Black Bears on Brink of Elimination After Being Swept in Maine

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

Following a pair of 4-1 losses to the Maine Nordiques this weekend, the Maryland Black Bears are fighting for their playoff lives in an attempt to win the East Division. While four of those goals from Maine were with an empty net, the Black Bears couldn’t find a way to break through offensively for more than a goal a game.

In Game 1, most of the action happened in first period. After a boarding minor to Jack Hillman, the Nordiques used the power play to its almost full time before converting with James Philpott finding the puck on the right face-off circle from a deflected shot to shoot it past Hannes Kollen for the first goal of the game. Maryland tried to get back the goal, but Maine would go up by two goals with Luke Antonacci scoring almost from the same location; going over the blocker of Kollen to make it 2-0. It was the third time in the last four games the Black Bears had gone to a 2-0 hole. Josh Nixon was able to get the Black Bears on the board with a goal from the slot thanks to the forecheck from the Black Bears.

Maryland got off to a quick start, trying to push for the equalizer. Despite the push, they were not able to break through Tyriq Outen in net during the second period. Kollen was able to get a lot of action, stopping three straight breakways in the frame, keeping Maryland in the game for the moment. The Black Bears got off to a quick start in the third period, as well, but were unable to get the equalizer before Maine was able to get two empty net goals to seal the Game 1 victory for the Nordiques.

Knowing they needed a win to not go down two games to none, the Black Bears needed to hunker down for Game 2 of the series. While they tried to push the pace a bit, the first period was a bit of a neutral zone battle. Not many top chances coming from Maryland, as Maine kept the Black Bears to the outside. In the second frame, the Nordiques dealt with some penalty troubles, but thanks to their ability to limit Maryland’s advances to the middle; no goals were tallied.

After Maine’s second penalty of the period, they found their first goal after Stefan Owens found Isaiah Fox streaking to the net and Fox put it to his backhand to beat Michael Morelli to open the scoring. Maryland went back on the power play not long after that and pepper Outen with shots, but the 6’3 Tampa native was equal to the task. With 5:01 left in the period, Patrick Schmiedlin put on what looked to be a harmless wrister, but it found an opening and went past Morelli for another 2-0 lead for Maine.

The third period got a little more physical as Maryland knew they needed to take some risk and make some plays, while Maine countered with some big hits and plays of their own. Almost seven minutes into the frame, Nixon and Maine’s Caden Pattinson got into it behind the Nordiques net and continued jaw-jacking in the penalty boxes, leading to ten-minute misconducts on top of their two minutes for roughing. Maryland continued to push, try to break into the Nordiques’ fortress, including a Luke Mountain breakaway and Hillman ringing a shot off the post. The Black Bears broke through with three minutes remaining from a Brad McNeil tip from a Philip Törnqvist shot to cut the lead to one. However, Maryland couldn’t find the equalizer and gave up two empty net goals to drop Game 2 by the same score as Game 1; 4-1.

The only task now for Maryland is to win every game. These games could have went either way and Maine did a great job keeping Maryland to the outside and not allowing many second chance opportunities. When Maryland was pressing Maine on the forecheck, they were able to create a bit of havoc on in the offensive zone and turn it into quality chances. Trying to break through on the power play is something that’ll be needed, as the Black Bears went 0-for-6 with the extra man this weekend. Getting traffic in front will be another thing to do, as Outen was able to see the majority of the shots thrown at him.

But it’s time for some home cooking. It’s time to have the crowd behind you and take it a game at a time, a period at a time, a shift at a time. They aren’t going to win three games in a single night, so time to break it down bit-by-bit and then let the pucks fall where they may. The series isn’t over until one team wins three games in the series– and I’m not great at math, but I don’t think Maine has reached that point just yet.

Black Bears Welcome Three Through Supplemental Draft

Ahead of the start of the Division Finals, the Maryland Black Bears and the rest of the NAHL took part in the Supplemental Draft. Every team got three selections and it was made up of players under 21 years old as of December 31st, 2021, who weren’t on an NAHL team or played less than 10 games for a team and didn’t accept a tender contract.

Graphic via Maryland Black Bears

For their first pick at #18, the Black Bears took Joona Haarti from Kiekko-Espoo U20 in Finland. The Helsinki defenseman played only nine games this season with two goals and five points, but has grown through the Blues system. In 2018-19, Haarti was the captain of the Blues U18 squad, posting 10 goals and 31 points in 37 games. His first year in U20 saw him struggle a bit with only six points in 41 games, but he seemed to get back on pace this year before the season was halted.

