Black Bear Sports Group Makes More In-Roads, Buy Youngstown Phantoms

phantoms

Lost in the whole drunken debauchery of the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup victory, the Black Bears Sports Group made another impressive move. If nothing else, they could be the biggest movers and shakers of this offseason and it just barely begun. Not just for the expansion team in the NAHL being brought to Odenton– but this move is huge.

On Friday, Murry Gunty– the CEO of BBSG– and BBSG has purchased half of the ownership stake of the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL, buying the stake from former NHLer Troy Loney and his wife. Bruce Zoldan and his family will keep their half of the ownership, but Gunty made a move to put former NHLer Keith Primeau as vice-chairman of hockey operations.

If nothing else, BBSG has done a helluva job when it comes to building not only the brand across the mid-Atlantic, but also to make sure their NAHL team is going to be leading players to success. We mentioned earlier in the year about the Maryland Black Bears having a feeder system through Team Maryland and the Mercer Chiefs– but now they have a team that players can be fed to in the Phantoms. Maybe not directly, but will have a better chance to actually make the USHL in that situation and give more of the Black Bears a chance at trying out for the USHL.

This goes to show that when I spoke to Ryan Scott earlier that the BBSG is going to grow hockey in the mid-Atlantic (and now Ohio Valley) region and have a pipeline of talent be able to stay in and around the area rather than shuffle off to somewhere else. And to buy up the assets they are putting in their portfolio is a great way to grow the game, but to also make sure the players have a place to play and that people in the area have a place to go towards.

Now, how that translates on the ice remains to be scene. It’ll be a big task for them to make an expansion team successful on the ice and in the box office– but with the recent success of the Vegas Golden Knights, maybe they can take off that formula to create a success for all aspects of the team from the ice to the pay-window.

Caps By The Numbers: STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS

DfI9q5DXUAEOGaT.jpg

It wasn’t easy….but why would it be for the Capitals?? After exchanging leads thanks to Caps goals by Jakub Vrana and Alex Ovechkin, the Caps were down to start the 3rd 3-2 thanks to goals from Vegas’ Reilly Smith, David Perron, and former Capital Nate Schmidt– the Caps got their puck luck back. Brooks Orpik kept a puck in the zone, threw it at the net where it was deflected to Devante Smith-Pelly, who dove and scored the tying goal. Minutes later, Lars Eller picked up the rebound that squeaked through Marc-Andre Fleury’s legs to get the eventual game-winner as the Caps took Game 5 and the Stanley Cup.

Alex Ovechkin was the Conn Smythe trophy winner as Playoff MVP with 15 goals and 27 points.

The Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup Champions….which is still great, but odd to say. And because of it….the Road to Gus is over.

bengt-gustafsson-dljpg.jpeg

Bengt Gustafsson will forever be my all-time favorite player. It wasn’t because he was one of the first European players to have an edge to him. It wasn’t because of the five-goals he scored on the Flyers in a game in 1984. It wasn’t because of his six 20+ goal seasons. It was because of my first game and the impact he had on me in that moment.

It was February 3rd, 1989– my first live Caps game. My dad had gotten tickets for the game in order for me to see it live because he always encouraged me when I got into new things. Working where he did– he was able to get some tickets from the people around the Capital Centre and got us in. It was a giveaway night to boot– player shirt night. It was the precursor to the overpriced shirseys we see today– but they were just giving them away.

The Caps played the Hartford Whalers in their majestic all kelly green uniforms. They had Mike Liut in net, while Pete Peeters was in the Caps net. It wasn’t the most exciting of games, but it was a live game I never thought I’d be able to see in my little five-year-old life. During the first intermission, I asked my dad to look at the giveaway shirt and it had the #16 on it with Gustafsson above it. It was almost like the player’s jersey with red shoulders, the logo with the stars across, but the jerseys didn’t have a car dealership below the number. I didn’t want to put it on just yet– for some reason.

