ODENTON, MD– The last weekend of the regular season loomed for the Maryland Black Bears and they were able to have their last two games at home after a month on the road. The Black Bears needed all four points in order to assure themselves a playoff berth, but unfortunately came up short and will need help to get to their second-straight playoffs, as they split against the Jamestown Rebels at the week’s end.
THURSDAY, APRIL 14th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (3) vs. Jamestown (5): The start for the Black Bears was exactly what they wanted, as Elliott Lareau came down the left side and wired a shot over the shoulder of Nolan Suggs and gave Maryland the 1-0 lead only 2:23 into the first period. After the goal, the end-to-end action started to pick up, with both Jamestown and Maryland attacking their zones, trying to get the next goal and try to shift momentum; but neither team could find the back of the twine. A late penalty on Maryland would turn into the equalizer, as John Lundy picked up a rebound in front and put it past a sprawling Luca Di Pasquo to tie the game up at one.
Both sides started out quick for the second frame, but it was Jamestown who would break the tie near the middle of the frame, as Josh Burke jumped up in the play and got an Ethan Janda pass and put it behind Di Pasquo to give the Rebels the 2-1 lead. Despite the Black Bears creating their own chances, Jamestown pushed right back, causing havoc with their forecheck. Another penalty for Maryland during a Jamestown transition led to their third goal, with John Lundy keeping a clearing attempt in the zone, passing to Noah Szretter who found Jak Vaarwerk to snap it home and make it 3-1. Maryland would get within one-goal late, as Aidan McDowell picked up a loose puck, took it behind the net and found Conor Cole in the slot, as the captain put it home to make it 3-2 with 28 seconds left in the frame.
Maryland carried over the momentum from that goal into the third, pressing the Rebels to start the frame. They would get the equalizer with Aden Bruich finding Lareau streaking down the slot and putting home his second of the night to tie the game. While Maryland was pressing after the goal, including a power play, they couldn’t figure out how to get another one past Suggs. Even with all the pressure, the Rebels would get the next goal, as Tyler Stern deflected a point-shot from James Miller in front to make it 4-3 and get his first NAHL goal. Jamestown clamped down defensively, not letting Maryland get to prime scoring areas and clogging up the neutral zone. With 20 seconds left, Kolby Amici put it into an empty net to give the Rebels the 5-3 win and clinch a playoff spot for Jamestown.
FRIDAY, APRIL 15th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (2) vs. Jamestown (0): Knowing they needed a win in order to better their chances at a playoff berth, the Black Bears were on the attack and locked down the Rebels offense for the better part of the 60-minute affair. Creating more chances in the first, the Black Bears could not get any past Noah Suggs in the first stanza. However, the Black Bears defensively held the Rebels to only five shots in the first, many of which Michael Morelli was able to snag easily.
The Black Bears continued to press onward, trying to break the ice. They almost broke through in the first part of the period, as Aden Bruich drove to the net and put it over Suggs shoulder, but the referees determined the net had come off the moorings before the puck crossed the line, keeping the game scoreless. Another prime chance from Maryland happened with a two-on-one from Ryan Bottrill and Conor Cole, but Suggs flashed the leather, denying Cole of the opening goal. Finally, the Black Bears would make one count, with Bruich taking a shot off the half-wall, Suggs kicked out the rebound to the stick of Brad McNeil who made no doubt about it and put the Black Bears up 1-0. Late in the frame, Morelli– who didn’t seem much work up to the last 90 seconds of the second period– make four big saves, sprawling out in his crease, stacking his pads, and kicking out deflections to keep his sheet clean to end the period.
Maryland clamped down even more in the third period, only allowing three shots on Morelli in the frame, while also creating a counter attack to try and get some insurance for their one-goal lead. The defensive pressure turned into offensive paydirt, as Ryan Bottrill picked up a loose puck from the Rebels and led the rush before dishing it over to Matthew Davies who beat Suggs and made it 2-0. The Black Bears then shut it down, pinning pucks against the boards, cycling the puck down low in their zone, while also not letting much get past them in the neutral. All of that combined for the Black Bears to end the regular season how they started– with a shutout victory.
Maryland now waits to see if they’ll make the playoffs, as Northeast had three games in hand going into the weekend. Should Northeast lose in regulation once or in overtime or a shootout twice; the Black Bears will get the fourth-seed again.