Black Bears Continue Winning Ways With Sweep in Jamestown

Photo Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

JAMESTOWN, NY– Returning to Jamestown for the first time since January 25th, 2020, the Maryland Black Bears looked to shake off some bad luck on the times they traveled to southwestern New York. Maryland had only won once in ten visits to Jamestown– October 18th, 2019. With that in mind and a tight East Division race at the start, the Black Bears went to Jamestown and swept the Rebels in their weekend set.

FRIDAY OCTOBER 15th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (3) at Jamestown (2): The Black Bears sustained pressure offensively from the start, trying to get a quick lead. Even with two early power plays, they couldn’t connect to the back of the net. It wasn’t until a penalty of their own that they could convert, as pressure on the Rebels’ power play allowed Luke Van Why to spring Elliott Lareau, who found Laker Aldridge to make it 1-0 Maryland and gave the Black Bears their league-leading sixth shorthanded goal of the year. The Black Bears killed off a two-man disadvantage before a bouncing puck in front found John Musella’s stick to tie the game with 1:35 left in the first.

Maryland got things going early in the second, as they converted on an early power play with Aden Bruich gathering up a Conor Cole rebound make it 2-1. Maryland kept the pressure on Jamestown, controlling the offensive side of things for the most part in the second. With 5:46 left in the second, Jacob Brockman broke up an icing call to keep the Black Bears in possession, then was alone on the side the net– where Conor Cole found him for the 3-1 marker. Jamestown responded 1:02 later, as Mitch Lafay picked up a rebound in front and slide it under Michael Morelli to cut the Black Bears’ lead to one.

The third period was a neutral zone affair, yielding only seven total shots– Maryland 4, Jamestown 3– which played to the Black Bears strength, as they kept the lead for the win 3-2. Morelli made 17 saves to put his record to 6-1-2 on the season.

SATURDAY OCTOBER 16th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (2) at Jamestown (1) OT: The first period on Saturday kind of mirrored that from Friday, with Maryland carrying most of the offensive play. With 11 shots in the frame, the Black Bears wanted to try and set a tone early. It wasn’t until 1:59 left in the period that they broke through, as Branden Piku was streaking down the wing and put it over the shoulder of Chace Hale to make it 1-0 Black Bears.

It was a different story in the second, as the Rebels tilted the ice in their favor. It took 3:52 into the middle frame for them to tie the game, with Marcus Kivela Carlzon scored off the faceoff from a Black Bears’ icing to even the score. Jamestown kept the momentum going, throwing 11 shots of their own in that frame at Luca Di Pasquo, but he kept the game tied up through the second.

Di Pasquo made some key saves late in the third, as the Black Bears tried to cash in on chances, but Hale was equal to the task for the Rebels. While Maryland outchanced and outshot Jamestown, the game we pushed into overtime. The Black Bears kept the pressure going in the extra frame, leading to Aden Bruich netting the game winner off a shot from a dump-in pass from Sean Kilcullen that ricocheted off the boards, leading Bruich to one-time the puck past Hale for the OT winner. Di Pasquo made 20 saves for this third win of the season.

The Black Bears now have a six-game point streak going into next weekend, as they are at home against the Northeast Generals for the second time in three weekends.

Hot Start Has Team Maryland Atop EHL

Photo from Team Maryland (@TeamMarylandEHL)

If you haven’t been paying attention to Team Maryland in the EHL, maybe you should start doing so. Off to the best start in team history at 8-2-0, TM is atop the South Division standings and has the most points in the EHL– though other teams have games in hand. One of the starting points for the Black Bear Sports Group development chain, TM has built off of last seasons success and translated it into a mentality for players both new and old.

When it comes to the new faces, they are in the top three in scoring for Team Maryland. Josh Graziano came up thorugh the EHL Premier’s New Jersey Renegades, Will Rosen joined from the Walpole Express and Railers Jr. HC, while Jacob Kosinski joined up from the Northeast Generals NA3HL program. All three have gelled quickly into head coach Josh Fusco’s scheme and have given TM the ability to take off. Add that to goalies John Werber coming from the New Jersey Hitmen and Gideon Sullivan from the Albany Academy, it adds up to a great start for Team Maryland.

