Black Bears Weekend Takeaway: November 13-14 vs. New Jersey

Photo Credit: New Jersey Titans Twitter/@NAHLTitans

This is a new bit I hope to keep up with where I give an opinion of what I saw from the weekend’s Maryland Black Bears games. Rather than a regular game summary, this will be a bit of a Cliff Notes approach to it all.

Coming off of two weekend that were cancelled and much time off from practices, the Maryland Black Bears went into Middletown, New Jersey a bit rested and ready for game action. On top of the time off, the Black Bears were missing several key players form their line-up. After call-ups from Team Maryland and the Mercer Chiefs, the Black Bears did all they could against the streaking New Jersey Titans, but were only able to come out of the weekend with one point. What was good, what could be better, what’s what from this weekend in New Jersey

With many players out– Luke Mountain, Thomas Jarman, Jack Hillman, and Matthew Shanklin to name a few– the Black Bears still looked like a solid, cohesive unit. Getting reinforcements from Team Maryland in Collin Berke and Rory Gresham, while Jakob Grace came from Mercer; the team looked, on the surface, to have no missed a step from lack of game play. Gresham really took a step forward, logging solid minutes in Saturday’s game and looking like he could stay with this team for a bit if they needed him there.

It wasn’t just the call-ups, but guys like Brad McNeil, Hunter McCoy, and Grady Friedman really stepped their game up with a bigger role on the ice. With the like of Reid Leibold, Daniel Colabufo, and Garrett Szydlowski playing fairly well; the McNeil/McCoy/Friedman line stood out this weekend by causing turnovers, creating chances, and burying their opportunities.

Coming into the season, the power play was lacking in a big way. That trend continues, as the Black Bears are on a 21-attempt goalless skid with their last power play goal coming in the second game of the year, which was Jarman’s winner in overtime against Johnstown. That’s not to say there hasn’t been chances, the puck just doesn’t seem to bounce the right way for this team when they have the extra man. Time for this team to start creating their own luck when it comes to the power play moving forward.

There was a lot left to be desired for the defensive coverage this weekend. In Saturday’s game, there were a lot of times that the Titans were able to get behind the Black Bears’ defense and create odd-man breaks in on Michael Morelli. While Morelli did what he could, he shouldn’t be expected to face that many breaks as the defense gets caught pinching or unaware of the opposition creeping behind them.

Holding a lead was another issue from Saturday’s game, as the Black Bears led after the first 2-0, but couldn’t find a bounce to go in for another goal, which allowed the Titans to claw back to tie the game late Saturday and have it pushed to the shootout loss. Again– not without their chances, especially with two Leibold breakaways where the puck couldn’t cooperate with the ice or Leibold’s stick; but there were other times where shots were coming from impossible angles, which led to a change of possession.

That said, the spirit of this team never waned. They were down three going into the third period Friday and got two goals within 1:18 of each other and were buzzing for more. Saturday, they carried that momentum in the first period, got some back for the third, but just couldn’t get the two points for the victory in either game. Yet, for a team that had two weeks off, keeping the game close should give them some morale boost they could use during this time.

The Black Bears are back in their temporary home in Abingdon Thursday morning and Friday night against the Northeast Generals and hope to get back in the win column and end their four-game winless skid.

Notes and Thoughts From Another Weekend Pause

When I saw the news from Nathan Fournier of the Lewiston Sun Journal that the Maryland Black Bears and Maine Nordiques series this weekend has been postponed, it started to make the gears turn for me and what it would mean for the Black Bears. There’s been no reason given for the postponements of the last two weekend, but you have to wonder how much of it is COVID restrictions related. Maine has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people coming from out-of-state, visitors and residents alike.

Plus, will the games be played this coming weekend that are supposed to be in New Jersey?? New Jersey has travel restrictions and quarantine precautions in affect for people traveling from 43 states– Maryland being one of them. There’s also a question of Maryland’s numbers themselves and what that will do to home games for the Black Bears, who have a three-weekend homestand coming up here soon.

As an aside, the protocol for the NAHL has been described by the Aberdeen (SD) News when it pertained to the Aberdeen Wings postponing games for COVID reasons. If the postponements weren’t for travel, this is the timeline for teams to come back after a positive test.

More over, the team has not practiced during the break, per the Black Bears’ front office. That brings about the question of when the team plays again, what kind of hop will they have. A break like this is not unusual in the college setting, so I’m thinking it shouldn’t be too much of a drag overall. The hope is that they do come back with solid conditioning in tact and ready to go as needed.