Graphic via Maryland Black Bears

At pick 42, Carter Primo Self was picked from the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints and is scheduled to attend Miami University this fall. After an impressive AAA career with Fox Motors and the Selects Academy, Self went to the BCHL, netting 12 goals and 37 points in 52 games for Cowichan Valley before returning stateside this season with Dubuque, where he had eight goals and 12 points on the year.

Graphic via Maryland Black Bears

The final pick at 46, Maryland chose Zane Demsey, also from Dubuque, and a Michigan State commit. Demsey is no stranger to the NAHL, as he split the 2019-20 season with the Chippewa Steel and Minnesota Wilderness. This past season, he was in the USHL with Waterloo to start before moving to Dubuque in the early part of the season. A more stay-at-home defensive type, Demsey only had three goals and six points in 41 games.

Only introduced last season, the Supplemental Draft allows teams more flexibility when it comes to bringing players to camp and evaluating them in the process. Of the picks last season, Matthew Shanklin made the Black Bears roster and was named alternate captain before having his season cut short due to injury.

Plenty of Maryland Talent Selected in 2021 USHL Draft

The USHL Draft has come and gone for another year. Those unfamiliar with the draft, it’s split up in two Phases. The first Phase is for U-17 players only– so in this instance, players with a 2005 birth year. Phase II is open to anyone who still has junior eligibility and is not protected by another USHL team. This is where you see a lot of the NAHL players being taken– including many Maryland Black Bears.

Of course, much like other drafts, this doesn’t automatically give you a spot in the USHL, but it’s a nice helper in order to get to that dream. Plenty of talent from Maryland and the mid-Atlantic have gone through this draft and this year added to that.

During Phase I on Wednesday, the first Marylander to go was Daniel Johnson to the Youngstown Phantoms in the fifth round. The Edgewood native has been all over the map, playing with Hershey Jr. Bears in pee-wee, up to the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Ontario, then over to the Chicago Young Americans this season, where he compiled 22 goals and 51 points in 60 games.

Next down the line was Maddox Tulacro, who went in the sixth round to the Des Moines Buccaneers. Tulacro played for the Mount St. Charles Academy 15U team, recording 11 assists and 12 points in 29 games. The defenseman from Bethesda joined Mount St. Charles after two years with Team Maryland in their AAA program from pee-wees through their 14U squad.

On Thursday, Phase II happened and a pair of Team Maryland 15U players went to the Youngstown Phantoms in the 18th and 19th round, with Luke Rubin going first and Jacques Oliver following that. Rubin, a Fulton native, racked up 10 goals in 14 games this season, while putting 43 goals over 59 games the last three season for Team Maryland across their programs. Oliver came to Team Maryland form the Washington Little Caps and was able to get 13 points in only 14 games in the AYHL this season. Youngstown owner Murry Gunty– who owns the Black Bears– has seen first-hand the skill of players from the DMV and believes in building a hockey culture in the mid-Atlantic. Selections like these help players along, while also showing other players in the area that by putting in the work, they could get a chance to reach their hockey goals.

Other Marylanders who were selected in Phase II include another one of the O’Neill boys, Cameron. The younger brother to Colin and Jason was picked by Tri-City in the eighth rough. O’Neill had his talent shine through while attending Mount St. Charles Academy and play for their 16U team. The Odenton native netted 24 goals and 57 points in only 23 games for the power house academy. O’Neill’s teammate and Rockville native Jack Spicer was picked in the 19th round by Des Moines after a 9-2-2 season with a 2.00 GAA and .926 save percentage.

On the Black Bears side of things, five total players were selected, an increase from last season’s three selections. It started when Bryan Huggins was picked by the Fargo Force in the seventh round, two rounds before Michael Morelli was picked up by the Dubuque Fighting Saints. The Omaha Lancers took Tanner Rowe in the 12th round, while Garrett Szydlowski got picked up by the Tri-City Storm. Last, but not least, Dylan Finlay went in the 13th round to the Sioux City Musketeers.

It was another small step into creating Maryland as a viable destination for teams to pick players, as well as showing how far the hockey programs in Maryland have come in the past decade to be able to churn out as much talent as they have in the last couple seasons. Add that to the rising stock of the NAHL team and players getting exposure in that side of things– the future is bright for the Old Line State.