However, once the second period started, I wanted to put it on about 90 seconds into the period. That’s because the guy who had his name on the shirt given away had scored it. Bengt Gustafsson got the goal on a pass from Mike Gartner and I felt a kinship with this player who I’ve never met (then or even now) nor was it due to his past accomplishments– it was because he scored the first– and only goal– of my first live game. He was my guy. Of course, that would be his last season before he returned to Sweden and finished his career in Europe before taking over as coach for the Swedish national team. But even then– he was my guy.

There’s something to be said about going to a live hockey game, there’s even more to be said about a connection fans have to players because of something that happened at that live hockey game. Because a player who was on the giveaway shirt scored the goal– he instantly became my favorite player. It wasn’t until I was older when I was able to appreciate his feats before I was a fan.

With that– this rounds out the Caps by the Numbers series for 2018.

First Draft For Black Bears Yield Interesting Results

img_20180509_091523124387279.jpg

The annual NAHL Draft happened on Tuesday and the Maryland Black Bears used it as a nice jumping off point for their franchise, selecting 13 players in the draft. The NAHL draft lasted 16 rounds, which means Maryland made the most of their time.

However, before the draft, they tendered two offers to two players out of the pre-draft camp in Matteo Menotti and Brady Lindauer. Menotti had 24 goals and 45 points in 29 games with the Minnesota Moose of the US Premier League. Menotti has also played seven games in the NAHL in the past two seasons between the Odessa Jackalopes and Minnesota Wilderness. Lindauer played in the NA3HL with the La Crosse Freeze, netting 48 assists and 64 points in only 34 games while also having seven games of NAHL time with the Coulee Region Chill.

With the first overall pick in the actual draft, the Black Bears picked Steve Agriogianis, who split time between Cedar Rapids, Omaha, and Central Illinois of the USHL last season. The interesting thing with this pick is that Agriogianis is supposed to join Penn State University this season, as well as attending camp with Central Illinois in the summer. This means Maryland is third on the depth chart with Agriogianis most likely, which makes you wonder why they picked someone with obvious other options with the top pick if your team is the second fall-back option.

In the second round, Maryland picked another player committed to Division I in 2018-19 in Patrick Choi. Choi is committed to Bentley University for next season, but if he does stay in juniors another year, Choi would be a great producer. In the NCDC AAA side, Choi was the tenth leading scorer in the league with 23 goals and 53 points in his 48 games between Boston and Syracuse.

A little local flavor in the third round, as Maryland picked Andrew Lucas, who was born in Alexandria, Virginia. A commit to University of Vermont, Lucas played with the Loomis Chaffee Prep School and Yale Jr. Bulldogs this past season. Lucas is coming off of back-to-back 28-point seasons with Loomis Chaffee from the blue line.

Here’s the rest of the picks from the Draft for the Black Bears:

-Cole Gibbs, D, St. Mary’s Prep (MI)
-Luc Salem, D, Alberni Valley (BCHL)
-Max Borst, F, Edina High (MN)
-Tristan Culleton, D, Steinbach (MJHL)
-Joseph Demers, C/RW, Dallas Stars U18 (TX)
-Brayden Shaw, F, Regina (Sask. Midget)
-Kobe Keller, C/RW, Soo (Northern Ont.)
-Luke Mountain, F, Shattuck St. Mary (MN)
-Marek Wazny, C, Burlington (Ont.)
-Thomas Jarman, D, Omaha AAA (NE)

There are still free agent camps to be had for the Black Bears, as they’ll hold a free agent camp in Rockville before they have their invite-only game in late July to round out their team before the September training camp in their inaugural season.

