Clutch N’ Crab Hockey Weekend Preview 015

MARYLAND BLACK BEARS (15-13-4) vs. NORTHEAST GENERALS

Riding a five-game winning streak and coming off a weekend break, the Black Bears hit the ice at The Den for the start of 2020. The Black Bears have been playing solid hockey, outscoring opponents 21-5 during the winning streak. This all while dealing with the departure of leading scorer Wilmer Skoog to Boston University. However, the departure of Skoog is probably going to be the turning point that brings the team together more. The entire team has come together to be better than before, with Jackson Sterrett and Brayden Stannard starting to emerge offensively for the team. However, in the previous meeting this season with the Generals, the Black Bears lost a three-game set two game to one in Northeast, with the two losses being one-goal affairs. With a new attitude, we can expect the best from this team trying to stay one of the hottest teams in the NAHL.

TEAM MARYLAND (14-15-3) at PHILADELPHIA LITTLE FLYERS

A difficult end of 2019 and going winless in December is something that Team Maryland hopes to resolve in their first game of the new calendar year. Hampered with a seven-game losing streak, the team looks to use the two-week break they had to regroup and get more mentally rested going into the final weeks of the schedule. With Denys Arkhypenko coming back after a five-point performance at the World Juniors Division 1-B tournament, the offense should have an added kick in their game this weekend against the Little Flyers.

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS D3 (9-1-0) vs. CHATHAM UNIVERSITY

One of the hottest teams in D3 hockey right now, Stevenson looks to add another win to their seven-game win streak this weekend in a one-off against Chatham. Getting into the USCHO rankings for the first time in team history, the #12 Mustangs are trying not to let the almost month off hurt them too much. Their +25 goal differential overall is tops amongst other UCHC teams overalls, while in-league, they are a +7, which is second in the conference. This is wilder given that leading scorer Dominic Brenza is 41st in UCHC overall scoring, showing how spread around the puck has been. Freshman goalie Ryan Kenny has been stellar with 1.84 GAA in his six starts– all wins– and has two shutouts in his six games.

Clutch N’ Crab Hockey Weekend Preview 014

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??”

Clutch N’ Crab Weekend Preview 013

MARYLAND BLACK BEARS (10-13-4) at MAINE NORDIQUES

It was a rough weekend last weekend for the Black Bears, as bad breaks and untimely turnovers haunted them against Jamestown. However, they’re meeting the Nordiques for the first time in franchise history, so it should be a hoot– especially for a three-game weekend such as this one. If the Black Bears are going to be successful is to find a way to convert on those scoring chances, especially since Maine has given up the most goals in the East Division. Conspicuous by the absence of one of the league’s top scorers on their roster, Maryland will need to band together moreso than usual in order to get back on a consistent winning track.

TEAM MARYLAND (14-13-2) at NEW YORK APPLECORE

A bit of a downspell for TM, who are coming off another couple of losses at this latest Showcase this week, but after a four-game win streak, they’re hit with a four-game losing streak. With only three games before the year-end break, TM needs to find some kind of extra gear to end 2019. They’ll have to do it without Denys Arkhypenko, who is representing Ukraine in the World Junior Division 1B tournament going on in Kyiv. TM will finish out their calendar year with two more games in New Jersey Wednesday and Thursday, as well.

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS ACHA (7-8-0) at ROWAN UNIVERSITY

After a quick start to the season, the Green Horses have kind of simmered down, though the trip to Europe may have been a good thing and maybe a bad thing for last week and the lag that comes with it. That said, they have a chance to finish out strong with a battle against an undefeated Rowan team, hoping to pin them with their first loss. One of the biggest attributes for the Mustangs is their ability to score with a various amount of players with 13 players having a goal and six having five or more. The biggest thing would be keeping it out of the goal, as the team doesn’t have a goalie with under a 4.00 GAA, though Pierce Dushenko has come up huge for this team in key moments this season.

Clutch N’ Crab Hockey Weekend Preview 012

MEN’S SIDE

MARYLAND BLACK BEARS (10-11-4) vs. JAMESTOWN REBELS

It’ll be a big weekend for the Black Bears both on and off the ice, as the Teddy Bear Toss is on Friday with the Military Appreciation Night on Saturday. Even with the pomp and circumstance, the Black Bears need to look at taking four points this weekend after coming up short last weekend. With third through seventh in the division only separated by seven points, every point matters and the Black Bears know that they should bank up all the points they can for a possible rainy day down the line.

TEAM MARYLAND (14-9-2) at PHILADELPHIA REVOLUTION

After a weekend off, Team Maryland is back at it again; carrying a four-game winning streak into this weekend with the Revolution. TM will look to avenge a sweep at the Revolution from earlier in the season. With the team growing each game and maturing as a group, it’ll be easy for TM to get even with the Revolution from what happened earlier in the season.