Yet, there has to be a core in place for these new players to learn from and to be there to help the new players get around. That starts with homegrown product Evan Donnelly, who is in his third year with TM and only three goals away from tying his single-season goal mark in the EHL. Bobby Geier is another third-year TM player and has continued to develop year-by-year. Farrell Dinn has been in the Team Maryland pipeline for a while now and has gotten some looks with the Maryland Black Bears, but still holding a 1.80 points-per-game mark in the five games he’s played with Team Maryland. On the blue line captain Sawyer Tantleff and Brian Teske return for another season to anchor on the blue line, with Teske showing off his offensive prowess with six points in 10 games and Tantleff locking down the defensive zone like very few can.

All of this comes from the top, with Josh Fusco leaving an indelible mark on this franchise since coming in three seasons ago. It has manifest itself, too. When he came in, a handful of players from his team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton came, too– Denys Arkhypenko, Cody Rumsey, Johnny Jackson, and Evan Green. Those players knew what the coach wanted and they led by example on how to chance the culture for Team Maryland after a first year that didn’t go off so well. Just by having those few players take the lead, it helped the team for that year and years since– even though they have all graduated and went on their separate ways.

It’s a good time to be a Maryland junior hockey fan and Team Maryland is one of the reasons that is the case. However, being at the head of the pack means there’s a target on their back. We’ll have to see how well Team Maryland prepared for this and how they’ll adapt to be the hunted rather than the hunter.

Black Bears Sweep Northeast; Take East Lead

ODENTON, MD– In the first of what will be many important weekends to come, the Maryland Black Bears welcomed the Northeast Generals to The Den for control of first place in the East Division early in the season. Thanks to the specialty teams of Maryland, the Black Bears were able to sweep the Generals and take sole possession of first place.

Photo by Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (6) vs. Northeast (2): Knowing that Northeast is prone to having quick starts, Maryland had to get ahead of that curve and dictate the pace of the game. It took 6:17 for the Black Bears to strike first, as Dylan Wegner got a Jacob Brockman pass and put it behind Cameron Kuntar for the early 1-0 lead. It took all of 27 seconds for Maryland to score again, as Jesse Horacek tipped a Philip Törnqvist shot in front to make it 2-0. The Black Bears kept the pedal to the floor, creating chances time and again, not giving the Generals time or space to move. The period ended with Brad McNeil using his body positioning in front to pick up a Vlad Polegoshko shot and bury it for the 3-0 lead.

Northeast started the second with an early power play, but Michael Morelli was strong in net to keep it a three-goal game. That changed with Adam Smith’s shot getting past Morelli to make it 3-1. Maryland kept pressing, though, trying to regain the three goal advantage– which happened near the half-way point of the frame. Aden Bruich’s forecheck helped Maryland get possession and as he threw it around the zone, Törnqvist picked it up and found the net to make it 4-1 and ended the night for Kuntar. Northeast needed to get things going, which happened at the end of the period when David Andreychuk came out from the corner to sneak one past Morelli to make it 4-2.

While the third period didn’t have many shots on goal– six for each side– Maryland made theirs count. First, on the power play Törnqvist loaded himself up and hammered home his second of the game after a well place pass by Luke Van Why to make it 5-2. The physicality picked up on both sides of the puck, with Northeast trying to spark something to get back into the game. However, Maryland added another dagger with Ryan Bottrill picking up a loose puck created by another solid forecheck by Bruich and Laker Aldridge and sniped home his fourth of the year to make it 6-2, which ended up as the final. Morelli stopped 22 shots in the victory.

Photoby Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

SATURDAY OCTOBER 9th 2021: BLACK BEARS (4) vs. Northeast (1): The second game of a sweep is always the hardest for the team that won the night before. Maryland saw that as Northeast came out in a more tighter checking role than Friday night, dictating the physical and offensive side of the puck. Luca Di Pasquo was tested, but kept all 14 first period shots out of the net. Despite a couple chances by the Black Bears, it remained scoreless after one period.

