BLAINE, MN– This won’t be your typical weekly review. The Showcase being four games would be plenty of writing and not really give the proper service to what was shown out of the Maryland Black Bears this week. This Showcase showed what this Black Bears team is capable of and what we can expect out of this team going forward.
The team was adaptable and were able to fix things on the fly. Looking at Wednesday’s loss against Janesville, the big concern there was play in the defensive zone. All three of Janesville’s goals were a result of the Black Bears not being able to clear the zone and turning it over in their own zone. Maryland did stay in the game, got the equalizer late into the second, but also gave up another goal with under 90 seconds left in the frame, with Janesville’s last goal being the deciding factor.
On Thursday, some defensive changes were made and the Black Bears locked it down. They were able to keep El Paso at bay for the majority of the game. It also helps when they strike early and often, getting goals from their depth players; Dimitry Kebreau tallying two goals and an assist; while also getting scoring from the blue line thanks to Gunnar VanDamme’s two assists.
Friday was keeping pace with an elite program in Aberdeen. The first two frames were evenly matched and both teams were able to punch and counterpunch. Four unanswered goals were the difference, with Gabriel Westling and Adam Schankula having multi-point games and William Hakansson playing solid throughout to give Maryland a big 4-1 win, assuring at least a two-win Showcase; a tradition of this team.
However, they wanted that extra win and wanted it in grand fashion. Early start be damned, as the depth comes back for Maryland again. Kal Essenmacher got things going, Kareem El-Bashir netted two goals trying to cement an every-game slot in the line-up, VanDamme showing he’s an elite puckhandling blue liner. Not to mention Christian Catalano continuing his top-notch play and Sean Kilcullen quietly having a breakout start to his season. A big win against a Robertson Cup Final Four team from last year put the exclamation point at the end of this Showcase for Maryland.
To not be haunted by a late goal that was the game-winner and then turning it into two goals early in the next game, while also making sure those mistakes don’t become a frequent occurrence shows the quick growth and adaptation of this year’s team. Depth was shown with 11 different goal scorers and solid play from all three goalies who got into net. Maryland was 15/16 on the penalty kill, which is good, but to give up almost four power plays a game isn’t ideal; however, Maryland does know how to get offense from defense with several shorthanded chances throughout the weekend.
Last season ended terribly. Sure, they closed out the season with a win, but they didn’t hold their playoff fate in their hands thanks to losses earlier in the season. For the returning players, you have to think that is weighing on them and they are letting the newcomers know about it. This looks like a more determined Black Bears team, a team on a mission to make sure they don’t have to rely on anyone else to get to the postseason. While it’s only four games in a weekend, you can tell a lot by a team in that span, especially when it’s against four different opponents.
Maryland gets back to divisional play on Friday, travelling the Hollydell, New Jersey to take on the new look Philadelphia Rebels.