Maryland Black Bears 2021 East Division Final Preview

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

The two newest teams in the NAHL East Division will face off for the divisional title starting this week. With Maryland taking out Johnstown and Maine defeating New Jersey, the Black Bears and Nordiques are heading for a collision course for the right to play in Blaine, Minnesota for the Robertson Cup.

These teams played only six times this season, all within a six week span. Maryland came out of it with a 2-2-2 record, but have a 6-3-2 record overall with the Nordiques. These teams haven’t played since February, so some things may have changed– including the location of Maryland’s home. The last series between these two teams in February shuttered down the IceWorld era for the Black Bears this season.

For the Black Bears, both Hunter McCoy and Luke Mountain have six points on the season, including Mountain’s hat trick on January 22nd. We will have to see if Aidan McDowell gets cleared to play, because he had a goal and three assists against Maine, while Cam Gaudette has a goal and two assists this year. One of the interesting notes is two of the more dynamic players for the Black Bears in the last season– Josh Nixon and Tanner Rowe– each only posted a goal a piece against Maine in their sets. In net, Michael Morelli and Hannes Kollen split starts, both accounting for a win.

On the Maine side, the Black Bears gave their top scorers fits this season. Stefen Owens only had a goal and an assist in six games, while Isaiah Fox had two goals and an assist in the series. However, that also means the Black Bears will need to be wary of the other Nordiques. In the 14 goals that Maine scored against Maryland, only Fox and Luke Antonacci scored multiple times throughout the series.

It’ll be another tightly contested match-up for the Black Bears, but if they want to get to Blaine and into the hunt for the Robbie– they’ll need to channel what made them successful against Maine this year, while also taking what they learned from the Johnstown series and using that to their advantage to adjust and adapt.

Black Bears Advance After Comeback Win

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

Odenton, Maryland can now be called Upset City.

Saturday night, the Maryland Black Bears overcame three deficits against the Johnstown Tomahawks and used two goals in 37 seconds to take the deciding Game Five, upset the top-seed in the division, and win their first playoff series in franchise history. Maryland will now face the winner of the New Jersey/Maine series, which will be decided Sunday night.

The first period was a sandwich period for Maryland, as Johnstown dictated the pace at the start of the frame, but Michael Morelli kept the sheet clean that the start. The Black Bears in the middle of the frame started to put their own pressure on the Johnstown net, with a couple opportunities on Sam Evola, but nothing to show for it. Johnstown then took over towards the end of the frame before they finally struck thanks to a Will Margel goal with 1:39 remaining in the first. Johnstown scored the first goal in four of the five games of this series.

Maryland tried to garner some momentum, but the forecheck of Johnstown stymied any movement that the Black Bears tried to make. Maryland finally got on the board due to some quick passing from everyone. Puck gets dumped into Morelli, to shoveled it over to Sean Kilcullen, who saw a line change for Johnstown was happened– so he quickly passed it to the far blue line were Tanner Rowe was waiting, gained the zone, and hit Daniel Colabufo with a cross-ice pass for Colabufo to put it near-side on Evola to tie the game. Maryland tried to build off the goal, moving the puck more and getting more offensive zone time, but Johnstown would regain the lead after Reed Stark scored on a breakaway by getting behind the defense after being taken down in the zone and slowly getting back into the play, looking for an outlet pass.

Johnstown took the lead into the third for the fourth time in this series, but Maryland had comeback before and knew they needed a big period to keep their season going. Cue the duo of Colabufo and Rowe, who hooked up again in the middle of the frame with Branden Piku finding Rowe, who cut between the Johnstown defense before finding Colabufo to put it blocker side on Evola again to make it two apiece. Not many penalties were called in this game, but the two called in the shift effected the rest of the game going forward. Jack Hillman got called on a holding call, which put the deadly Johnstown power play to work. Following a scramble off a Margel shot, John Gelatt scored to put Johnstown ahead. Less than 90 seconds later, Johnstown got called for a hooking, putting Maryland on their second power play. They didn’t wait long, as right off the face off win by Rowe, Dylan Finlay ripped home a wrist from the top of the circle to tie the game once again.