I’m sure the feeling from the start is that it was doing to be a very start/stop season as conditions yielded. The coaching staff and all probably told the players to account for that, as well. Only time will tell the next time we see the Black Bears on the ice.

Small Sample Size, Big Opportunities for Gains

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

There has been only been six games in this young NAHL season. The Maryland Black Bears are 3-2-1 and really haven’t played badly. Conversely, there’s a lot of room for improvement, especially coming off of a weekend where they were swept, but had some problems that have become trends in these six games.

Four of the six games, the Black Bears have held a lead, but haven’t been able to hold that lead. They’ve got 1-2-1 in those games and while a couple have been one-goal leads, the other team games were multi-goal leads that have been squandered. It could be a case of getting too comfortable with the lead and then not being able to get back into the game when the opponents are coming back. If so, it needs to be nipped in the bid very quickly before it becomes a habit.

While the penalty kill has been solid this season, only allowing six goals on 37 attempts (four of them being this past Saturday); the power play still has had some issues to it. All three of their power play goals came in the first weekend of play against Johnstown. They’ve gone 0-for-17 since, many this weekend happening because penalties were called to shorten the power play, but it still counts all the same. On the upside of the special teams, logging six shorthanded goals in six games isn’t too shabby– especially when they had seven all of last season.

Turnovers in the defensive zone continue to plague the team, but some of that could be chalked up to the short glass at the Ice World complex as opposed to Piney Orchard. That notwithstanding, passes up the middle and pucks not getting out of the zone have lead to counterattacks by the opposition; leading the defense to scramble to get back into position and shut down key scoring chances that didn’t need to be created in the first place.

One big bright spot is the team working as a cohesive unit, even with players shuttling in and out of the line-up. Newcomers like Hunter McCoy, Daniel Colabufo, and Conor Cole have come into the line-up and fit in tremendously. The old guard of Luke Mountain, Reid Leibold, Thomas Jarman, and Jude Kurtas have been able to teach these guys the Black Bear Way, which has seemingly helped the transition of those new players.

More over, they haven’t been out any of the games they’ve played in. All the games have been tight affairs, four of them by one goal. This is also the best start in the first six games in the team’s history. It’s a grind of a season and plenty to look forward to. Any kind of adjustments that need to be made will hopefully be handled early on so that it doesn’t continue to be a trend.

Black Bears Trade Sinclar, Kittleson to St. Cloud

After two games of the season, the Maryland Black Bears are making moves already. Wednesday, they traded defenseman Bryden Sinclair and forward Logan Kittleson to the St. Cloud Norsemen for a tender contract and draft pick. Neither Sinclair nor Kittleson played in Monday’s game.

For both, it seemed to be a numbers game.

The defense has been packed with the additions of Seth Bergeron and Cam Gaudette, as well as the solid early play of Kevin Scott and Sean Kilcullen. That made one defenseman expendable and that happened to be Sinclair. The University of Maine commit played 50 games last years with seven assists and eight points. A hard-nose player who brought a physical aspect of the game, including a very lockdown mentality in the defensive zone. Sinclair came to Maryland from the Manitoba Junior League, playing for Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard.

Kittleson was one of the returnees from last year up front, but with guys like Hunter McCoy and Daniel Colabufo making a solid first impression, he drew the short straw in this. With eight assists and 13 points last season in 44 games, the one big moment for Kittleson was his between the legs shot against Jamestown. Kittleson came to Maryland after three seasons with Burnsville High in Minnesota, where he was a captain in his last year.

On the upside, the addition of a tender contract will help the future of the Black Bears where they can sign a younger prospect and have his rights while he develops before he jumps up to the squad full-time. The draft pick is also a nice pick-up for restocking the cabinet for the Black Bears into next season. It also gives back those assets that the Black Bears gave up for Gaudette just before the season.

Both Sinclair and Kittleson played solid roles for the Black Bears last year and helped them getting into the playoff hunt before the season was cancelled. Hopefully this move will allow them the playing time they deserve and helps them excel into the college game when they depart from juniors. Best of luck to them in St. Cloud and moving forward in hockey.

CHW Interviews Clint Mylymok of the Maryland Black Bears

Scotty Wazz talks with Maryland Black Bears head coach and general manager Clint Mylymok ahead of the 2020-21 opener. They look back on last season, talk about the protocols for this season, and the type of team fans can look forward to this year. 

