The Black Bears closed out the home portion of 2020 with a bang, pulling out a one-goal victory over the New Jersey Titans in a 5-4 thriller at Ice World. The first goal of the game came less than a minute into the game for the Black Bears, as a Daniel Colabufo shot bounded off the glass behind the net right to the stick of Grady Friedman, who slotted it home. New Jersey was quick to respond, however, when Stephen Willey accepted a pass from Blake Humphrey and wristed one past Karsten Bourgoine before the net-minder could react. The assist for Humphrey was the first point of his NAHL career. Maryland struck back and retook the lead on a great show of determination. Sean Kilcullen had his first shot blocked by a Titans defenseman, but the puck rolled right back to his stick. He stuck with the play and fired a shot towards the net. Grady Friedman had the shot bounce off of his leg and through Berk Berkeliev for the goal. On the goal, Reid Leibold was given his second secondary assist on the night. The Titans responded on the power play a few minutes later, when Jake Suede tried to backhand a centering pass from beside Karsten Bourgoine, but the puck bounced into the net. The period ended with the score knotted at 2-2. New Jersey held a resounding lead on the shot clock, however, outshooting the Black Bears 18-8.
New Jersey took the lead on an early power play in the second period when Evan Werner fired a laser to the far post for his third goal of the series. The score remained 3-2 in favor of the Titans until the 14:40 mark of the period, when Tanner Rowe tied the game. He took a pass from Luke Mountain and fired a beautiful wrist shot from the top of the right circle past the glove of Berk Berkeliev. On the secondary assist, Hunter McCoy recorded another point, extending his run of games with a point to 7 of his last 8 games. Maryland would retake the lead with only 3.6 seconds remaining on the clock. Josh Nixon gained the zone before dishing a nice pass to the stick of Garrett Szydlowski. Szydlowski moved the puck to his backhand and successfully found the net by going near side on Berkeliev. The Black Bears held onto a 4-3 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
The third period would be fairly uneventful for the first 12 minutes or so until the 12:15 mark of the period, when New Jersey tied the game at four. A great setup in the offensive zone allowed Austin Cook to move the puck over to a wide open Caleb Price. The Arizona State commit moved the puck into the face-off circle and slotted a shot home by targeting the far post. The Black Bears responded to retake the lead with less than four minutes remaining in the period, when Jude Kurtas took a loose puck at his own blue line and kicked it into a different gear, creating a breakaway. He won the race against a retreating Caleb Price and wristed a great shot past a surprised Berk Berkeliev. Less than a minute over, Thomas Jarman took a brutal minor penalty for slashing, but the Black Bears were able to kill the penalty and hang on for the 5-4 win. Once he settled in, Karsten Bourgoine had a really solid first start for the Black Bears, earning his first NAHL win.
With the win, the Black Bears move to 8-4-1-1 (17 points) on the season, putting them into first place in the NAHL East Division. With the loss, the Titans fall to 5-6-1-4 (15 points), remaining in 4th place in the division. Maryland has one more series left in 2020, a 2-game road trip to Johnstown to take on the Tomahawks next weekend. The Black Bears will return back to home ice on the first day of the new year, taking on the Maine Nordiques on January 1st and January 2nd. Be sure to catch all of the action on HockeyTV.