Knowing they couldn’t get down again, the Black Bears quickly went to work. Following a Johnstown shot that went over the net, the puck went to the top of the zone were Grady Friedman picked up the puck and looked over to the Johnstown goal. Streaking down the right side, Friedman drove to the net with Jude Kurtas in-stride with him down the left side, Friedman passed it across right in front of the crease, where Kurtas put home the go-ahead goal 37 seconds after Finlay’s equalizer to put Maryland up 4-3.

With 6:32 remaining, the Maryland defense clamped down on Johnstown’s offensive push and played a steady game in their zone by blocking shots, kept the puck to the outside, while Morelli make key stops to hold off the Tomahawks and take the win, moving to the East Final.

For the Black Bears, to move on in the playoffs is fantastic, but to do it against a team who has historically gotten the better of them is all the more sweeter. Now, the focus is going to be on either Maine or New Jersey, two teams who the Black Bears have played evenly against this season. The Black Bears were 2-2-2 against Maine and 7-6-1 against New Jersey on the year and will have to travel to their rink first to start the series.

However, that’ll wait until next time. Time to celebrate this victory for now and then focus on what’s next on Tuesday.

Split at Home Forces Black Bears to Game Five

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

For the first time in franchise history, the Black Bears played in front of their home fans at The Den in Piney Orchard. While it was a typical tight affair with the Johnstown Tomahawks, the Black Bears won on Wednesday, but couldn’t close it out Thursday– forcing into a winner-takes-all game on Saturday night in Johnstown.

To start off their home side of the playoff series, the Black Bears got off to a quick start. Two chances early by Tanner Rowe and Reid Leibold, showing off their speed to get around the Johnstown defense, but couldn’t cash in on those attempts. Johnstown struck for the first two goals, one at the halfway mark of the first period and then on the power play just past halfway in the second.

Maryland struck back, as Hunter McCoy rifled one home from the top of the circles late in the frame to start the comeback for Maryland. It took only 70 seconds in the third for the Black Bears to tie it up on a Josh Nixon goal from a rebound on the side of the net, then with 3:07 remaining, Brad McNeil put one top shelf for the eventual game winner and capping the three unanswered goals for Maryland.

Thursday’s game had another quick feel for Maryland, despite not being able to score. However, discipline and maybe a little over-excitement got to the Black Bears with two consecutive too-many-men penalties, but luckily– they wee able to hold off the Johnstown power play in those instances. After a scoreless first, Johnstown got a goal quick off the rebound under 90 seconds into the second, while they plugged away at the net for their second goal near the midway point to make it 2-0 by the end of the second frame.

Maryland looked for the comeback once again, as Nixon again lit the lamp on the power play with a shot through traffic from the point. Maryland looked for the equalizer, but couldn’t get the bounces they needed before Johnstown regained their two-goal lead. With the goalie pulled, Dylan Finlay scored with a minute remaining to give the Black Bears some life– but try as they might; Johnstown put it into the empty net with a second left and the series is tied with the last game coming on Saturday.

It’s hard to say that the Black Bears got off to slow starts. In both games, they had plenty of early chances. They used their speed to get to the outside and be able to cut the corner and head to the net, but the biggest thing was the inability to get a lot of traffic in front of Sam Evola. Game Four also had Johnstown up heavy on the shot-counter with 49 shots to Maryland’s 28. Johnstown adjust quickly from Game Three to get into passing lanes and take away a lot of time and space for the Black Bears anywhere on the ice.

For the Black Bears to take Saturday’s game, they’ll need to cash in on those chances early; not unlike how they managed to get to a quick lead in Game Two. There’s no need to complicate the game plan when you know what will work against this team. The issue is being able to get out in front and play with the lead rather than having to rely on last-chance heroics all the time. Also, limiting the amount of puck-handling in the defensive zone would help, as the Black Bears had issues with getting it out of their zone, leading to some prime chances by Johnstown.

The stage is set for what will be a conclusion to a heck of a series not only in the playoffs, but for the entire season between these two teams. There shouldn’t be an expectation of less between them on Saturday, as the winner will move onto the East Division Finals.

Black Bears Overcome Slow Start, Come Back Home in an Even Series

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

There’s an old adage that says a playoff series doesn’t start until the road team wins a game. Thanks to Saturday night’s win in Johnstown, the Maryland Black Bears have made this a series.