Black Bears on the Move Due To County Regulations

Due to the inability for Anne Arundel County to find a way to safely move into Phase 3 allowing out-of-state teams to play in the county, the Maryland Black Bears will be on the move. For their opening weekend, the Black Bears will take on the Johnstown Tomahawks at Ice World in Abingdon of Baltimore County. The games have also been moved to Sunday and Monday.

Luckily for the Black Bears, Ice World is part of the Black Bear Sports Group cavalcade of rinks. How long this move will last is unknown and dependant upon the Anne Arundel County government.

While ice rinks are ice rinks, the loss of the actual home rink has to be tough for the team. The Black Bears have played their exhibitions at Ice World, which gives them some idea of the bounces the boards and glass create. That said, it’s still not the confines of The Den.

It’s a bit of a shame that the local government can’t catch up to the rest of the state and allow outside teams to come to play. It’s a point of contention through late summer with Black Bears owner Murry Gunty with the Anne Arundel County Return to Play advisory board with the county allowing some other sports to have out-of-state teams play, but slighting others.

Games at Ice World will have limited seating with season ticket holders having first priority. Notification of open seating will be through the Black Bears social media. The games will also be broadcasted on HockeyTV.

Black Bears Add Bergeron in Dispersal Draft

The blue line keeps getting deeper for the Black Bears, as they selected defenseman Seth Bergeron from the dispersal draft for the Jamestown Rebels. It has not been named public who the Black Bears selected from the Springfield Jr. Blues dispersal. The news of Bergeron’s acquisition was made known by the NAHL’s NA Now Yearly Preview they put out on Sunday.

Bergeron played three years for the Rebels and amassed seven goals and 38 points in 154 games. Prior to the NAHL, Bergeron came up through the Omaha Lancers’ AAA program and the Las Vegas Storm of the Western States League. Bergeron also appeared on Team NAHL in Sochi last year. Though his numbers may not scream offensive output, he does put up points in bunches. With his increase in points as his career went on, he should be a solid veteran addition for the Black Bears blue line.

With training camps going on, the pick-up of Bergeron came at the perfect time for him to come into the Maryland fold and be able to get the schemes he needs in order to move right into the action easily enough. While he’ll add to the blue line depth, you have to think that this will also help the competition between the rear-guards in order to get quality playing time move forward this season.

NAHL, Black Bears Announce 2020-21 Schedule

After a bit of a wait, the NAHL announced the 2020-21 schedule for the league, that’ll consist of 23 teams over four division. In the East Division, the Maryland Black Bears will be joined by Maine, Johnstown, Danbury, Northeast, and New Jersey; with Jamestown taking the season off for COVID reasons.

While the Black Bears will open their third season at home for a third-straight year, it won’t be against the New Jersey Titans. Instead, it’ll be a rivalry game right off the bat with the Johnstown Tomahawks– where is no love lost between them. It will be the first of 14 meetings between the two teams.

The schedule breakdown is like this— 14 games against Johnstown, eight games against Maine, eight games against Northeast, 14 games against New Jersey, and 14 games against Danbury. That accounts for 58 games with the NAHL Showcase games not accounted for as of yet. Less games between the Generals and Nordiques is most likely due to travel logistics.

The longest homestand will be between November 20th and December 5th (six games), longest road-trip being immediately before that from October 30th to November 14th. Maryland will have two home Wednesday night games March 17th and April 14th against New Jersey, as well as a home-and-home series April 2nd and 3rd with those same Titans.

All of these games, of course, and subjected to change depending on how the COVID illness affects the squads– and here’s hoping it doesn’t affect any of the 23 teams playing this year and all the players and staff (and fans if they’re allowed in) can be healthy and safe for the season ahead.

Black Bears Strengthen Blue Line With Gaudette Acquisition

Late Thursday, the Maryland Black Bears announced they had acquired Cam Gaudette from the Northeast Generals for a tender contract and a third-round pick. The overaged defenseman is a commit to Northeast University and will bring a solid veteran look to the Black Bears not only on the blue line, but also across the board for the Black Bears.

“Cam is a veteran NAHL defenseman, and is very hard to play against. He competes every time he steps onto the ice,” said GM/Head Coach Clint Mylymok. “He will bring that competitive drive, and strong blend of offensive ability and toughness to our lineup. We welcome Cam to Maryland, and look forward to having him join the Black Bears.”

Gaudette has been a bit of a thorn in the side of the Black Bears putting up three goals and three assists in the 16 games against Maryland in his career, but also played a physical role on the ice for the Generals. More over than that, Gaudette is on the rise, as he doubled his totals from 2018-19 last season in fewer games played.