Maryland got into some penalty trouble in the middle of the second, but an upside to that is having a solid penalty kill who can create offense. They added to their league lead in shorthanded markers with Trayce Johnson getting puck on the blue line after a 2-on-1 from Miles Gunty and Ryan Bottrill and firing it past Jed Baliotti to make it 1-0 for Maryland. Northeast tried to get any equalizer, but Di Pasquo and the defense kept them at bay. With under four minutes remaining in the period, Bottril picked up the puck and sped down the wing, keep the play wide, before cutting towards the net and finding a streaking Conor Cole to put it home to extend Maryland’s lead to 2-0.

The Black Bears knew they needed to finish strong and under five minutes into the third, they went up by three with Branden Piku, through a mass of humanity, deflecting the puck from his knees behind Baliotti to extend the lead. Maryland continued to press for more offense while protecting Di Pasquo’s clean-sheet bid, but late in the period; a Maryland penalty allowed the Generals to pull the goalie for a 6-on-4 power play and led to David Andreychuk to put home the power play marker and cut the Black Bears lead to 3-1. It was for naught, as the Black Bears kept the Generals to the outside and then used their forecheck to create an Elliott Lareau empty netter to seal the game at 4-1. Di Pasquo made 33 saves for his second win of the season.

While the forechecking was solid, the offensive was moving the puck around, the speail teams was a huge factor in this weekend. The power play went 2-for-5 and seemed to know where to filter their chances. The penalty kill went 10-for-11, while creating a number of chances and cashing in on one of them. While you don’t want to have your PK out on the ice a lot, Maryland has the tools to flip the script if given the chance.

Maryland will take first spot outright with a 7-3-2 record as they go to Jamestown for the first time since January 25th, 2020 to take on the Rebels in another crucial East Division match-up

Black Bears Finish Long Weekend with Three Points in Two Games

MIDDLETOWN, NJ/JOHNSTOWN, PA– A most interesting weekend for the Maryland Black Bears, as they we the visitors for two different home openers in two different cities. While the travel was long, the Black Bears looked sharp for the most part and came out of it with a 1-0-1 weekend.

Photo via New Jersey Titans/ @NAHLTitans

OCTOBER 1st, 2021: BLACK BEARS (3) at New Jersey (2): In their first match-up of the weekend, the Black Bears visited the Titans and former goalie Andrew Takacs. It was a tough start for Maryland, as they put pressure on Takacs; though on one chance, a rebounded shot went around the boards and cruised down 2-on-1 with Jake LaRusso going down the ice and putting it past Michael Morelli for an early lead. Three minutes later, a bobble at the blue line sprung the Titans on an odd-man rush with Anthony Calafiore spinning around and finding Tommy Bannister, beating an outstretched Morelli to make it 2-0 New Jersey. Even with all the pressure, Maryland couldn’t cash in just yet. A power play later on in the first allowed them to cut the lead in half, with Luke Van Why putting a pass on a platter for Philip Törnqvist to hammer a one-timer past Takacs and make it a one-goal game after one period.

Maryland kept the pressure on New Jersey in the second, becoming a force on the forecheck and clogging up the neutral zone. The forecheck was what helped lead to the tying goal, as Dylan Wegnar picked off a pass up the middle and put it past Takacs to even it up. Five minute later, Vlad Polegoshko got into the mix, picking up a Ryan Bottrill shot off the boards and putting it past Takacs for the 3-2 lead. After dominating in shot in the second stanza (22-7), Maryland continued to clog up the areas for New Jersey, while Morelli held the fort down to keep the score at 3-2, the eventual final.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2nd, 2021: BLACK BEARS (3) at Johnstown (4) SO: No rest for the wicked, as the Black Bears traveled over 300 miles to get to Johnstown for another home opener. The last time Maryland was in Johnstown, they had eliminated the Tomahawks in Game Five of the Eastern Semis 4-3. Things got hot and heavy quick as TJ Koufis slashed at the calves of Laker Alridge and the two tangled three seconds into the game.

