MIDDLETOWN, NJ– After a heartbreaking weekend last week, the Maryland Black Bears looked to get back into the win column with a tilt against the division leading New Jersey Titans. While Friday night looked promising for the first half of the game; the weekend only yielded a single point, as Maryland was swept by New Jersey.
FRIDAY, MARCH 18th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (3) at New Jersey (4) OT: An inauspicious start to the game, as New Jersey gets offensive right off the hop. A 2-on-1 developed between Chriss Carroll and Levante Keresztes, and while Luca Di Pasquo stopped the initial rush, Anthony Califiore followed up and put the rebound home to give New Jersey the 1-0 lead only 56 seconds into the frame. The Black Bears woke from their slumber, as they created more chances the other way from the likes of Aden Bruich and Laker Aldridge, but Ben Charette was equal to the task. Right after the media timeout, Maryland won the corner battle and Tyler Young skated into the slot off the bench in time for a Elliott Lareau pass to reach him and Young buried it for his 11th of the season to tie the game. New Jersey tried to get their lead back, but Di Pasquo and the defense were strong and kept chances to a minimum. Late in the frame, the Black Bears got their first power play and made short work of it with Tyler Young coming off the half-wall and into the slot to wire home his second of the game and give the Black Bears the 2-1 lead right before intermission.
Another hot start for the Titans, as they got a couple of quick chances on Di Pasquo, but weren’t able to beat him. Conversely, the Black Bears shifted the ice their direction moments later, but Charette was strong to keep it a one goal game. Maryland was afforded another power play just before the halfway mark, and Tyler Young finished off his hat trick with a tap-in in front of the net and put the Black Bears up 3-1. It was the sixth hat trick in Black Bears’ history and first since Vlad Polegoshko’s hat trick in the NAHL Showcase in September. After the goal, the Black Bears took two penalties into the period, which is something they’ve had issues with doing throughout the past few weeks. Luckily for Maryland, the penalty kill was strong enough to hold the Titans at bay and keep the two-goal lead into the intermission.
More penalties hampered the Black Bears to start the frame and affected the scoreboard, as Michael Young found a loose puck at the side of the net just after the penalty expired to put the Titans to within one. The Titans kept pressuring the Black Bears, leaving very little options for Maryland to create any offense. Di Pasquo did what he could, getting peppered in net, making a big windmill save; but the inability to create a transition game proved to be costly. With the goalie pulled, Brendan Dumas hammered a puck from the top of the circle, it was deflected in front by a Maryland stick, and tied the game with 1:02 remaining in regulation. A late push by Maryland didn’t get the go-ahead goal and the Black Bears head to overtime for a second straight game.
The overtime almost ended early, as Tyler Young had a chance 18 seconds in, but couldn’t bury past Charette. The Black Bears held heavy pressure in the offensive zone after only mustering one shot in the third period. Unfortunately, the Titans took a rush the other way, Chris Carroll circled around the net to create room for Keresztes, who fired it into the open net to complete the comeback and give New Jersey the 4-3 victory after three unanswered goals to end it.
SATURDAY, MARCH 19th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (1) at New Jersey(6): New Jersey got right on the Black Bears to start the game off, jumping out to a 6-0 shot lead before Maryland was able to get any kind of puck possession. Discipline was a factor for Maryland in this game as well, starting with a hooking call that led to Michael Young’s power play goal, where Young picked up the rebound off a Ryan Coughlin shot to open the scoring for the Titans. Maryland had an extended power play, which included a short two-man advantage, but could not get one past Andrew Takacs. New Jersey got on the board once again on the power play, as a backhand by Anthony Califiore eluded Luca Di Pasquo and made it 2-0 Titans. The offense for Maryland was struggling, as they were only able to muster one shot at even strength and had three penalties in the first period.
With a carry-over double-minor power play, the Black Bears tried to start working on a comeback, but they only were able to get two shots on that four-minute extra man, not able to maintain much possession in their own zone. The offense tried to get something going, finally getting shots towards Takacs, but unable to get behind him. Close to the midway point, the Titans made it a 3-0 with Coughlin grabbing the puck off of multiple rebounds and front and tucking it into the cage. On a power play of their own, the Black Bears had a glorious chance with Branden Piku coming across the crease, but Takacs stuck the left pad out to deny him of the goal. With only 5:15 left in the frame, New Jersey made it 4-0 with Rocco Testa-Basi finding Brendan Dumas, who wired it home past Di Pasquo. Tyler Young tried to spark something for the Black Bears, getting into a scuffle with David Posma, but Young got an extra two for roughing to put the Black Bears on the penalty kill for a fifth time. After that was killed and with only four seconds remaining, a slashing call put the Black Bears shorthanded again and had it carry over into the third period.
New Jersey struck with that carryover, as Coughlin got his second goal of the game just sitting at the side of the net and shovelled in a Billy Feczko pass to make it 5-0. Minutes later, the Black Bears were able to break the shutout with Brad McNeil capitalizing on a sloppy turnover by the Titans and putting it through Takacs. Maryland tried to build off that goal, pressure the defense of New Jersey to get some turnovers in the zone, but they couldn’t find another goal in those sequences. Things went from bad to worse, as Laker Aldridge got a five-minute major and game misconduct after hitting Testa-Basi in the head along the boards. New Jersey took a penalty during that to make it 4-on-4, the another Maryland penalty made it 4-on-3, then 5-on-3 where Young got his second of the night after a cross ice pass from Posma and Young made no mistake to make it 6-1. That’s how the game would end, as the Black Bears drop a crucial game and only get one of four points on the weekend.
As they fight for their playoff lives, the Black Bears head to Maine next weekend where they’ll take on the Nordiques for the last time this season in a rematch of last year’s East Division Final.