ODENTON, MD– Coming off a bye week, the Maryland Black Bears got back on home ice to take on the Maine Nordiques. With four of the first six games between these two being decided by only one-goal, it was going to be a tight weekend of play. Both days proved that in different ways, with the Black Bears splitting the weekend in their last regular season meeting with Maine.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 10th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (0) vs. Maine (1): In yet another tight game between these two teams, it previewed what could be an East Division playoff match-up. For the first 40-plus minutes of the game, it was scoreless. William Hakansson and Kael Depape were solid in net for Maryland and Maine respectively, while both sides did have their chances through the first two periods. Both teams had two power plays and both teams killed their penalties. Maryland had a slight edge in the shot column, but Maine was creating more odd-man chances in transition the other way.
It was the third period where things picked up, both sides having some solid chances and plenty of shot blocks in their defensive zone. Both Hakansson and Depape stayed sturdy in net, while both sides had issues trying to get the puck out of the zone. It wasn’t until 1:15 remaining in the third when Maine intercepted a clearing attempt from the Black Bears and Aidan Coupe was able to find the back of the net for the Nordiques. With the goalie pulled in the final minute, the Black Bears couldn’t find the back of the net despite the rebounds created from shots and Maine shut out the Black Bears for the second straight meeting between the two.
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 11th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (5) vs. Maine (4) OT: The start for the Black Bears on Saturday wasn’t the best, as a bouncing puck around the ice found the tape of Oliver Genest who put it behind William Hakansson to make it 1-0 Maine. Maryland tried to press back, but Maine would get another goal just 2:04 late with Anthony Achillie cut through the offensive zone and outwaited Hakansson to make it 2-0. Only 4:12 after that, Filip Wiberg picked up the puck and put it through the five-hole of Hakansson to make it 3-0 in the first half of the first period, ending Hakansson’s night in favor of Jack Wieneke. Despite a big save from Wieneke on one of his early shots, Maryland took a penalty in the middle of the frame, resulting in Aidan Coupe sneaking backdoor to hammer it behind Wieneke to make 4-0. After the media timeout, the Black Bears got on the board off the faceoff with Christian Catalano snapping one home from the top of the circle for his 24th of the year.
In the second period, Maryland found their footing offensively, though they couldn’t get anything behind Thomas Heaney. However, the creation of offense was far and away better than what they did in the first 20 minutes. Yet, bad bounces that went against the Black Bears stymied them and kept the game at 4-1 after 40 minutes.
With an early power play in the third, Maryland cut the lead in half with Luke Van Why creeping down the wing and getting a centering feed from Branden Piku to make it a 4-2 game. Four minutes later, Van Why would strike again with a hammer from the circle after a good dump-in by the Black Bears to cut the Maine lead to only one. The blue line kept on contributing, as a power play in the middle of the frame allowed Kaleb Tiessen to hammer a one-timer from the tops of the circles and tie the game at 4. Each team jockeyed for offensive attempts, but neither could find the net in regulation, so it was to overtime we go.
It only took 22 seconds of overtime for the player who started the rally to end it, with Van Why taking the face-off win from Brad McNeil and the pass from Catalano end-to-end, finding the back of the net to complete the hat trick and the comeback victory. It was the eighth hat trick in franchise history, first hat trick by a Black Bears defenseman, and the second of the season.
The Black Bears travel to Johnstown next weekend to take on the Tomahawks, the first meeting between these two teams since the middle of November.