Caps By The Numbers: Three First Period Goals Put Capitals on the Cusp

With some lucky bounces off the post and some great conversions, the Washington Capitals are one win away from lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup. Vegas had some early chances with James Neal ringing one off the post with a wide-open net, but Lady Luck was standing with Washington. TJ Oshie broke the scoreless tie with a power play goal off his foot to his stick and in, while Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly added the other first period markers. John Carlson got the fourth goal in the second before Vegas scored two in the third from James Neal and Reilly Smith to cut the lead in half. After scrappiness from both sides mean a lot of open ice due to penalties– which allowed Michal Kempny and Brett Connolly to get some goals to end it 6-2 in Game 3 and put the Caps up 3-1 in the series. Evgeny Kuznetsov had four assists.

With all the tropes about the Capitals in the playoffs, one more remains– being up in a series three games to one; but not being able to close it out. They’ll have three chances now, but the hope is to get it done on Thursday in Game 5 back in Vegas.

ea9cc1a36dd84e4f9c183e8f2e370497_front.jpg

Fifteenth win means a #15 gets profiled from Washington Capitals history. When it comes to long-time Capitals, this #15 is one of them who only spent five seasons in DC, but has been with the organization much longer than that. To this day, he still is an amateur scout of the Caps and could have had a hand in forming the team you see one win away from a Stanley Cup. This time, we talk about Alan Haworth.

Haworth came to the Caps from the Sabres, who were not at all patient with their young forward. Haworth was a bit undersized, but did fit in well with the transitioning Capitals of the mid-80s. Haworth was a solid scorer for the Caps, notching 20 goals each of his five seasons, maxing out at 34 goals in the 1985-86 season. Haworth was part of “The Plumber Line” with Craig Laughlin and Greg Adams due to their blue collar work ethic, while creating many scoring opportunities.

Yet, like Rick Green before him, Haworth was a part the help grow the Capitals for the future. Haworth was part of a deal with the Quebec Nordiques that brought Clint Malarchuk and future captain Dale Hunter to the Capitals. Haworth played only one season with Quebec before going to Switzerland and ending his playing career with SC Bern.

After his playing career, Haworth got into the hockey ops side of things and, as I said, has been a scout with the Caps since 2009-10 and has been overseeing some things when it comes to the future of the Caps; something he indirectly did with his presence and by getting traded.

Caps By The Numbers: Game-Time Decision Nets Game Winner

After leaving the game early in Game 2, Evgeny Kuznetsov was a game-time decision for Game 3. That decision wasn’t one, as he was probably going to play all along. It’s a good thing he did, as he netted the game-winner for the Caps in Game 3 under the blocker of Marc-Andre Fleury to help give the Caps a 3-1 win and a 2-1 series lead. Alex Ovechkin started the scoring for the Caps off a frantic series of events in front, going back-hand on Fleury’s blocker side. Kuznetsov scored in the second, but a botched clearing attempt by Braden Holtby allowed Vegas to cut the lead to 2-1 after Tomas Nosek made Holtby pay for his blunder. The Caps were undeterred, as a wonderful forecheck by Jay Beagle allowed him to strip Shea Theodore of the puck, pass it right on the tape of Devante Smith-Pelly, who then roofed it over Fleury’s glove for the 3-1 marker. Game 4 goes Monday, still in Washington.

Win number fourteen means it’s time to profile a #14 in Caps history.

f81ebe5a-b9ed-4e6a-9e05-e364e799f222.jpg

When it comes to #14s there has been a lot– some of which have been marred by allegation that were proven false, some have been there for a cup of coffee, while others just used it as a number. For this player, he could have been something that Alex Ovechkin is now, as he was a highly touted player coming out of juniors. However, a rash if injuries, including a devastating ankle injury– he could never get his career off the ground. Now, a look at Pat Peake.

Peake was a career Capital, albeit for all of 134 games over five seasons, but before that– he was a major junior superstar, collecting 138 goals and 319 points in three seasons (162 games) with Detroit Compuware/Jr. Red Wings; exploding for 58 goals and 136 points in 46 games in 1992-93.

