ODENTON, MD– After three weeks off, the Maryland Black Bears took the ice to kick off 2023, hoping that there wasn’t too much rust on them heading into the new year. After a slowish start, the skill and depth of the Black Bears was on display, as they were able to take both games from the Maine Nordiques and kick off the 2023 portion of their schedule with a sweep.
FRIDAY JANUARY 6th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (6) vs. Maine (2): Sensing a bit of rust from three weeks off, Maine took it to the Black Bears to start, pinning Maryland in their zone for a bit to start off the game. William Hakansson didn’t seem to mind, turning away the attempts from the Nordiques and giving the rest of the team a big boost to get back into game play. After an initial flurry, the Black Bears got on the board with Samuel Stitz corralling a rebound off his deflection from a Christian Catalano shot and putting it past Thomas Heaney to make it 1-0 Maryland. Maine still continued to press, but the Black Bears and Hakansson withstood that, while also getting some offensive mojo back in the second part of the period, but went into intermission up 1-0.
The Black Bears came out firing in the second period, notching the 2-0 goal only a minute and a half into the frame with Adam Schankula tipping a Kaleb Tiessen shot into to give the Black Bears a two-goal lead. The Black Bears kept the pressure on and tried to extend the lead to three, but Maine was able to get on the board midway through the period with Nick Bernardo finding a seam through a multi-level screen to sneak one by Hakansson to cut the Black Bears lead in half. Maryland responded well with more firepower at Heaney and finally getting a cash-in with Hunter Ramos notching his 13th of the season after Brayden Stannard led the pass over to Ramos for a mini-break that Ramos didn’t miss on to make it 3-1. A late power play for Maryland added to their lead with Sean Kilcullen jumping up in the play and batting home a loose puck for his sixth of the year with under a minute in the period for a 4-1 Black Bears head going into the intermission.
In the third, the game was a bit more of a back-and-forth like the first period, both teams getting sustainable time in their offensive zones. There was a bit of penalty trouble for Maryland, but the penalty kill was able to keep the threats away from Hakansson and kill off the disadvantage. Captain Brad McNeil got into the party with his 10th of the season putting home a rebound while getting hit in front of the net to put Maryland up 5-1. Maine tried to get back into it late in the period with Alexey Yarmulnik making it 5-2 off a transitional rush play, but the Black Bears would seal the deal late on Schankula’s second goal of the night into the empty net and giving the Black Bears a 6-2 win.
SATURDAY JANUARY 7th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (4) vs. Maine (3): Maryland got out to a better start on Saturday, getting plenty of offensive possessions to start; but Kael Depape was standing tall in net for Maine. While things were falling for Maryland, Maine got a solid bounce for the first goal, as Laurent Trepenier got the last touch on a bouncing puck to give Maine the opening salvo. Maryland had plenty of chances after the goal, but still couldn’t find the back of the twine to tie up the game, going into the intermission down.
Much like Friday, the Black Bears got on the board early in second with Christian Catalano breaking his eight-game goal drought after picking up his own rebound of a shot that hit the post and putting it past Depape to level the score. The Black Bears kept on pressing, getting plenty of opportunities on the power play early, but could not get the go-ahead goal just yet. It wasn’t until the second power play in the period where Kal Essenmacher picked up a rebound from Brad McNeil’s big drive to the net to give Maryland their first lead of the game. Late in the frame, however, another bouncing puck eluded William Hakansson and the Black Bears in the crease with Jonny Meiers getting the credit for the game-tying goal.
With a carry-over power play, Maine took control looking to carry their momentum into the third and they were able to take the lead with Henrik Hallberg getting a feed in the slot as the power play expired to put Maine up 3-2. Maryland put pressure on, as they were awarded a power play, but couldn’t beat Depape; which led to the Nordiques trying to add to their lead, but the Maryland defense shut them down. Maryland was able to get some sustained pressure offensively after a Maine wave, tying the game thanks to Hunter Ramos putting home an Adam Schankula rebound for his 14th of the year. Each team would exchange power plays, but be unable to convert, going into the last five minutes of the third knotted up. With under five remaining, Catalano picked up the puck from Trayce Johnson behind the net, went end-to-end for another highlight reel goal to give Maryland the lead once again. Though Maine pressed towards the end, the Black Bears defense was stellar to hold onto the lead and take four points this weekend in a sweep of the Nordiques.
The Black Bears will now travel to Danbury to take on the Jr. Hat Tricks Friday and Saturday nights.