MIDDLETOWN, NJ– With playoffs looming in the distance, the Maryland Black Bears went to New Jersey to face the Titans for the last time in the regular season. Knowing they needed every point they could muster, the Black Bears went toe-to-toe, blow-for-blow against the East Division champs and were able to get three out of a possible four points to help them on their way to clinch another playoff berth.
FRIDAY, APRIL 8th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (4) at New Jersey (1): Maryland came off the draw strong, gaining possession from puck drop and keeping it on their stick– however, they couldn’t muster a shot within the first eight minutes of play despite the possession advantage. After a Maryland penalty expired, New Jersey struck as Chris Carroll tried to center a pass in front, but it went off a skate in front and Caroll picked up the redirect and put it near-side on Luca Di Pasquo to give the Titans the early lead. The Black Bears got a power play of their own, which saw some chances, but was able to build momentum to their first goal. Conor Cole’s forecheck disrupted Andrew Takacs trying to play the puck and Cole found Adam Schankula in front for the tap-in and a tied game. New Jersey was able to get their offense back in it after the goal, but Di Pasquo was solid in the face of all the shots, including a big windmill save on a 2-on-1 break for New Jersey. Maryland added their chances late in the frame, but Takacs was strong, as well, keeping the game knotted at one after 20 minutes.
Maryland got the lead early in the second after they won a board battle and got it to the point where Jack Blanchett hammered home his 11th of the season for the quick start in the period. Maryland got a two-goal lead minutes later, as the Black Bears caused another turnover from Takacs handling the puck and ended with Elliott Lareau putting it home for the 3-1 lead. That would be the end of Takacs, who had two giveaways lead to goals. The Black Bears would continue to pressure the Titans net, but Ben Charette came in focused and kept the game at 3-1, settling down his team through the middle portion of the second. While both sides have had time in their zones, nothing went further and the period ended 3-1 for the Black Bears.
Knowing they could expect New Jersey’s best, the Black Bears build off the attack they had in the second, not only offensively, but clogging up passing lanes and in the neutral zone to keep the Titans’ attack at bay. The Black Bears extended the lead on the power play, as Aidan McDowell crept in from the point and Cole found him streaking in and popped it home to make it 4-1. Maryland’s defense was crucial for the third period, not allowing the Titans to gain the zone or get much zone time, limiting them to only three shots in the period. The Black Bears did have their chances, but Charette was able to stop the bleeding and keep it a 4-1 game, which turned out to be the final for Friday night.
SATURDAY, APRIL 9th, 2022: BLACK BEARS (1) at New Jersey (2) SO: With the regular season title in the balance, the Titans came out quick to avenge their loss and win the regular season in the league. In only 2:29, Nick Ring opened the scoring with a wrister over the shoulder of Luca Di Pasquo for the early Titans’ lead. The physical play was very present in this one, as they met for the last time in the regular season, both sides doled out solid hits throughout the period. The Black Bears did seem to find a bit of a crack in the New Jersey defensively, creating small breaks for themselves, but Andrew Takacs was solid in those chances to keep the Titans up 1-0 after 20 minutes.
It was a tale of two halves for the second period, with New Jersey controlling the possession aspect of game early going, getting plenty of chances, but Di Pasquo and the defense stood tall to keep the Titans off the scoresheet. Maryland then started to take over in the second-half of the period, putting plenty of pressure on Takacs and trying to rile him up, but to no avail, as the Titans’ goalie and their squad kept their heads and kept the sheet clean after two periods.
An early power play for the Black Bears pay off handsomely, as they tied the game thanks to Brad McNeil picking up a rebound in front off an odd bounce from a Miles Gunty shot and McNeil put it into an open cage for the tying goal. The Titans did get awoken by that goal, starting to get more offensive chances and sustained pressure on Di Pasquo, but couldn’t solve the right-handed catch keeper. On the other side, some solid chances from Maryland to get the go-ahead goal, including a Conor Cole breakaway; however, he was stymied by Takacs. Try as both sides might, this one goes into extra time with the Black Bears picking up a crucial point in the standings.
In the possession filled overtime, the best chance from either side was a pass out to Jack Blanchett that just rolled off his stick as he was about to shoot and yielded nothing. In the shootout, Ryan Coughlin scored for New Jersey, only to be answered by Cole. In the extra round, Anthony Calafiore squeaked his shot under the pad of Di Pasquo to win the game for New Jersey.
Maryland ends their regular season with a match-up at home with the Jamestown Rebels for a Thursday late-afternoon and Friday lunchtime start. Tickets are available at Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com through the Severn Bank Ticket Center.