Peake finally got to the NHL in 1993-94, where he played 49 games for the Caps, registering 11 goals and 29 points on the year. However, that’s when the injuries started to pile up. Shoulder injuries, kidney issues, torn cartilage in his thyroid, and then the injury that would eventually retire him.

Coming off a decent regular season with 17 goals in 62 games, Peake was playing against the Penguins in the playoffs and was skating to cancel out an icing call, he got tripped up, landed feet first into the boards, and shattered his heel, which the doctors said was equal to a construction worker falling off a building feet first. Peake would rehab and need numerous surgeries to try and get his life back together, but it would end his playing career.

Peake stayed in hockey, going from assistant coach, to agent, to head coach of a AAA team in Michigan. While he will go under as one of the biggest 1st round busts, it was a series of unfortunate events that kept him from reaching his full sucess.

First Black Bears Acquire from Kenai River

Dec_R9ZWAAIK7eJ.jpg

Via @BlackBearsNAHL

A few days late, but the first two rosters players were announced for the Maryland Black Bears, as a deal was made with the Kenai River Brown Bears, which sent Carter Wade (’98) and Luke Posner (’99) to Maryland for what appears to be future considerations, though nothing was put as a return.

The move was a decent one for Maryland, as they’ll immediately be bringing in older players who have experience at the NAHL level to help mentor the other players who may be getting their first shot at this chance.

Wade finished his second season in Kenai River, putting up three goals and 14 points in his 88 games over two seasons, as well as serving as an alternate captain last year. Wade comes from Ephrata, Washington and came out of the Everett Jr. Silvertips program before jumping to the NAHL in 2015-16 with the Odessa Jackalopes before getting a taste of the USHL in two games with the Sioux City Musketeers. After that season, Wade moved to Kenai River before heading now to Maryland. The big stat for Wade is his 407 PIMs in the last two seasons, which means the Black Bears may have found their enforcer already.

Posner finished his first year in the NAHL with five goals and 27 points in 56 games after a high school career in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. Posner captained his Mahtomedi Zephyrs get to the Class A State Tournament his senior season, though they were eliminated in the first round. Described as a slippery player, Posner was sixth on the Brown Bears in points in his rookie year. A hot start helped Posner, with 11 points in his first seven games, but it cooled as the team cooled down. A new start in Maryland could help him get back on track.

With speed and some toughness on the roster already, the Black Bears are setting things in motion for the new younger class coming in. The NAHL will hold their draft on June 5th, which will be another step in the Maryland Black Bears molding their team either through the draft or making trades to get some established players on their roster.

Caps By The Numbers: The Save Gives Caps a Split in Vegas

For the first time in franchise history– the Washington Capitals won a game in the Stanley Cup Final. In what could be the best save in his career, Braden Holtby stopped Alex Tuch late in the third period to preserve the Capitals 3-2 lead, which ended up being the final as the teams go back to Washington tied up at one game a piece. Caps goals came from Lars Eller, Alex Ovechkin, but the game-winner came from Brooks Orpik– his first goal in 220 games.

The game didn’t come without a price, as Evgeny Kuznetsov took a hit from Brayden McNab in the first, looking like he jammed his wrist and didn’t return. Late in the game, Jay Beagle took a shot off the inside of his foot. He did play the rest of the game, but had a noticeable hobble when he was on the ice. Luckily, the teams have space between games, as they don’t play until Saturday night.

With the 13th win, we have a former Caps #13.

35b09e87257f8d26a6c2b7abe0ed622a.jpg

Since it’s the first time that the Caps have won their 13 games in the playoffs, why not go with the first guy who wore the #13?? That feat didn’t happen until 1997 when it was the man they call Niko, who first donned the superstitious number after coming over from the Hartford Whalers. It’s time for Andrei Nikolishin.

