ODENTON, MD– After last weekend’s idle week, the Black Bears came back to the ice for their final regular season match-up knowing they were the first seed in the East and knowing who they’d take on in the first round. With that, the Black Bears rested some of their players on the weekend as they took on the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks. When all was said and done, Maryland took three of four points on the weekend heading into the playoffs on a positive note.
FRIDAY APRIL 14th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (2) vs. Danbury (3) SO: Giving Brad McNeil, Christian Catalano, Hunter Ramos, Sean Kilcullen, and Gunnar VanDamme the night off, that gave the depth of the Black Bears time to shine, as well as some tendered contracted players in Sebastien Brockman, Jack Darby, and Brody Simko.
Maryland was able to control some of the offensive play with plenty of shots at the Danbury net, but Thomas Kiesewetter was equal to the tasks in the early going. However, thanks to a turnover created by Jesse Horacek, the Black Bears got on the board first with Kareem El-Bashir picking up his own rebound and potted a backhanded shot over Kiesewetter to make it 1-0 Maryland halfway through the first. The Black Bears got a couple power plays later in the frame, but were unable to find the back of the net before the end of the first period.
Getting started early, the Black Bears made it 2-0 when the board work from Samuel Stitz and Riley Ruh ended with Gabriel Westling going backhand over Kiesewetter only 1:24 into the second period. Danbury started to get a little more active offensively, but William Hakansson was solid in the cage, with the Black Bears defense really keeping shots to the outside, making it easy for Hakansson to see and snag. While Maryland did have some power play chances through the period, they still had nothing to show as the game went to the second intermission with Maryland up 2-0.
In the third, the bounces went against the Black Bears. Starting 4:50 into the frame with Danbury getting on the board as Chase Sandu picked up a rebound that ricocheted off the back boards and put it into the net to make it 2-1. While Maryland tried to find an insurance goal, Kiesewetter was able to do all he could to keep Danbury in the game. His work would pay off for Danbury, as they would even the game on the power play with Logan Nickerson getting a bounce off a Black Bear defender’s skate to get past Hakansson to even the game. With both sides getting short power plays after that, neither could do anything with it, which put this game into overtime.
For the extra frame, Maryland dominated in part to a power play in the middle of the period. Unfortunately for the Black Bears, their attempts didn’t find the back of the net and Danbury held off the onslaught to force a shootout. In the skills competition, Danbury netted two of their three shots, while Maryland was blanked on their two attempts, giving Danbury the 3-2 victory.
SATURDAY APRIL 15th 2023: BLACK BEARS (3) vs. Danbury (0): On this night, those who sat out Friday jumped back in with Dimitry Kebreau, Trey Scott, Kaleb Tiessen, Luke Amell, and Brayden Stannard given the night off.
The game started not so great, as a double-minor was given to Maryland and they were instantly on the penalty kill. However, the Black Bears showed they were as lethal shorthanded by notching their 17th shorthanded goal as a team of the year thanks to Kareem El-Bashir carrying the puck deep in the zone, drawing the defenders, then finding Samuel Stitz out in front for his 11th of the season to give Maryland the 1-0 lead. Jack Wieneke was stellar in the first, making some solid saves to keep the score at 1-0 going into the break.
A back-and-forth second saw Danbury get some better quality shots, but Wieneke was able to turn them aside to keep his sheet clean. Midway through the first on a delayed call, Gunnar VanDamme found Branden Piku streaking down the slot, as Piku notched his 17th of the season to give the Black Bears a 2-0 advantage. Tempers started to flare up a bit towards the end of the second, with both sides getting their shots in, while also getting some penalty time for their troubles, as well. Like Friday night, the Black Bears went into the second intermission up 2-0.
With three straight penalties, the Black Bears didn’t do themselves any favors. However, the penalty kill limited any chances by keeping the puck to the outside when it was in their defensive zone. The second half of the period, Danbury got into penalty trouble of their own, allowing Maryland to extend the lead. Riley Ruh picked up a loose puck in the slot and put home his sixth of the season to give Maryland the 3-0 lead. It was academic for the Black Bears at that point, by keeping the puck in their offensive zone; allowing only three shots on Wieneke in the third en route to the 3-0 victory.
The win for the Black Bears finished off their most successful season with 40 wins, top spot in the East Division for the regular season, among countless personal records set by the players this season.
Work doesn’t stop here, as the playoffs begin this Friday as Maryland will take on Northeast Friday and Saturday at The Den. Go to Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com to get your seats for this first round match-up, as the Black Bears search for their first Robertson Cup championship.