After that nonsense, the Black Bears showed they didn’t have as bad of bus legs and some though, with Aden Burich picking up his own rebound and putting it past Sam Evola to give Maryland the lead 3:14 into the game. On the other end, Morelli was big in net, making three big saves early on. Penalty issues reared their ugly head, as the Black Bears gave Johnstown a shot midway through the first and Holt Oliphant put a one-timer past Morelli to even the score. Maryland struck back with a power play goal of their own, as Bottrill picked up the rebound on an Aldridge shot and made it 2-1 before the end of the frame.

Johnstown got on the power play again and cashed in again, moving the puck around the zone and Stephen Kyrkostas ending it to tie the game up at two just before the midway point of regulation. It took the Black Bears less than two minutes to get the lead back thanks to a drop pass by Conor Cole that found Branden Piku who found a space between Evola to make it 3-2.

Overall, the goalies were on display, as Morelli and Evola traded big saves in this game and kept their teams in it. It wasn’t until an alley-oop pass late in the third sprung Kyrkostas and he beat Morelli with 2:40 left in regulation to tie the game. In overtime, Maryland and Johnstown traded chances with no results. Johnstown won the shootout 2-0 and the Black Bears take the point out of Johnstown.

While three out of four isn’t bad, the bigger thing is how well Maryland played in those conditions, especially in Johnstown after a tough game in New Jersey. The Black Bears return home to take on the Northeast Generals, who they are tied with atop the East Division.

Divisional Final Rematch Finishes in Split for Black Bears

ODENTON, MD– Coming back from the NAHL Showcase, the Maryland Black Bears set their sights on divisional play with the Maine Nordiques coming into town for an East Division Final rematch. While some of the names may have changed, the intensity remained as both teams came out firing in Friday’s match, while Saturday’s tilt felt like a playoff affair.

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 24th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (5) vs. Maine Nordiques (3): Maryland got off to a quick start Friday night, dictating the play early, which resulted in a goal within the first 3:30. Brad McNeil’s forecheck disrupted the Maine breakout, allowing Branden Piku to find Sean Kilcullen at the point and thanks to a screen in front, Kilcullen’s shot alluded Avery Sturtz to make it 1-0 Maryland. An Aden Bruich slashing call put Maryland on the penalty kill, but that wasn’t going to stop McNeil, who got past the Maine defense before getting hauled down by Matthew Connor and gave McNeil a shorthanded penalty shot. With a second chance, McNeil made no doubt, going backhand over Sturtz’s glove to make it 2-0 Maryland.

The Maryland lead was short-lived, however, as Maine got on the board 1:26 later with Nicholas Bernardo threw a puck by the goal line on Michael Morelli that squeaked in for the power play goal. A minute and 32 seconds later, Maine tied it after a turnover in the neutral zone lead to Dom Marcinkevics firing a wrister past Morelli to tie the game. The Nordiques kept pressing, but Morelli was solid, stopping a couple odd-man chances befor the period ended.

Things settled down in the second period, with chances going both ways. However, a turnover coupled with a mistimed line chance led Maine on a 2-on-1 with Marcinkevics burying his second of the game. Maryland kept pressing, however, as the Black Bears evened the score three minutes and change later with newly acquired Laker Aldridge getting a rebound in front and putting it home to tie the game.

Heading into the third tied at threes, the Black Bears used their forecheck again, this time from Miles Gunty, who picked up the loose puck and found Bobby Staring at the point, leading Staring to wire it home for his first of the year and to give Maryland the lead again. Maryland kept pressing, but Sturtz played strong to keep it a one-goal game before Elliott Lareau picked off a breakout pass in the neutral zone and fired it into the empty net to seal the 5-3 win for Maryland

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 25th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (0) vs. Maine Nordiques (3): With both teams making some line-up adjustments, it was a totally different tone of game in this one, a much more plotting game for sure. Maine got up early on the power play, as solid puck movement in the offensive zone allowed Matthew Connor to score on Luca Di Pasquo just under four minutes into the game. From that point on, Maryland started to turn up the possession numbers, putting shots on throughout– but not being able to beat Gus Holt.

