ODENTON, MD– It was 147 days since the Maryland Black Bears touched the ice at Piney Orchard, but the time has come for a new season where hope springs eternal in the chase for the Robertson Cup. But to be the team, you’ve got to beat the team with the team now being the defending Robertson Cup champions in the New Jersey Titans. Familiar foes on opening weekend, but the Black Bears kicked off their fifth anniversary season in strong form with a weekend sweep of the champs.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 9th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (4) vs. New Jersey (2): It was an inauspicious start for the Black Bears, as New Jersey struck less than a minute as William Hakansson got tangled up behind the net and trapped there, as Ryan Novo tipped home a Eric Charpentier shot to make it a 1-0 scoreline. Maryland would strike back not long after, as Jesse Horacek came streaking down the wing and was able to pot one past Ben Charette to level the game. Maryland kept pressing, as captain Brad McNeil got in on the action with a tip off a Christian Catalano shot to gain the lead for the Black Bears. Hakansson settled down the rest of the frame and came up with some key saves in order to keep the Black Bears ahead going into the first intermission.
Business picked up on both sides with plenty of physical play, some of it going over the line– as it was a penalty filled frame in the second. Maryland would cash-in on the power play on their third attempt of the period with Elliott Lareau putting it home after great possession down low by Dimitry Kebreau and Quinn Kennedy to create the third goal for Maryland. It wasn’t until late in the frame when New Jersey got within one, as Charpentier got and outlet from Charette and beat Hakansson high glove to make it a 3-2 game just before the intermission.
The late goal didn’t affect the Black Bears going into the third period, as Hunter Ramos would help regain the two-goal lead with a great one-timer from a Samuel Stitz feed to make it 4-2. The forecheck was aggressive all night, clogging the lanes when they needed and not giving the Titans much to work with. Hakansson came up big late in the game to secure the team’s second-straight opening night win by a score of 4-2.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (3) vs. New Jersey (1): With first night jitters out of the way, both teams were able to play a tighter first period of play. Hakansson had some big stops early for Maryland, including two point-blank saves to keep the game scoreless early. The Black Bears had plenty of zone time in the middle of the period and the pressure paid off with Stitz cleaning up the garbage in front and sliding it behind Zakari Brice to give the Black Bears a 1-0 lead. The pressure kept going, as Catalano was able to weave through the defense to set up Horacek, but the puck rolled off Horacek’s stick and was unable to extend the lead for Maryland.
Chippiness continued through the series and into the second with plenty of matching penalties and even the coaching staffs were getting a little friendly verbally with each other. Maryland did get into some penalty troubles on their own, with some roughing, slashing, and too-many-men calls against them. One of those calls would even up the game, as Johnny McMahon ripped one home off the wing to beat Hakansson to tie the game at one. With a power play late, Maryland cashed in with the extra man again as Luke Van Why threw a seeing eye shot at the net and Adam Schankula got the drive-by tip in front with 2.6 seconds left to give the Black Bears the 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
Maryland was able to goad New Jersey into some penalties with their speed and getting into lanes and with great movement on the power play, they gained a two-goal lead with Sean Kilcullen getting his first of the year off a great set-up by Catalano and crushed it behind Brice close to the midway point of the period. Tempers flared with Schankula was driving the net and was shadowed by Sylas Oberting, who guided Schankula and tossed him into Brice. Ryan Novo and Brendan Dumas looked for Schankula after with Novo, Dumas, and Schankula getting major penalties and game misconducts. The Black Bears didn’t cash in on the majors, but they were able to keep the lead and sweep the weekend with a 3-1 final and their first opening weekend sweep in team history.
Up next, the Black Bears head to Blaine to take part in the NAHL Showcase starting on Wednesday.