LEWISTON, ME– After a sweep at home, the Black Bears headed on the road to try and win the East Division against Maine. Knowing it wouldn’t come easy, the Black Bears used the momentum from their third period Friday into Saturday to split the weekend, but win the East Division Final three games to one and advance into the playoffs.
FRIDAY MAY 12th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (4) at Maine (5): The saw Maryland control the pace of the play for the start of the frame, considering they knew Maine would be throwing all they could at the Black Bears. William Hakansson was strong when Maine did have their chances in the early going, with some key saves on backdoor plays by Maine. Maryland would break the scoreless tie late in the first with Gabriel Westling getting a couple chances, but finally beating Kael DePape to make it 1-0. Less than a minute later, however, a turnover in the offensive zone gave Patrick Schmedlin the game tying goal in front. Maine would keep the pressure on with Henrik Hallberg getting the go-ahead goal for Maine off the rush and throwing it on net to beat Hakansson and make it 2-1 ahead of intermission.
Maine would give the Maryland defense fits in the second period, with their forecheck hampering the breakout attempts by the Black Bears. That forecheck created the third goal, with Brandon Gibbons extending Maine’s lead to 3-1. Emotions picked up with four 10-minute misconducts and two fighting majors going to both sides with Maryland trying to spark something. Later in the frame, Maine would go up 4-1 with Evan Orloff pinching in and collecting a rebound to put passed Hakansson before the second intermission.
The Black Bears would switch goalies with Jack Wieneke going into the cage for the third, maybe to spark something or to rest Hakansson for a potential Game 4. It definitely sparked the Black Bears with Christian Catalano scoring 2:37 into the frame with plenty of forechecking pressure and the puck finding Catalano’s tape for his second of the playoffs. Only 1:09 later, Kaleb Tiessen got the Black Bears to within one goal with his first of the playoffs. Wieneke would keep the Black Bears in it with some crucial saves, but Hunter Fetterolf found a bit of a hole after the midway point and made it 5-3 for Maine. Maryland didn’t get down and out as less than two minutes later, Hunter Ramos redirected a Sean Kilcullen shot to make it 5-4. However, with the goalie pulled, the Black Bears couldn’t find the tying goal and were forced to a Game 4.
SATURDAY MAY 13th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (8) at Maine (4): Coming off a strong third period, the Black Bears started off strong with Adam Schankula tipping home a Kaleb Tiessen shot after a great face-off win by Brad McNeil only 2:36 into the first period. Maine would come back not long after, with Laurent Trepenier tucking home a rebound behind William Hakansson to tie it up. Maryland only took 13 seconds before Riley Ruh would pick up a loose puck low in the slot and fire home his first for the 2-1 Maryland lead. Twenty-three seconds after that, Kareem El-Bashir took a 2-on-1 by himself and put a backhand home to make it 3-1 Maryland. Clearly in the driver’s seat, Maryland kept the pressure going and drew a penalty late in the frame. It only took seven seconds for Maryland to connect, as Branden Piku hammered home a one-timer from Sean Kilcullen to make it 4-1 at the buzzer for the first intermission.
Maine continued their second period from Friday night in Saturday’s game, pressuring the Black Bears defense and forcing them to make mistakes and killing any momentum the Black Bears were trying to make. Maine would cut the lead in half with Hunter Fetterolf connecting on a turnover for a 4-2 scoreline. The Black Bears would flip their switch and start getting sustained pressure in the offensive zone, which could restore their three-goal advantage with Gabriel Westling coming out from behind the net and ripping home a turnaround shot to make it 5-2 after two periods.
The Black Bears continued their third period dominance starting with Branden Piku putting home a rebound off a Westling shot to make it 6-2. Three minutes and 33 seconds later, the Black Bears would come on in transition with Brad McNeil dumping the puck into the corner for Hunter Ramos, who wrapped it around and banked a backhand off of Kael DePape’s should to make it 7-2 Black Bears. Maine wouldn’t go away, pressing the Black Bears until they made it 7-3 with under five minutes remaining and Kim Hilmersson putting one home to cut the lead. Aidan Coupe make it 7-4 with under two minutes remaining after a turnover in zone from Maryland led to the tally. However, Westling would seal the deal with a minute remaining into the empty net for an 8-4 victory and 3-1 series win.
The Black Bears have won the East Division and will head to the Robertson Cup final four where they will take on the reseeded third seed in Blaine, Minnesota. Stay tuned to Maryland Black Bears social media channels, @BlackBearsNAHL, for all the information on opponents and game times.