Maryland dominated the offense in the second period, putting 20 shots on Holt, but nothing to show on the scoreboard. Di Pasquo wasn’t tested much in the second frame, but stood tall on a couple breakaways that Maine had on the night.

The third period has Maryland pressing more, moving the puck around their own zone well, but the bounces were going Maine’s way– quite literally. Bernardo took a shot that rebounded off the back wall and clipped the stick of Marcinkevics to make it 2-0 Nordiques just halfway through the period. Maryland got into penalty trouble late, which allowed Maine to clamp down on the Black Bears’ attack and capitalized, as Caden Pattinson got his first of the year off a rebound from Tristan Fasig to make it 3-0. That was how the game ended, as Maryland gets shutout for the first time since April 30th.

Maryland falls out of first place, as Northeast swept Johnstown this weekend. While it is still early, in what is shaping up to be another tight East Division, every game is going to matter that much more. The Black Bears are on the road plenty this weekend, as they’ll play in New Jersey on Friday night and then bus to Johnstown for a Saturday night affair.

Black Bears Drop Two in Last Two NAHL Showcase Games

BLAINE, MN– After a successful first two games, the Maryland Black Bears had a bit of bad luck in their final two games, dropping both of them to a score of 4-2.

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 17th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (2) vs. Odessa Jackalopes (4): The Black Bears were able to get off to a quick start in the third game of the Showcase, controlling the chances offensively before finally breaking through midway through the first with Jacob Brockman putting away his second of the year with a laser over the shoulder of Odessa’s William Proctor. With momentum and getting power plays, the Black Bears were trying to put it on Odessa; but on one of the power plays, the Jackalopes took the puck forward after a turnover at the blue line and Trevor Taulien’s shot alluded Michael Morelli to tie the game. Just 3:30 later, a turnover on a rush created a four-on-one for Odessa, ending in a Liam O’Hare goal to put the Jackalopes up at the end of the first, 2-1.

The second period yielded no scoring, but the Black Bears defense was pinching more and more to try and create some offense, but couldn’t get anything going. With the pinching, the Odessa offense did have some chances the other way, but Morelli was able to stave off the attacks.

With just over four minutes elapsed in the third period, Odessa struck again, as Christopher Duclair used his speed up the wing to drive past the Maryland defense and slide it five-hole on Morelli for the 3-1 lead. The Black Bears tried to get pucks through, but Odessa just seemd to know how to get their bodies in the shooting lanes to take away any chances for Maryland. With seventeen seconds left, Emerson Goode sealed the deal with the 4-1 marker, while James Tepper scored his first in the NAHL with a second left for Maryland to make the final 4-2 for the Jackalopes.

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 18th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (2) vs. Chippewa Steel (4): It was quite a neutral match-up for the first 40 minutes between Maryland and Chippewa, though Chippewa did hold the offensive advantage with almost double the amount of shots as Maryland had through 40 minutes. Even with the shot count being as it was, it was 0-0 after two periods.

The third period yield goals fairly quickly, as Chippewa scored two goals in 29 second in the first fives minutes of the frame. First, Chippewa capitalized on an interception of the breakout by Maryland, which led to a Marc Feltemeyer goal past Luca Di Pasquo. Twenty-nine seconds later, Chippewa intercepts another breakout pass with Nick Sajevic putting home the second goal. Maryland cut the lead in half minutes later with a cycle down low that saw Ryan Bottrill feed Jacob Brockman for his third goal of the season.

Maryland carried the momentum after that goal, but nothing was getting through Levi Gho. Chippewa came on late, as they picked up a drop pass of Maryland’s that stuck to the ice and went in 2-on-0 and led to a Thomas Grainda goal to make it 3-1. Jack Brown made it 4-1 with an empty netter for the Steel, while Philip Tornqvist scored on the power play with one second remaining, making the final 4-2 Chippewa.