Nikolishin came into the league as an offensive forward, but adjusted his game to the North American style, while also keeping his solid hands, impressive strength of skating, and one of the most balance players in the league, though the numbers never translated that. Coming to the Caps in the middle of the 1996-97 season, Niko was put into a checking role– which is something he happily went into. While he only peaked at 38 points for the Caps in his six years in DC, Nikolishin’s backchecking, forechecking, and ability to give up the body for the play was one of the big reasons why the Caps wanted him in the trade.

Of course, the relationship wasn’t without its drama with contract disputes. Nikolishin sat out most of the 1997-98 season due to trying to get a better contract, which limited him to only 38 games. However, once the playoffs came– Niko was a big reason why the Capitals were able to get into the Stanley Cup Final, putting up 13 assists in 21 games, while also providing the stingy defense that tends to win you championships.

Nikolishin would improve his offensive output after that season, peaking at 13 goals and 25 assists in 2000-01, complimenting that with a 13-goal, 36-point output for the Caps in 2001-02 before leaving the team to test the waters. With two failed attempts in Chicago and Colorado, Nikolishin went to Russia to end out his career.

My Life As a Caps Fan

home-main.jpg

Photo via CapsJerseys.com

This story is unique, but not. Many Caps fans have a similar tale– one of hope, heartbreak, despair, and faith. This is just mine.

My first Caps game I remember seeing on TV was on WDCA Channel 20 when the Caps played the New York Rangers in 1987 or 88. I knew the game of hockey because I had saw two wooden souvenir sticks in my bedroom, I believe a gift from my Godfather. They were red with blue lettering “Washington Capitals” with the Caps logo on it. I also had Fisher-Price roller skates with bells on it– so when I saw the game and wanted to imitate that– my mom and dad were reluctant about it. Not because of the game itself, it was mostly because of the ringing.

The first Caps game I attended was in February of 1989 (a story that I’ll hopefully get to tell at the end of the playoffs). I was instantly hooked, not with hockey– but with the Capitals. They were my local(ish) team, even though the Baltimore Skipjacks were a few miles from me– my dad had some connections at the Capital Centre that allowed us to see many games together until they left for the then MCI Center.

Through it all, this is the team I hung my hat on. From the days of never getting out of the Patrick Division until 1990 or the times going up three games to one in a series, only to lose. From the miraculous run in 1998 until the Cup Final to the Jaromir Jagr trade, which always left a bad taste in my mouth. From all the rebuild, which included Matt Yeats as a goalie to now in this era of Caps hockey that’s great and scary all in one. This is a team that always gave me the highest of highs and lowest of lows in sports fandom.

It also provided a community. Because of the Caps, I got into local hockey– first at Benfield Pines and then Piney Orchard– which happened to be the Caps practice facility. Through youth hockey, I have some of my closest friends, who have all come together through the wonders of social media to enjoy this series, as well as relive moments from our own glory days of travel hockey.

For many, the Caps are more than just a team (not to be confused with the 1989-90 team video), but it’s something that bound us together through our formidable years. We won’t be watching the Cup Final from our assistant coach’s sun room (shoutout Coach Gary), but we’re all in-tune with this. Especially since this is not something that’s supposed to happen. The window for this team was closed after they went all-in with Kevin Shattenkirk. But they kept it open enough to have the breeze roll in and keep the hope alive. Keep this whole thing going, as improbable as it has been.

And I won’t kid anyone in saying that this all seems like a fever dream. The Caps have had the odds against them and it seems like it’s all going to come to an end in typical Caps fashion so many times….but it hasn’t. We’ve prepared for the worst, but the best has been happening. It’s atypical in so many ways– especially with who they’re playing in this Cup Final.

Seemingly, all the playoff ghosts have been vanquished– beating the Penguins, winning a Game 7– save for three: Marc-Andre Fleury (22-12-2 regular season, 8-6 postseason vs. Caps), George McPhee (former Caps GM, now Vegas GM), and Lord Stanley (The Cup). If there was a time to flip the script and eliminate them all– it’s now.