As the Black Bears put in their release, the addition will also help the void left by Hampus Rydqvist and Logan Kons moving onto NCAA play. Gaudette should be a solid compliment to the likes of Aidan McDowell, Thomas Jarman, and Bryden Sinclair.

Though some people might balk at his plus/minus stat-line, it’s not as big of a stat as it once was with analytics being involved. With the minutes he logs, he’ll be out there for a lot of even-strength situations, which lead to that stat being more on the minus side. A change in a system could be prosperous for that stat for people who still value that stat.

Overall, a solid move to get more of a veteran presence on the team, especially with how close of a race the East Division often is. A move like this can only help the Black Bears going into the season and should help bolster the defense that much more.

Maryland Hockey Reopening Update: September 3rd

Despite hold a main camp with many players from around the country, there’s no certainty that the Maryland Black Bears will be given the go-ahead to start their season at home. Black Bear Sports and Entertainment group owner Murry Gunty has been very outspoken on Twitter about the Maryland state plan to reopen sports for youth teams, as well as the Anne Arundel County restriction for teams coming into Piney Orchard to play.

Twitter user The Hockey Scoop Facebook messaged AA County executive Steuart Pittman to ask about ice hockey being able to resume. Pittman or someone from his team replied with saying hockey can resume. However, Gunty mentioned that in deep digging that hockey and open, but no one from outside the Baltimore Metro area can come in to play games. Obviously, that would hinder the Black Bears, Team Maryland, and other teams who play out of Piney Orchard, outside of in-house teams. The Chesapeake Bay Hockey League has teams spanning throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the DC area. That’s something that would kill a lot of players development in the area if they are playing into a smaller circle of teams.

Another point of contention from Gunty has been the lack of hockey representation of hockey in the Maryland State Sports Commission’s return to play committee, pointing out that four of the six people on the board are lacrosse-centric. While lacrosse is the state team sport, the overreliance on the lacrosse heads in this return to play is a bit much. That said, open-air lacrosse is a different beast than indoor hockey, so I can understand why the commission will be a little more lenient on them. Same with flag football which has been considered medium risk, while hockey is still listed as a high risk. That said, the National Federation of High Schools deems hockey as a medium risk sport. However, the fact they have been allowed to hold tournaments with out-of-state competition does raise some eyebrows.

Through this all, Gunty is very steadfast that the Black Bears and Team Maryland will play with or without fans if they are legally allowed to by the county and/or state government. Should be interesting to see what happens, especially since the NAHL still hasn’t out out a schedule yet, as many teams still haven’t decided one way or another if they can play or not.

On the club hockey side, the University of Maryland men’s club team announced on Wednesday night that they are suspended their 2020-21 season with the hopes of starting up in the spring. The Terps cite university guidelines after communication with the university and club sports coordinators.

The DVCHC announced that they are suspending their operations until at least January 1st. This affects the University of Maryland and Loyola University women’s teams. While College Hockey East hasn’t made an announcement, you’d have to figure that they will follow the lead of the DVCHC, which would mean Navy’s women team would be affected.

As far as the other Navy teams, the ACHA has announced they will listen to the different conferences when it comes to their recommendations for a schedule modification. The trend seems to be the new year, which will mean the D1 Midshipmen will be on the same path. Meanwhile, the newly formed College Hockey Federation, which houses the D3 Midshipmen, will start after January 1st, 2021.

Stevenson University announced that the MAC has decided to suspended their fall sports in July, while also stating that winter sports won’t be schedule until after January 1st, 2021. This obviously means that men’s and women’s D3 NCAA won’t start until then, while there has been no notification from the club team, but you’d have to think they’d be in the same boat as the the other club teams and as their NCAA teams.

As far as high schools, goes, the MSHL has stated that no teams can practice until October 1st, local rules permitting. The MSHL also announced that the Eastern Conference wouldn’t play this season. Those schools include: Severna Park, Easton, South River, Broadneck, Spalding II, Dulaney, Chessie, Queen Anne’s County, Fallston, Annapolis, Kent Island, Bel Air, Arundel, and Saints.

The CBHL has been working with USA Hockey and the PVAHA in trying to reopen their league play. Of course, that bounces back to the original point of this post in that hockey is still considered a high-risk sport to the state commission, which hampers many CBHL teams from reopening as usual.

That’s where we stand in early September 2020. We’ll have updates as they happen, which we hopefully will find out sooner than later.