It was the third Showcase for Maryland and the third time they finished with two wins. After a flight home tonight and probable day off Sunday, Maryland is back at it in preparation for the an East Division Final rematch against the Maine Nordiques Friday and Saturday night at Piney Orchard.

Two Days, Two Wins for Maryland at NAHL Showcase

BLAINE, MN– The NAHL is back at the NSC Super Rinks for the 2021 NAHL Showcase, where all the teams from the league head to Blaine, Minnesota to have inter-divisional play for four games. The Maryland Black Bears, having split their first weekend, took to the ice on Wednesday and Thursday against two teams from the South Division and took away two wins in the process.

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 15th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (5) vs. Corpus Christi IceRays (3): The first game of the week, the Black Bears took on the newly reformed Corpus Christi IceRays, who sat out last season due to COVID protocols. The first period was a tale of two halves. The IceRays took control early, but Luca Di Pasquo was able to help stave off the shots against. Maryland started to get their wheels in the second half and gain momemtum just as the first period ended.

It took five minutes and one second in the second period for the Black Bears to strike, as Vlad Polegoshko got his first of the year off a Luke Van Why shot that was deflected in front on a delayed penalty call. Maryland then took advantage, putting pressure onto the IceRays, but Damon Beaver was equal to the task. With only 48 seconds left in the second, Corpus Christi struck with Jayden Jensen tipping home a shot in front of Di Pasquo to end the period at one.

Another quick start for Maryland, striking within the first five minutes of the third with Matthew Davies pinching in and getting a great pass from Dimitry Kebreau to put Maryland ahead. Just over three minutes later, the IceRays stretched the zone with cross-rink passing while it was 4-on-4, which ended with Oliver Stumpel putting home his first of the year. Polegoshko took control after that, first scoring a shorthanded goal with some great stick-handling though the defenders; then finding a loose puck deflected in front to sneak it by Beaver to complete his hat trick.

With some penalty issues, the Black Bears were able to kill off most of the threats, with some great blocks by Branden Piku and Sean Kilcullen, but Zach Dill was able to get one in on the power play with the goalie pulled to make it 4-3. It was for not, as Philip Tornqvist buried an empty netter to give the Black Bears the 5-3 win. The win was the third straight opening game Showcase win for Maryland.

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 16th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (4) vs. WICHITA FALLS WARRIORS (2): Debuting their “black-out” jerseys, the Black Bears, Maryland looked to not fall into the pattern they had in Showcases past where they alternated wins and losses through out the event. Things were a bit deadlock in the first, both teams feeling each other out. However, the Warriors struck first shorthanded when a turnover in the defensive zone bounced around and ended with Carter Korpi potting home the goal. Just three minutes later, Luke Van Why found the back of the net, throwing a shot on goal that trickled through Matthew O’Donnell’s pads to tie the game up.

The second period started with Maryland getting into some penalty issues and just as the first one expired, Jack Blanchett carried the puck in and let it go from the top of the circle that Michael Morelli seemed to lose and it went right past him making it 2-1 Warriors. Maryland started to take the play to Wichita Falls in the middle part of the frame, creating plenty of chances before Van Why struck again with a laser of a shot from the point to tie the game up again. Morelli came up big after the goal, as the Warriors got a breakaway and Mo stuck out his right pad to keep it tied. The Black Bears had chances late, including a couple that went off the post, but did not direct in.

Going into the third tied for another game, the Black Bears used the momentum from their penalty kill and blocked shots and used it for the middle of the frame. Ryan Bottrill redirected a Van Why shot with under eight minutes left to give the Black Bears the lead after taking a puck to the top of the knee during that momentum shifting PK. No more than two minutes later, Bottrill set up Dylan Wegner in front for the 4-2 lead and eventually the win. Bottrill and Van Why had four points apiece, while Wegner had a goal and two assists on the game.

Maryland is right back at it on Friday with a late afternoon game against Odessa and closing out the Showcase with Chippewa.

Black Bears Settle For Weekend Split

ODENTON, MD– After a historic season last year, the Maryland Black Bears got back to the ice for the start of the 2021-22 season trying to build off of what they started last year. Returning nine full-time players and five players who saw some action as affiliated players, the Black Bears in the room knew the task at hand in order to get into the Robertson Cup final four.

