line by the Maryland power play into a shorthanded goal, as Michael Young took a Ryan Coughlin pass and beat Di Pasquo to make it 1-0 New Jersey. The Black Bears offense would try to rebound after the goal, sustaining more pressure in the zone, but the Titans would strike again as on a transition, Levante Keresztes would go for a skate around the zone, coming out in front for a shot on Di Pasquo. The rebound would go off of Maryland’s Conor Cole shin pad and into the net for a 2-0 Titans’ lead. Undaunted, the Maryland offense kept pressure on Takacs, sustaining possession in their offensive zone for almost three minutes straight, hitting two crossbars in that time frame. However, the bad beats happened as the Titans finally got out of that pressure and were able to turn it around with Ryan Coughlin taking a Nick Ring pass and making it 3-0 on Coughlin’s ninth of the year and creating a deflating moment for the Black Bears after their sustained zone time.
Finally in the third, Maryland would strike five minutes in with Brad McNeil taking a nice pass from Dimitry Kebreau and firing home his sixth of the season off the wing to cut the Titans’ lead to 3-1. Maryland would follow up with more zone time, but couldn’t seem to get much quality chances on Takacs that would create rebounds. The constant pressing allowed the Titans to get behind the Black Bears’ defense, leading to Tommy Bannister getting a breakaway and turning it into a 4-1 Titans lead. Following that goal, the Black Bears would try to find holes in the Titans defense and get shots on Takacs; but none would pass, as the final buzzer sounded to give the Titans the 4-1 victory.
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 19th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (0) vs. New Jersey (3): Maryland got off to a solid start, getting some zone time for themselves in trying to get the offense kick-started, but it was short-lived, as New Jersey started to create some havoc for the Maryland defense when the Black Bears were trying to break out of their zone. That led to a penalty against Maryland, which they killed off– then the offense was able to draw a penalty. The Black Bears couldn’t get much clicking on their power play, which led to a late penalty called on Maryland to cancel it out. On the second power play for New Jersey, Levante Keresztes was unchecked in front of the net and got the puck with plenty of time and put it behind Luca Di Pasquo to give the Titans the early lead. Maryland showed signs of life in the offensive zone towards the end of the frame, but Andrew Takacs stood tall in net to keep it 1-0 through 20 minutes.
The Titans took control of the game in the second. They were hard on the forecheck and were able to stymie any clearing attempt the Black Bears made. They cut the ice in half and made it hard for Maryland to do anything in the neutral zone. New Jersey took that extended zone time to their advantage, as they struck again with former Black Bear Anthony Mollica wiring a shot from the side boards through a screen to beat Di Pasquo and make it 2-0. Even though they had a late power play, the Black Bears offense couldn’t muster many shots– only registering four in the second stanza.
Sensing the urgency, the Black Bears finally started to attack more in the offensive end. Plenty of chances down keep, some sustained pressure on Takacs, and even a shot off the post from Elliott Lareau, but Maryland couldn’t find the back of the net to get back into the frame. They had some more defensive issues, with a couple turnovers in the frame, but Di Pasquo was able to keep the team in it, as well as other Black Bears able to come back and cover for their teammates. With Di Pasquo pulled, however, the Titans were able to secure a 3-0 lead with an empty net wrap-around by Michael Young on the power play. Despite a last push to break the shutout, the Titans held off the attack and took the 3-0 win and sweep on the weekend.
The Black Bears will head to Johnstown for a three-game set from Thursday until Saturday against the Tomahawks, who are only three points behind the Black Bears for second place in the East Division.