DANBURY, CT– Coming off a split weekend against Northeast, the Black Bears traveled back to the Northeastern US, but stopped in Danbury to take on the Jr. Hat Tricks. With offense not at a premium, the Black Bears showed off their scoring prowess, while also showing off their penalty killing expertise, as they swept the Jr. Hat Tricks for the second time this year.
FRIDAY DECEMBER 10th, 2021: BLACK BEARS (5) at Danbury (4): Maryland tried to set the tone early in the game, keeping the puck away from Luca Di Pasquo’s cage, while controlling their side of the neutral zone. It took them almost half a period to tally their first goal, as Philip Tornqvist picked up a loose rebound from a Danbury shot and started a break that ended with Branden Piku finding the back of the net thanks to using a defenseman as a screen to give the Black Bears the 1-0 lead. Danbury would even the score minutes later, after a broken up breakout attempt by Maryland turned into Luka Sukovic putting home the rebound from a Lucas Di Chiarra shot. After Danbury killed their first penalty of the night, Maryland took the lead back with Matthew Davies– who had two big blocked shot to open the game– took a Piku pass from the neutral zone and drove to the net, beating goalie Adam Johnson high for the 2-1 lead. Only 20 seconds later, Tyler Young picked up a loose puck in the slot and buried it past Johnson to give the Black Bears a 3-1 lead to end the first.
Maryland’s penalty kill was stellar to start the second. Having to kill off an existing power play from the first period and then another roughing call in the second, they didn’t give up many chances down a man, while also creating some of their own, including a breakaway attempt by Young. The Black Bears would take those kills as momentum, creating plenty of chances at Johnson, but nothing getting by the netminder. Danbury would strike next, however, as during four-on-four play, Jake Howard snuck down the near side board and went backhand to beat Di Pasquo and get Danbury within one. Maryland was quick to respond, as Davies found Kevin Scott all alone at the faceoff dot and put a well-placed wrist shot passed Johnson to make it 4-2 just 35 seconds after Howard’s goal. Continuing to press, Maryland was able to create more chances, including some on the power play– but Andrew Eberling picked the pocket of a Maryland defender and put it behind Di Pasquo to make it 4-3 with the shorthanded marker.
The penalty kill was tested early, again, as back-to-back penalties put Maryland a bit on their heels, but the PK stood strong and didn’t allow Danbury to be a threat for Di Pasquo. Right after the second straight kill, the Black Bears forecheck created a turnover thanks to Tyler Young, who found Ryan Bottrill, who weaved a pass to Miles Gunty for the 5-3 goal. Gunty had a couple of opportunities earlier in the third, with his persistence paying off for his sixth of the season. Danbury got to within one, again, as a turnover in the neutral zone turned into a three-on-one, with Gabe Dombrowski finding Mike Salandra for the cross-ice goal to make it 5-4. Despite another penalty late in the period, Di Pasquo saved his best for last, making some solid stops on the six-on-four chances to secure the win for Maryland by a score of 5-4.
SATURDAY DECEMBER 11th 2021: BLACK BEARS (3) at Danbury (1): The Black Bears looked to pick up where they left off on Friday night, controlling the game offensively in the first period. While they did go shorthanded early, they had a couple of chances shorthanded, which outnumbered the Danbury chances on that power play. Maryland got on the board first as Jacob Brockman found the puck down the side board and somehow found enough daylight to put it over the shoulder of Adam Johnson to make it 1-0 Maryland. Continuing to press, Maryland put all they had on Johnson, but the Danbury netminder stood strong for the time being. It wasn’t until 4:15 remaining that Maryland broke Johnson again, as Kevin Scott found another bit of daylight from a tough angle for his fifth of the season and extended the Black Bears’ lead to 2-0 to end the first. Michael Morelli didn’t see many pucks in the frame, but his mental game was strong enough that he carefully handled a flurry of chances by Danbury at the end of the period.
Danbury was all over Maryland to start the second period, causing turnovers in the Maryland zone, as well as drawing a penalty. Luckily, the Black Bears PK had been solid to that point on the weekend and were able to kill it off. The Jr. Hat Tricks continued to pressure, getting some solid chances on Morelli, with Maryland slip-sliding all over the ice. A light at the end of the tunnel seemed to shine, as the Black Bears got the next goal courtesy of captain Conor Cole snapping one over Johnson’s shoulder to make it 3-0. However, the penalty troubles would bite Maryland, as Ryan Johnson took advantage of Scott holding call for his first NAHL goal to cut the Maryland lead to 3-1. Despite power plays at the end of the period, the Black Bears could not find the back of the net, taking a two-goal lead to the intermission.
The third period was the period of the penalty kill for Maryland. Danbury used their speed and Maryland seemed to stop moving their feet, which created five power play chances for the Jr. Hat Tricks. However, as it has been all season, the Black Bears were big on the PK thanks to timely blocked shots and Morelli tracking the puck extremely well to keep the Maryland lead and eventually win, as the Black Bears sweep the Jr. Hat Tricks in Danbury for the second time this season.
One more weekend of action in 2021, as the Black Bears welcome the Johnstown Tomahawks to The Den at Piney Orchard on Friday and Saturday. Go to Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com to get your tickets from the Severn Bank Ticket Center and help the squad close out 2021 in style.