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (5) vs. New Jersey Titans (0): Off the hop, the Black Bears tried to play off the energy of the crowd at The Den at Piney Orchard, getting to the Titans fairly early with some quick chances. However, the Titans turned the tide in the second half of the first period and into the second. Michael Morelli stood tall when he was called upon, helping the Black Bears out during some penalty kills in the second period.

With under a minute left in the second, the flood gates began to open for the Black Bears, with Jacob Brockman picking up a loose puck in front to put home the first goal of the season. Forty-five second later, Aden Bruich picked up his first of the year, ripping one home to make it 2-0 just before the buzzer. Bruich, however, wouldn’t see the end of the game, as he was subjected to two hits from behind, the second requiring him to be assisted off the ice for the remainder of the game.

The Maryland defensive corp got into the act towards the midway point of the third, with Luke van Why putting home a laser of a shot to make it 3-0, while Philip Törnqvist fired home a shorthanded goal to put Maryland up 4-0. Branden Piku showed just how the luck was paying off for Maryland, as a dump-in fooled Titans’ goalie Owen Hains and took a couple bounces around the cage before going in to make it 5-0.

Morelli stopped all 23 shots for his 3rd NAHL shutout of his career. Piku ended up with a goal and two assists, van Why had a goal and an assist, while defenseman Matthew Davies had two assists of his own.

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 11th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (3) vs. New Jersey Titans (4) OT: Penalty troubles hampered the Black Bears early, as under two minutes into the game; Jack Karlsson fired one past Morelli to give New Jersey an early 1-0 lead on the power play. Undaunted, the Black Bears responded 33 seconds later, as Piku followed up a Miles Gunty shot and put it past Ben Charette for the tying goal. Special teams wasn’t too great for Maryland at the start of the game, as a Törnqvist shot was blocked, resulting a Titans’ 2-on-1 and a Tommy Bannister shorthanded goal.

With neither team scoring in the second, the third period provided early season hurdles for the Black Bears. However, the rising star of the weekend came through again, as Piku netted his second goal of the game on a wrap-around caused by driving the net and using his speed to outpace the Titans defense. Just over 90 seconds later, Ryan Bottril– who had been snake bit all weekend– put home a rebound off a Joona Haarti shot in front that bounce around to give the Black Bears the lead (ed note: Haarti did not get an assist off that goal).

Maryland had all the momentum at that point, but the media timeout swayed the game a bit, as New Jersey was able to tie the game off a Jake LaRusso goal with 8:17 remaining in regulation. LaRusso seemed to be owed that one, as he had missed a couple “sure thing” goals earlier in the game. The rest of regulation solved nothing, putting the Black Bears and Titans into overtime. In the overtime, Maryland has some chances, but Charette was stellar in net for New Jersey. With under two minutes remaining, a lead pass up to Brandon Avezov sprung him for a quality chance, but Morelli stopped him sliding across. Avezov got his own rebound and another to put it past Morelli to end the game 4-3.

While a sweep would have been the most fairy tale result for the Black Bears this home weekend, to start with three points isn’t too terrible. Morelli looked solid in his two starts; the defense played well, though there’s some things to tighten up on; the offense looked solid when they had sustained time in the zone. It is a marathon of the season, but setting a tone early helps. Piku with six points in the series is a starting point, 10 different point contributors shows depth, while those who didn’t show up on the scoresheet provided in other ways– Kevin Scott and Sean Kilcullen being steady in their zone, Dimitry Kebreau and James Tepper bring the physical game, energy from Brad McNeil and Farrell Dinn– a full compliment of players chipping in.

Next up is the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota for four games in four days against three team from the South Division– Odessa, Wichita Falls, and Corpus Christi– and one from the Midwest– Chippewa– before returning to The Den to take on the team they faces in the East Final– Maine.

Cole Named 5th Black Bears Captain

The Maryland Black Bears announced their on-ice leadership on Thursday, with Conor Cole being named the fifth captain in Black Bears team history. Alternates for Cole will be Aden Bruich, Philip Törnqvist, Branden Piku, and Brad McNeil.