For now…time to face the next game and hope that these past 30 years as a fan of this team that many love (despite them seemingly not wanting to love us back) continues to be all worth it. I’m not ready to use the “B” word when it comes to this team. Maybe if they get four more wins, I can admit to myself– it’s okay. It’s all okay.

Caps By The Numbers: Burakovsky’s Pair Lifts Caps to Stanley Cup Final

Dd7gZD6VAAAtgTo.jpg

After Alex Ovechkin scored 1:02 into the game, the Tampa Bay Lightning tried like hell to even up the game and take the lead. However, with the Caps setting up a wall in front of Braden Holtby and two Andre Burakovsky goals– the Washington Capitals will go back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998. Holtby had back-to-back shutouts and Nicklas Backstrom had the empty net goal to finish it.

The Caps have beaten the Penguins, won a big Game 7, won the Eastern Conference, and now will try to slay another demon in beating Marc-Andre Fleury and George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights. Those games start Monday.

Win #12….and there’s only one.

cut.png

Before Alex Ovechkin, the Caps’ biggest superstar offensively was Peter Bondra. While he may not have had the national appeal that Ovechkin has, he was a big part of the Capitals offense in the mid-to-late-90s with nine of his 14 seasons being 30-plus goal seasons, including two 50-goal seasons in 1995-96 and 1997-98. Bondra was the new wave of goal-scorer with the exits of Mike Gartner, Dino Ciccarelli,Geoff Courtnall, and really made the team his own.

Once over from what is now Slovakia, Bondra formed a kinship with Michal Pivonka, who helped Bondra and his family get accustom to life in the US and the NHL. While Bondra would also use Dmitri Khristich as a resource, Pivonka and Bondra seemed to be the bosom buddies. With the same agent, both Bondra and Pivonka held out for a period before the 1995-96 season, where they would play in the IHL with the Detroit Vipers. Both would come back and had his top goal scoring season with 52 goals in only 67 games.

As the Caps were sinking, the team felt they owed Bondra the chance to go for a Cup, to which they traded him to Ottawa for Brooks Laich. A chapter of the Caps had closed, but due to that trade and others during the end of 2004, it paved the way for Alex Ovechkin to take the reigns and be the new face of the franchise. Luckily, Bondra is still in this organization, serving as a community ambassador and should be the next in line to get his number retired.

Black Bears Welcome Former Hound Into the Den

maxresdefault.jpg

Another step was made in building the Maryland Black Bears first season in the NAHL, this time with naming their head coach and general manager. While they could have gone on the inside with the variety of coaches in the systems, they decided to go well outside the Maryland space by hiring Clint Mylymok from the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior League.

Mylymok is coming off of four seasons at Notre Dame, where he went 114-90-13-13 in that time, as well as reaching the Anavet Cup Final for the SJHL champion in his first season of 2014-15. This season, the Hounds under Mylymok went 29-24-1-4 and lost in the Wildcard portion of the playoffs.

While he bounced around in California for a bit after originally being born in Ontario, Mylymok played in the Notre Dame prep system before going to Western University in Ontario and then hung up his skates, aside from stepping in during an emergency goalie role for the Columbia Inferno in 2003-04. Aside from that, Mylymok plied his trade in the front office in Columbia and El Paso of the Central League before going back to Canada for coaching in the lower Ontario junior levels before going to Notre Dame as an assistant coach first, then into the head coach/GM role. In addition, Mylymok has been in Hockey Canada’s radar, coaching Team Saskatchewan in the last two seasons at the WHL Cup for U16 players in the WHL boundaries.

To bring in this sort of coach and GM to help craft this team from the ground up shows that the Black Bears won’t be messing around with pinning down the proper talent to make this team successful and to display the top talent that needs to be displayed on and off the ice. While it remains to be seen how Coach Mylymok will put as a priority, the resume he has will definitely get some eyes on the Maryland Black Bears as they start their first year.