ODENTON, MD– Heading into the franchise’s second playoff appearance, the Maryland Black Bears looked to get things started on home ice in a big way. Friday night proved that, but Saturday night was a little tougher. Regardless of the situation, the Black Bears shone through and swept both games in Maryland, looking to close out the series in Northeast.
FRIDAY APRIL 21st, 2023: BLACK BEARS (8) vs. Northeast (2): A feeling out period for the first five minutes of the game saw little sustained action in the offensive zone for either side. Maryland would get a little more comfortable on home ice while taking the first lead in the series, with Gunnar VanDamme tallying the first goal of the playoff jumping up into the play and redirecting a Brayden Stannard cross-ice pass behind Cullen DeYoung to make it 1-0 Maryland. The Black Bears got into some penalty trouble in the middle of the frame, with Northeast making them pay for one with Joseph Schubert making a power move in front of the net to tie the game with 10:33 left in the first. The Black Bears would get a power play tally of their own with Samuel Stitz getting a deflection off a Sean Kilcullen shot to make it 2-1 for the Black Bears.
Northeast got into penalty trouble of their own in the early going, giving the Black Bears an extended two-man advantage. Maryland would cash in with Brad McNeil notching his first of the playoffs picking up the loose change in front of the net to make it 3-1 for Maryland. The Black Bears would keep pressuring the Northeast net with plenty of chances. It wouldn’t be until under the two minute mark when Stitz would pick up his second of the game with a rip from the slot past DeYoung to give Maryland the 4-1 lead going into the second intermission.
In the third, Maryland took over emphatically. Starting 2:04 into the frame with Dimitry Kebreau streaking down the middle and getting a great placed pass from Stannard to make it 5-1 for Maryland. Just under three minutes later, McNeil would notch his second of the game off a big rebound from a Hunter Ramos shot to put the score up to 6-1 for Maryland. In the middle of the frame, Ramos got on the board himself with a highlight reel goal, dangling through the neutral zone to make it 7-1. To close it out, Stannard– who had a great night setting people up– got his name in the goal column, getting his own rebound and putting it home for the 8-1 score. William Hakansson didn’t have much action against him, but made the saves when called upon, including a big windmill glove save later into the game. With under two minutes left, Northeast would notch their second goal of the game with Paul Minnehan making it 8-2, but that would end up being the final goal of the game giving Maryland the critical Game One victory.
SATURDAY APRIL 22nd, 2023: BLACK BEARS (3) vs. Northeast (2) OT: The Black Bears looked to continue their goal outburst from Game One and they did that just 3:03 in the first. On the power play, Sean Kilcullen potted home a redirected puck to beat Cullen DeYoung to give Maryland the early lead. Northeast would press after that point, getting quality chances on William Hakansson. Northeast finally broke through with a deflection from Ryan Schelling to level the game. However, 38 seconds later, Kilcullen intercepted a breakout pass and found Branden Piku, who cut through the defense and backhanded home his first of the playoffs and gave Maryland the lead right back. Maryland was not letting up, notching 26 shots in the first, but going into the intermission up 2-1.
Penalty troubles for Maryland didn’t matter to start the second, as they had a couple of shorthanded chances, but nothing to show from it. Though too many penalties did Maryland in, as Northeast’s Sixten Jennersjo ripped home a shot from the tops of the circles on a 5-on-3 advantage to tied the game up at two. The Black Bears would have plenty of chances down late, but DeYoung was able to keep the game even going into the second intermission.
More chances for Maryland as they piled on the pressure, but Brad McNeil, Hunter Ramos, and Branden Piku’s chances could not get through the defense or DeYoung. Northeast would have a big opportunity after Kaleb Tiessen got a major and game misconduct, but the Maryland penalty kill was up for the challenge and killed the major while getting a few chances of their own. McNeil, Ramos, and Kareem El-Bashir had glorious chances late in the frame, but all their chances went wide. With two seconds left, Northeast had an amazing chance, but the glove of Hakansson denied them, sending it into overtime.
A very back-and-forth at the start of overtime for each side, but yielded nothing as a result. Northeast had a power play just past the midway point, but the penalty kill and Hakansson would keep the game going. After the Maryland penalty, the Black Bears got a power play of their own. On the regrouping rush back into the offensive zone, Christian Catalano’s drive to the net was denied, the rebound came out to Trey Scott who threw it towards the net and Brad McNeil got the last touch at the side of the net to send the Black Bears’ fans home happy with a 3-2 overtime win and 2-0 series lead heading up to Northeast.
The series shifts to Attleboro for Games Three and, if necessary, Four on Wednesday and Thursday. If a Game Five is needed, it will take place Saturday April 29th at Piney Orchard. For ticket information, Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com is the resource you need.