Two Thrilling Games Gives Maryland Three Points in Maine

LEWISTON, ME– In the last meeting between the Maryland Black Bears and the Maine Nordiques, both sides created very exciting hockey, with barely a dull moment to be had. With both games going to the shootout, Maryland was able to take three of four points on the weekend for much needed points on the weekend– winning Friday and dropping a heartbreaker Saturday. 

File Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

FRIDAY, MARCH 25th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (6) at Maine (5) SO: A quick start by both sides to kick off the series, as each side used turnovers to their advantage and used a transition game to create chances. Maine was able to strike first after a transition, with Patrick Schmiedlin taking a cross-zone pass from Aidan Connolly to beat a sprawling Michael Morelli and give the Nordiques the early lead. Penalty trouble struck Maryland not long after, as that boogeyman came back to haunt the Black Bears. While the penalty kill was able to get a couple of clears, the Nordiques used their transition game again to catch Maryland flat-footed allowing Schmiedlin to come through the slot and get a pass to put behind Morelli for the 2-0 league. The Black Bears responded moments later, putting pressure on Gus Holt which ended with Adam Schankula potting his first NAHL goal off a rebound at the side of the net to cut the lead in half. While Maryland looked to pick up momentum, the Black Bears had another penalty called against them and Maine made little time as Brendan Gibbons tipped home a Nick Bernardo point shot to put Maine up 3-1. Undaunted, the Black Bears fought back, creating more chances, including a Branden Piku backhand chance, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Maryland got one to fall as Leo Schwartz got his first NAHL goal with a great shot from the point to cut it to a one-goal game again. Maryland was able to draw a penalty and made short work of their power play with Aidan McDowell hammering a shot home only nine seconds into the power play to tie the game going into the first intermission. 

Maryland got out of the gates early in the second, creating plenty of chances in front– but blocks and stops stymied them for a time. They would break through with Ryan Bottrill never giving up the puck in the neutral zone and finding Elliott Lareau in the slot to give the Black Bears the 4-3 lead. The Black Bears continued to press with Bottrill all over the puck, creating chances, and keeping possession for the Black Bears. Bottrill and Connor Bennett would have solid chances, but could not beat Holt. Just after a media timeout, Maine would tie it up after Maryland turnover at their blue line led to a break and ended with Jonny Meiers finding the loose puck and putting it through a mass of humanity in front to even up the game. The Black Bears took back the offensive prowess, using their forecheck to their advantage in the second frame, which created plenty of space and led to Bottrill winning a board battle and ripped one home over Holt’s shoulder and regaining the Maryland lead.  The penalty kill was tested at the end of the frame with a high sticking double-minor and thanks to some big saves from Morelli and timely blocks leading to clearing the pucks out of the zone, Maryland kept the lead at the end of the frame. 

Maine looked to even the score again in the early part of the third, but Maryland penalty kill was able to kill the rest of the penalty and Morelli made a huge save on a minor breakaway to maintain the Black Bears’ lead. While Morelli was able to make a couple more big saves, the Nordiques’ pressure was too much and Gibbons was able to redirect a Zion Green shot to tie the game up again. Maine continued to pressure, but Morelli was huge with two big saves. At the other end, Holt was not to be outdone with a big save on Schankula  on a breakaway. Brad McNeil got in on the action, as Morelli was down and out, but McNeil played goalie to keep the game tied and pushed it to overtime. 

In the overtime, both Maine and Maryland took their chances until a boarding call on Maryland gave Maine’s power play a chance to win it. Morelli and the penalty kill stayed strong and kept the puck out of the net to move to a shootout. Maryland started the shootout with Jack Blanchett potting home the first goal. Maine tied it up with their second shooter Reese Farrell, but it took until extra shooters for Conor Cole to tuck it passed Holt and Morelli with a big pokecheck on Gibbons to give Maryland the crucial two points on Friday. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 26th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (2) at Maine (3) SO: The physical play was on display early for both sides, as the hits were coming from both sides of the ice. While both sides created some offensive chances, neither were able to find the net early in the frame. It wasn’t until the middle of the period when Miles Gunty tipped a Conor Cole shot in front off the face off to give the Black Bears the early lead. Maryland got a power play right after the goal, but it was Maine who created a top chance shorthanded thanks to some miscommunication, but Luca Di Pasquo was able to keep that chance at bay to keep Maryland up in the first period. 

Maine took the role of aggressor offensively in the second period, creating plenty of chances and really keeping the play in their zone. Even with a power play, they were able to get pucks on Di Pasquo, but couldn’t get it by him. Even a shot from the side of the net that looked to go in was batted away by Trayce Johnson to keep the 1-0 Maryland lead. Pressure would pay off for the Nordiques after the midway point, as a Maryland turnover turned into a couple of chances for Maine and resulted in the first NAHL goal for Seth Murch, who ripped it off the post and in to tie it up. Moments later, another Maryland turnover due to a solid Maine forecheck created a goal after Caden Pattison found the loose puck in front and put it home to put the Nordiques up 2-1. Maryland was able to knot the game back up after a transition through the neutral zone resulted in a bit of a broken play, but Conor Cole was able to pick up the loose puck in front and put it home. Maine’s forecheck was still causing Maryland problems, as they looked to take the lead before period’s end, but Maryland was able to make up for the turnovers quickly, withstand pressure, and draw a late power play. However, they were unable to cash in, going into the locker room tied. 

The Black Bears started to counter the Maine forecheck, able to get the puck out of the zone and create some chances for themselves in the early part of the frame. A couple prime chances for Maryland missed everything and hit the window, while a couple were deflections in front. Maine adjusted as needed and pressured Maryland more to create bad passes from the Black Bears, but Di Pasquo and the defense were able to recover. It became a neutral zone battle for the latter part of the third, Maine and Maryland switching off chances, but neither finding the back of the net. 

An early penalty on Maine gave Maryland a power play and it appeared they almost ended it on what could have been Cole’s second of the game. However, a goalie interference from Adam Schankula made the officiating crew discuss and call it a no-goal, making the Black Bears come back on the ice after they had left for the locker room. Neither team could score after that, pushing it to a second straight shootout. In that, Jonny Meiers of Maine scored the only goal and Maine took the extra point and a split of the weekend. 

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