Conor Cole/ Photo via Maryland Black Bears

Cole is in his second season with the Black Bears after posting nine goals and 25 points last season, netting him a spot in the Top Prospects Tournament in June. An alternate captain last year, Cole was proficient in the face off circle, as well as on special teams.

“Conor is an extremely well-respected player within the room, and within the league,” mentioned Black Bears head coach and GM Clint Mylymok. “He plays the game the right way, always portrays himself in a professional manner, and is a fierce competitor. He is such a good person and his maturity reflects well with the values we want to portray as an organization, on and off the ice. He has big expectations for himself and our organization, and we feel there is no one better to lead the Maryland Black Bears in 2021-22 than Conor Cole”

LtoR: Törnqvist, Piku, Bruich, McNeil/ Photo via Maryland Black Bears

On the alternate side, four returnees will don the “A” this season, starting with three-year Black Bear Aden Bruich, a former first round pick. A physical presence, Bruich has 14 goals and 25 points over his two seasons with Maryland and is looking to hone his game before heading off to Clarkson University.

With a clutch scoring ability, Brad McNeil is looking to build off his first season in the NAHL. With five goals and 11 points, McNeil potted some timely goals for Maryland down the stretch, aiding in the first playoff berth in team history.

Despite only playing 32 games, Philip Törnqvist caught fire late in the season, finishing with six goals and 10 points before netting two goals and four points in the playoffs. With his training this off-season, look for the Swede to make a splash in his last year of junior hockey.

One of the spark plugs on the team, Branden Piku was limited to 28 games after joining mid-season, but still provided a lot of energy and scoring for the Black Bears. With six goals and 13 points, Piku will look to create more energy and excitement before he heads to Lake State next year.

Looking at this leadership group, you can’t go wrong with any of the choices. Whether it be by example on the ice or behind closed doors off it, these five players will help boost this squad up and continue the path they started to lay last year. I think the most crucial part is they’re all returnees; a first for the Black Bears in that instance. For all of them to know what is expected from Coach Mylymok and the staff will only help push the process forward for this team. They know what is expected, they know how to get to that point, and they won’t let others get left behind.

Carolina Hurricanes Select Montgomery in 2021 Draft

For the first time since 2016, a Marylander was selected in the NHL Draft. Bryce Montgomery had his named selected by the Carolina Hurricanes at pick 170. The Bowie native, currently playing with the London Knights, came up through the Washington Little Capitals and Team Maryland programs, while spending a brief time at DeMatha Catholic.

Scouting reports on Montgomery is that he has all the tools a ready-made NHLer needs with his size and speed, with varied opinion on other things. However, many believe he was undervalued in the draft and will be considered a steal at the 170th overall pick.

One of the things that really hindered Montgomery’s exposure this season was the lack of an OHL season due to the pandemic. While training is one thing for a player, in-game scenarios and actual play is another for scouts. Montgomery did participate in the FloHockey PBHH Invitational that was put on for junior players for scouts to see them in a showcase aspect.

Montgomery becomes the 10th player from Maryland to be drafted into the NHL. Others include Graham McPhee, Jeremy Duchense, Jeff Brubaker, Jarred Tinordi, Steve Shirreffs, Tyler Scott, Steve Scheifele, Tim Chase, and Jason Kostadine. In the link above from WTOP that Ben Raby put out, Montgomery talks about his pride when it comes to being from the area.

“Maryland is my home and the D.C. area — that’s where I was born,” Montgomery said to Raby. “I take great pride in being able to represent my area. I have a long road to go still, but I’m thankful to be one of the main representatives from our area for hockey.”

Here’s hoping that a full season in the OHL next year will provide Montgomery the space for him to shine through and prove himself as a sleeper pick for this draft and a big steal for Carolina. There’s still work to be done, as there’s plenty of top-tier talent on the blueline in Carolina’s system; it’s a matter of honing his skill in the next few years to really set himself apart from the field.