MARYLAND BLACK BEARS (13-13-4) vs. WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON KNIGHTS
After a huge three-win weekend in Maine, the Black Bears return home for their last series before a small winter break against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, a team that’s just a single point ahead of them in the standings.
Last weekend, the Black Bears probably played their most complete weekend of hockey in recent memory. They were able to control the pace of the game for the majority of the three games, they got solid goaltending and defense, while their scoring was clicking in a big way. The team’s dynamic seemed to be on full display with everyone on the roster contributing– even if it wasn’t on the scoresheet.
This weekend is the third meeting between the Bears and Knights, with Maryland holding the lead in the series at 3-1, though it’s been almost two months since their last meeting against each other. Obviously a lot has changed, but the matter at hand for each team is to sweep the weekend and have some kind of breathing room going into the second half of the season.
For Maryland, the key is to keep that solid defensive momentum from the Maine series over into the rest of the year. There were very minimal turnovers or bad breakouts that series, which is something they haven’t always done this season. Both Andrew Takacs and Cooper Black were fantastic when called upon, letting up only four goals in the entire three-game series. More over than that, the addition of Mikhael Gonchar has seemingly helped the defense on both sides of the puck, while Logan Kons and Hampus Rydqvist continue to be the anchors of that blue line.
On the offensive side, Jackson Sterrett has been emerging as the top producer for this team. With East Division Star of the Week honors, the Tennessee native has honed his game into an even more well-rounded setting. It also shows the trust that the coaching staff has in him with placing him in every kind of role imaginable to help him succeed, which includes the penalty kill– earning him three short-handed goals in the season. Not to be outdone, Brayden Stannard and Kyle Oleksiuk have been fantastic as complimentary options for the offense. Both have come up with key goals in the last couple weeks, while also showing a ton of grit in the offensive style. Add that to Andrew Remer and Ethan Heidepriem being solid in the face-off dot and around the puck and you’ve got a top-12 that has every facet of game play ready to move ahead and committed to being there for each other.
The Knights have been a streaky team of sort this season, winning two of three this past week, while being 5-3-2 in their last ten. Both Lincoln Hatten and Tyrone Bronte seemingly love to play against the Black Bears, as Hatten has three goals and an assist already this year against Maryland, while Bronte may not be scoring as much (two assists), but is a thorn in the side on his forecheck. One of the biggest things for Maryland is continuing to pepper the goaltending in Zach Stejskal and Alex Contey, whom they’ve score 19 goals in the series so far. Keeping the Knights on their heels is going to be the top priority in making sure they can’t dictate pace.
And if you’re in the area, go to the Maryland Black Bears website to get some tickets and support your local team. Tell ’em Scotty Wazz sent you and some people ask, “Who??” and others will say, “How’s he doing these days?? Does he know about the second rink??”