Black Bears Kick Off Long Week With Split in Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN, PA– Heading into a five-game in eight days run, the Maryland Black Bears started their travels in Western PA with a trip to visit the Tomahawks again. After a dominant showing on Friday, the Black Bears had a bit of a set-back on Saturday; leading to a split weekend. 

File Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

FEBRUARY 17th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (4) at Johnstown (0): The Black Bears got off to a relatively early start, as they put a barrage of shots on Alec Rajalin-Scharp to start the game. They were able to break through just over seven minutes in when Trey Scott snuck down from the point and buried his fourth of the year from a great feed by Gunnar VanDamme to make it 1-0 Maryland. The offense would continue for Maryland, as they peppered the Johnstown net. It wasn’t until 13:26 into the frame when Branden Piku cut through the zone to go backhanded on Rajalin-Scharp and made it a 2-0 Black Bears game. Maryland had some penalty trouble, but the penalty kill and William Hakansson were strong to the task and kept it a 2-0 game going into intermission. 

Starting in the second period, the Black Bears put a stranglehold on Johnstown, not letting them in the zone for too much time and limiting them to only three shots in the middle frame. Conversely, the Black Bears were continuing to maintain zone time and get quality chances on net. One of those chances is one that Piku buried for his second of the night, cutting across the top of the circles and ripping home his 16th of the season. That goal was also momentous as it was Piku’s 100th career point in the NAHL, all of them with the Black Bears. 

As this rivalry goes, things got a little heated towards the end of the second. Christian Catalano got railroaded into the boards, causing captain Brad McNeil to step up and take on Ethan Perrault in front the benches. Right after the face off, Brayden Stannard and Johnny Ulicny got into a fight which the referees deemed staged, thus ending their nights entirely. All of this within the last two minutes of the game. 

While the rough stuff continued into the third, so did the Black Bears lockdown of their defensive zone, allowing only four shots in the third despite two power plays going Johnstown’s way. The Black Bears put the dagger into Johnstown with under 90 seconds to play as Kaleb Tiessen put away his sixth of the year off a great pass from Sam Stitz to make it 4-0, which is how it ended. Hakansson would need only 13 saves for his third shutout of the season; tying Luca DiPasquo for most in a single season for the Black Bears. 

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 18th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (2) at Johnstown (4): Johnstown was ready for the Black Bears to start Saturday, bringing more offense than they did in the last two periods of Friday’s game. However, William Hakansson was equal to the task and kept the Tomahawks at bay. Maryland had a sandwich period of solid offense in the start and end of the period, while scoring a goal that sparked some controversy due to Johnstown goalie Adam Johnson being tied up with Maryland forward behind the net when he played the puck. Playing to the whistle, Branden Piku threw the puck at the net and Dimitry Kebreau put home his 19th of the season through the Johnstown defenders clogging up the crease. 

Johnstown kept the pressure going at the start of the second, creating a turnover in front of Hakansson, resulting in Ryan Panico tying the game 2:30 into the middle frame. Tensions remained high through this game, with Maryland converting on their first power play in the 2nd period with Luke Van Why ripping one home past Johnson to give Maryland the lead just over five minutes into the frame. However, Johnstown was able to keep their forecheck strong and created a neutral zone turnover and Panico was the recipient of another goal to tie the game again just past the midway point. Less than two minutes later, Johnstown would win a board battle in the corner and Drake Albers potted a diving goal coming out of the corner into the middle of the ice to put Johnstown up 3-2. Back to that tension, as the end of the second Saturday resulted in plenty of extracurriculars leading to more penalties and misconducts. 

While Maryland tried to get the equalizer, they were unable to find a spot behind Johnson and Albers got his second of the game with an empty netter to down the Black Bears 4-2 and leading to a split of the weekend between the two rivals. 

The Black Bears now travel to Hollydell, New Jersey on Tuesday night to take on the Philadelphia Rebels in a mid-week showcase.

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