Game One wasn’t as great for the Black Bears on the scoreboard, but if you take away their shaky first period, they had plenty of momentum in their last 40 minutes. The defense was alive on the score sheet with all three goals Friday coming from the blue line with Cam Gaudette getting the first playoff goal in franchise history, while Philip Törnqvist notched two goals in the second period. It wasn’t to be, as the three-goal first period for Johnstown did the Black Bears in with a 5-3 final count.

As playoffs and rivalries are wont to do, the game broke down and the commentators for Johnstown made it sound like it was the greatest tragedy in the history of sports. It’s a shame, as I quite like Rick Hull calling the game for Johnstown. Though, they did have a point that the linesmen were doing something bizarre as fights were breaking out, it didn’t deserve the ire and passion Hull put into– especially given what would happen Saturday night.

However, like I said, the Black Bears had a solid second and third periods in Game One. Once they got over whatever jitters they may have had, they kept the game plan to what they needed to do and looked pretty solid as they headed into Game Two.

But I don’t think anyone thought they would start off the way they did on Saturday night.

A four-goal first period paced the Black Bears in Game Two. The final two goals coming 57 seconds apart by Jude Kurtas in the slot and Josh Nixon picking up a rebound at the side of the net. Though, despite how good the first period was, the second period got a little dumb when all was said and done. Forget the two goals that Johnstown scored, the biggest issue were the predatory hits that Johnstown put on Aden Bruich and Aidan McDowell.

Bruich was receiving a pass when he was blindsided by a Johnstown player, with contact being around the head area. Whether or not the initial point of contact was to the head (ed. note: I feel that the first point of contact was right under the chin– thus making it to the head), the blindside nature of it was what should have been taken into account. McDowell in the middle of an defending a Johnstown offensive rush when Dominic Schimizzi elbowed McDowell in the head. Schimizzi was given a match penalty, which should mean he is out for Game Three. Both Bruich and McDowell went off on their own power, but the fact only one got a penalty called on it seems criminal.

Not withstanding, the Black Bears were able to get their heads right, not get too overboard with trying to get physical revenge, and were able to convert after the major power play thanks to a bullet from Kevin Scott to make it 5-3. All of Johnstown’s goals came on the power play Saturday, but Luke Mountain’s empty netter sealed the victory for Maryland and gave them their third win of the year in Johnstown this season.

A big point of contention that did come up was the Black Bears’ penalty kill– which was 3rd in the NAHL during the regular season– letting up five power play goals against and one just after a penalty expired. Obviously, when that kind of drop happens immediately– there’s a cause for concern. Of course, a cause for concern could be the penalties themselves, sure; but with clearing attempts being intercepted to stop a clearing attempt or taken right off the blade, the execution of the PK is something that should be looked at as well– especially with a team as good on the power play as Johnstown.

On a better note, the quick adjustments made at the end of Game One and into Game Two is a big bright spot for this team. They didn’t let bad happenstances get to them and found a way to pick at some weaknesses of Johnstown and get onto them early and dictate the pace rather than the other way around. That will be a big point going back home for Game Three. The Black Bears will have their home crowd at the rink, they’ll need to draw off the energy of tying the series up, as well as being back at home to the faithful of The Den.

The home set at The Den are Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 PM. Ticket available at the Severn Bank Ticket Center at MarylandBlackBears.com or available on HockeyTV if you can’t make it out there.

Maryland Black Bears 2021 East Division Semi-Final Preview

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

On Friday, the Maryland Black Bears will step into their first playoff game in franchise history, as they take on their rivals from Western PA, the Johnstown Tomahawks. Albeit, it is a one-sided rivalry with Johnstown having an all-time record of 7-21-7 record over the Black Bears, this season has had a much closer feel to it.

In the 14 games between the two teams this year, 10 of them were one-goal games and five of those 10 games going into extra time. That was a carryover from the 2019-20 season were seven of the 10 games between the two were one-goal affairs. It all started with the Tomahawks winning a wild 7-6 thriller in the opening game of the season, one which saw the Black Bears go up by five goals before dropping it in overtime. Johnstown won the season series 9-3-2.

However, the five wins the Black Bears did have were pretty huge. They swept Johnstown for the first time this season, they won their first game in Johnstown this season, and showing their improvement across the board. Getting the boogeyman of not winning in Johnstown was a huge advancement for this team and something they won’t have to think about going into the series.

