ODENTON, MD– In their final match-up against Johnstown in the regular season, the Maryland Black Bears looked to clinch a playoff spot with at least two wins on the weekend. Maryland got greedy and took at three games to sweep the weekend and clinched a berth into the Robertson Cup playoffs.
It also marked the head coaching debut of Kim Weiss, who is the associate head coach for Maryland, but was taking over as acting head coach due to the absence of Clint Mylymok.
FRIDAY MARCH 17th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (6) vs. Johnstown (1): The Black Bears jumped out to an early offensive push, with solid puck movement and decent chances at even strength and shorthanded, but nothing got by Adam Johnson in the first half of the period. Just past the midway point, Christian Catalano got things going with a big wrister behind Johnson to give Maryland the 1-0 lead. A late power play put the Black Bears in the driver’s seat with Luke Van Why hammering home a one-timer for his 13th of the year and a 2-0 Maryland lead. However, 32 seconds later, Johnstown would get on the board with David Matousek putting home a rebound to cut the Black Bears lead in half going into the 1st intermission.
In the second period, the Black Bears’ offense exploded starting 2:33 into the period with Caleb Craven, who was moved to forward due to roster constraints, having all the patience in the world to outwait Johnson and put a backhand home for his first NAHL goal and gave Maryland a 3-1 lead. Discipline was a factor for Maryland late, but the Black Bears responded with a shorthanded goal from Catalano, who picked up his own rebound off a mini-breakaway to make it 4-1 for the Black Bears, giving Maryland their 14th shorthanded goal of the season. The pressure continued with Brad McNeil notching his 15th of the year at the side of the net thanks to Maryland’s relentless puck movement putting them up 5-1. To end the frame, Sean Kilcullen fired home his eighth of the season off great passing from Adam Schankula and Kareem El-Bashir to give the Black Bears a 6-1 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Penalties reared their ugly head for Maryland in the third, with four straight calls against the team. However, the penalty kill and William Hakansson were solid in their own end and held off the power play from Johnstown to preserve the 6-1 lead, then into the 6-1 victory to start off the weekend series. Hakansson made 24 saves in the victory.
SATURDAY MARCH 18th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (5) vs. Johnstown (1): Knowing what they were up against, the Black Bears got things going 41 seconds in with Hunter Ramos notching his 19th of the season with a power move to the net and ripping one past Alec Rajalin-Sharp for the early Maryland lead. The offense for Maryland kept control of the period with great work around the offensive zone while protecting William Hakansson and the defensive zone. With under five minutes remaining, Kaleb Tiessen got on the board with a wicked wrist shot from the left circle to make it 2-0 for the Black Bears.
Maryland continued their hold on the offensive zone, with plenty of pressure and shots towards Rajalin-Sharp. They were able to tally their third goal with Adam Schankula getting sprung by Kareem El-Bashir allowing Schankula to go forehand, backhand, and into the net for his ninth of the year to give Maryland the 3-0 lead. The only blemish on the Black Bears was a turnover in their own zone off the breakout, allowing Maryland-native Will Lawrence to put home his 11th of the season and make it a 3-1 game. The Black Bears shook that off and controlled the offense to the end of the second period, but went into the locker room with the 3-1 lead.
The offensive dominance continued for Maryland, holding the puck in the Johnstown zone for the majority of the period again. They would regain their three-goal lead with El-Bashir putting home his fifth of the season on a nice wrap-around after a lead pass from Schankula allowed him to use his momentum around the net and into a 4-1 lead. It wouldn’t stop there, as Riley Ruh was able to power home his fourth of the year behind Rajalin-Sharp to make it 5-1 for the Black Bears. After that, things got plenty feisty on both sides with five players– three for Johnstown, two for Maryland– receiving 10-minute misconducts with under six minutes to play in the period. Despite that, Hakansson went on to record 14 saves in a 5-1 victory for the Black Bears.
With that win, the Black Bears were able to secure a playoff berth into the Robertson Cup playoffs, their second playoff berth in franchise history.
SUNDAY MARCH 19th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (6) vs. Johnstown (1): Jack Wieneke got the start on Sunday and faced some solid shots from Johnstown early, but a couple of big saves on top notch shots kept the game scoreless early. The feistiness kicked off in game three with Magnus Gadowsky and Zach Hixon getting into it with Gadowsky getting the decision. That sparked the Black Bears with Brad McNeil opening the scoring with a strong push to the front of the net and picking up the rebound for his 16th of the year. Maryland got into penalty trouble late in the 1st, but were able to hold off the attack and go into the intermission up 1-0.
It only took 10 seconds in the middle frame for Maryland to strike, with Jesse Horacek taking a misplayed puck by Adam Johnson and putting it into the open cage to make it 2-0 Black Bears. Their only power play in the middle frame, the Black Bears made short work of that with Adam Schankula tipping a Dimitry Kebreau shot that then trickled past the line for a 3-0 Black Bears lead. After that, more fisticuffs with Raymond Perrault and Ryan Vellucci getting into it with a stalemate decision. Johnstown would get some life, peppering the Maryland net, but Wieneke was strong and kept a clean sheet through 40.
Johnstown finally got on the board on the power play with Anthony Galante tapping one in at the side of the net to make it 3-1. However, Maryland didn’t let it get to them, as they withstood a surge from Johnstown, but turned it into a power play goal themselves with under five minutes to play. Horacek would find a rebound off a Gunnar VanDamme shot for his second of the game and a 4-1 lead. Only 20 seconds later, Samuel Stitz would notch his 10th of the year with a rebound off a scrum in front to make it 5-1, while Kareem El-Bashir would finish the scoring with 1:08 remaining with a great, patient play to rip home his sixth of the year to give Maryland the 6-1 win. Wieneke made 35 saves for the victory.
The Black Bears are back home this Friday and Saturday against the Northeast Generals. Tickets are available at Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com to get the hottest ticket in AA County.