MIDDLETOWN, NJ– A battle of the top-two teams in the east took place in Middletown, New Jersey. But for the Maryland Black Bears, it would be a bit of an uphill battle with William Hakansson, Branden Piku, Adam Schankula, Caleb Craven, and Magnus Gadowsky all down with illnesses. However, the depth for the Black Bears shone through with a split in New Jersey in their last series against each other in the regular season.
FRIDAY MARCH 10th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (2) at New Jersey (3): With some key players out, the Black Bears were in a next-man-up mentality with defenseman Raymond Perrault and goalie Stephen Chen called up and Luke Amell moved to forward. New Jersey got out of the gates fast, but Jack Wieneke was solid between the pipes in the early going. An early penalty kill is what got Maryland going offensively with two shorthanded chances and no shots on Wieneke. Things did get feisty as the period went on with several off-setting minors. Thanks to a major penalty to New Jersey, the Black Bears were first to strike late in the frame with Brayden Stannard popping a shot over the shoulder of Zak Brice to give the Black Bears a 1-0 lead going into the intermission.
Penaltis would haunt the Black Bears in the middle frame, as an early Maryland penalty created New Jersey’s first goal with Ben Muthersbaugh ripping a wrist shot low to beat Wieneke and knot the game up at ones. Another penalty in the midway point put the Black Bears down, with Muthersbaugh creating a near identical shot on this power play, but in snap shot form, to put the Titans up 2-1. Moments later, a turnover on a breakout by Maryland allowed New Jersey to keep possession in their zone and create their third goal with Joe Harney coming out from behind the net and tricking Wieneke to make it 3-1 New Jersey after 40 minutes.
Both sides were running and gunning in the period, but both Wieneke and Brice were able to withstand the pressure for the majority of the period. It wouldn’t be until 12 seconds remaining in the third when Hunter Ramos got the Black Bears to within one after great work in the zone to move the puck around with the extra attacker, but it was too little, too late as the Black Bears dropped the series opener 3-2.
SATURDAY MARCH 11th, 2023: BLACK BEARS (4) at New Jersey (3): Trying to build off the momentum to end Friday night’s game, the Black Bears got on the board first with Brad McNeil finding Hunter Ramos, who made a power move to the net and put home his 18th of the year and give Maryland the early lead. They were able to hold New Jersey at bay, though, with Jack Wieneke not seeing a lot of shots, but stopping each of the eight shots he saw to keep it 1-0 Maryland after 20 minutes.
Another wild second period for both sides starting with Anthony Calafiore tying the game on a delayed penalty call against Maryland with a slapper from the right face-off dot. The Black Bears responded moments later with Gabriel Westling getting his first goal since November 11th on a wrister from the right face-off dot to give Maryland the lead again. While New Jersey was pressuring the Black Bears, Maryland would get a two-goal lead thanks to Luke Van Why jumping up in the play and beating Zak Brice for a 3-1 Black Bears lead. The Titans would get one back with Ben Muthersbaugh firing a shot past Wieneke to make it 3-2. Not long after that Muthersbaugh got his second of the night on an odd-angle shot that deflected off of Wieneke’s glove to tie the score after 40 minutes.
Pleasantries would be exchanged through most of the third period, with plenty of off-setting minors being doled out by the officials. Maryland, however, would be able to get the lead back close to the midway point as Jesse Horacek poked the puck just out of the reach of Brice’s glove with the puck going right to Brayden Stannard who had the whole net to shoot at and made it 4-3 for the Black Bears. Wieneke and the defense stood strong on a late barrage and the forecheck for the Black Bears stymied any chance the Titans had with the extra attacker and split the weekend in New Jersey with a 4-3 victory.
The Black Bears return to Piney Orchard for their last meeting with the Johnstown Tomahawks in a three-game set. Head to Tickets.MarylandBlackBears.com for the rivalry weekend.