When it comes to scoring, Conor Cole has enjoyed playing against the Tomahawks. With three goals, seven assists, and a shootout winner, Cole has been able to find a way to get points against Johnstown. Josh Nixon and Garrett Szydlowski both have two goals and five assists this season versus Johnstown, though Szydlowski leaving Thursday’s game and not playing Friday’s game could have his availability in question going into Friday night. Reid Leibold has scored five times to lead the Black Bears in this series, with Daniel Colabufo and Hunter McCoy joining Cole with three goals a piece.

Between the pipes, Michael Morelli has played nine times this season against Johnstown with a 2.76 GAA .921 Sv% in those games and Hannes Kollen has started four times with a 3.20 GAA and .901 Sv%. Should be interesting to see how head coach Clint Mylymok goes about this one. Kollen played the last two games against Northeast, taking two wins away from that, while Morelli has been the work horse this season– though did suffer an injury a couple weeks back. The upside in this is that both played the Tomahawks tough in their outings.

One interesting note is that of Luke Mountain’s stats against Johnstown. Mr. Black Bear has only two goals and four assists in 35 games. If there were any time for the team captain to make an impact, it will be in his first playoff appearance during his last season in the NAHL.

In a best-of-five, a quick start is going to be more than crucial and being able to win on the road is going to be a must. While in a perfect world, you win all the games on the road– should the Black Bears come out of Johnstown with a split– it will set them up nicely coming home, as they ended the season winning seven of their last 10 games at The Den.

Black Bears Clinch Playoff Spot

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

For the first time in franchise history, the Maryland Black Bears are headed to the post-season.

With the Maine Nordiques beating the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks in regulation Friday night allowed the Black Bears to clinch a spot on points percentage. Especially considering the 2019-20 season was cut short due to COVID, this is a huge accomplishment for this franchise to get into the playoffs; as it would be for any franchise for a chance to play for the league title.

From a team that was put together in less than four months in their first season, to starting to gain an identity and be in a playoff spot int the second season, to now being a team who will finish at or above .500 at the end of the season and will be playing for a chance to get to the Robertson Cup. On top of that, this season also had to deal with the injury bug that most teams face; but also a long losing streak in the middle of the season they had to bond together and overcome– which is something that should help them in the playoff setting.

Even with the playoff berth, there’s still three games to play. The focus is going to be on being smart about how they play in terms of discipline in not wanting to get suspended, as well as trying not to get injured– but also playing competitive enough to keep the in-game reps going for the post-season. The fact is, Saturday night’s game could be a preview of the first round match-up with Johnstown having won the East Division and Maryland still fighting between 3rd and 4th spot.

Enjoy the berth tonight, get back to work for Saturday’s game, as well as next weekend’s games to close out the regular side of the schedule. One box has been checked off, now to focus on the next boxes in the way.

Marathon Week Leads to Sprint Run for Black Bears

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

Friday night, Mother Nature tried to give the Maryland Black Bears an extra day to their marathon week of six games in eight days. The lights did come back on in the rink, but the Black Bears couldn’t get the win in the late-night due, dropping a 5-0 decision to the New Jersey Titans.

At the conclusion of this six-game marathon week, the Black Bears came out of it with a 3-2-1 record, securing the team at least a .500 points percentage for the season. That’s crucial, as the East Division of the NAHL will be (by all accounts though nothing has been made public by the league) percentage-based due to the the Northeast Generals (60) and Maine Nordiques (56) playing more than 54 games that the other four teams will play on the year. With the Black Bears having only three games remaining, every point is going to be crucial for them.

Should the Black Bears win out, they’ll have a .556 points percentage with their minimum being the .500 mentioned above. Here’s how the rest of the unclinched teams look with their minimum and maximum for the two remaining playoff spots: New Jersey (.528/.583), Danbury (.361/.546), Northeast (.367/.483).

Obviously, the Black Bears control their own destiny and really are battling to keep Danbury out. They have a one-off game next weekend against Johnstown to make up for the game that got cancelled due to Pennsylvania changing their COVID restriction for a time, then the final home weekend is against Northeast, where the Generals could play spoiler.

While this Black Bears team already owns the distinction of being the best Black Bears team in the short franchise history, while also being the first team to not have a losing record– making the playoffs would be another check-mark for this squad in an abnormal season. While there’s even more hurdles with key players being out, this team will have to look deeper into themselves to get that last drop of gas out of the tank for this three-game sprint.

Some rest and some home cooking should be able to go along way this week as they prepare and hopefully they’ll be able to let this past week be what it was and focus on the next task at hand.