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS MEN’S D3 (7-1-0)vs. UTICA COLLEGE, NAZARETH COLLEGE

Riding a five-game winning streak, the Mustangs are looking to close out their semester with only having lost one. Having scored five or more goals in the last four games, the Mustangs have the fire power and have been fairly solid defensively, less last weekend’s hiccup against St. Norbert where they gave up five goals in the the win. A well-balanced team will hopefully keep the Mustangs rolling along.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY TIGERS MEN (2-15-1) vs. GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY, at PSU-BERKS

It hasn’t been the best start to the season for Towson, but this weekend could be interesting considering they’re (according to the ACHA website) are taking on a D3 team in George Mason and a team in PSU-Berks that has had a rough a season as they have. If they can end the year on a high note, it’ll do wonder for confidence going into the second half of the season and hopefully beyond.

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS CLUB (7-7-0) at LIBERTY UNIVERSITY

After a successful trip to Europe, the Mustangs will head down to another tough task in playing Liberty. With Liberty being a top team in the D2 side, you can bet that the experience and chemistry the Mustangs developed in Europe will need to be carried over on the road and against the task in front of them. Dealing with pros in Europe should harden up the team in the long-run and hopefully push them through the rest of the way.

NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMEN (2-9-0) vs. GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, ROWAN UNIVERSITY

After what felt like an eternity, the D2 Middies are back in action to end their semester at home. While it has been a rough ride, the Mids do have plenty of pride to play for and should have gotten enough rest between games to make sure they are crisp and ready for the last two games before another long break.

WOMEN’S SIDE

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS D3 WOMEN’S (4-3-2) vs. ENDICOTT COLLEGE

A tough break in the Codfish Bowl championship game last week may make the Mustangs out for some revenge on the Endicott team this weekend. As this team comes together more and more, the Mustangs look to get a very solid showing offensively, while they rely heavily on their goaltending to bail out some so-so defensive issues. While they should be able to be fixed easily, Annie Smyth-Hammond and Annika Carlander have been stellar in those small lapses.

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND GREYHOUNDS (6-3-0) at WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY

With a solid showing in the DVCHC Showcase, the Greyhounds are looking forward to a big series in West Virginia. Loyola only has six games left, including this weekend set– which means they’ll need every win possible and could have a good chance of being in every game from this point onward. It’s just a matter of keeping it close when needed and hoping it doesn’t blow up going the other way.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND TERRAPINS (9-4-0) at UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE

They have not played well away from home, but the Terps will need to get this win because they only have three games remaining including this one. With a lot of points banked up early, they should be in a good spot for the South Division of the DVCHC, but they will have Loyola on their tails and the Greyhounds have games in hand. Every win will matter, especially with almost two months off.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY TIGERS (1-9-0) vs. UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

Towson is in the same spot as Maryland with only three games remaining and a month off after this game. However, Towson hasn’t been all that great, but it’s a growing team. They got their first win in years, they’ve got a solid crop of players in their line-up, and they’re out there giving their heart even in lopsided games as they’ve had this year. Gotta respect that.

On the Topic Of Streaming Hockey Issues

If you didn’t follow my plight with HockeyTV on Friday night when trying to watch the Maryland Black Bears and New Jersey Titans; here’s a recap. The game was working fine for a bit, then buffering over time including skips in the game play and audio happened. Then the “Media couldn’t play because it was corrupt or your browser doesn’t support it” message happened. Then refreshing, checking other games, and submitting a ticket happened. At the end, I saw about two periods of the game, much of it dealing with buffering issues and HockeyTV seemingly was dumbfounded of the problem, saying it was probably an arena internet issue.

Here’s a slideshow.

Upon this, I’ve had other people telling me their stories of how HockeyTV wasn’t working for them all that well either, as well as talking about the cost of the service ($250 USD for the season) being too much for the lack of quality control being done during this issues. While the VP of Communications of the American Hockey League, Jason Chaimovitch saying they were in contact with the parent company and were addressing the problem. Whether it happened or not with the Black Bears, I don’t know. Though when I tuned into other games, they did seem stable, but at times with a buffer.

When I tried to watch the video-on-demand Saturday, the game played well through the first period; but then X gave it to me and the corrupt file message came up again.

I made sure to have the date and time at the bottom right there

Back in a former life, I was a producer for a streaming media company (RIP Broadcast Monsters) that put games on live and archived games when they were finished. One of the biggest things we had to deal with– outside of the “how do I listen” calls, was making sure the audio quality was solid so that people to listen and relisten to games. We would check and recheck to make sure the streams were running at top quality, which– for the early 2000s– was a task at times.

We wanted to make sure that fans of a team that couldn’t get to the game, but also family and friends of a player who is playing away from home could listen to the game and have good quality behind it. If we didn’t, we lost money because we were a smaller company and needed the support of these teams to pay bills and such.

And I can emphasize with the support team of HockeyTV, because I’ve been there once. It’s hard with people being upset their game isn’t working and you don’t have a solid answer– so you give the stock answers hoping that’s the resolution to the issue. Then you have to figure out an answer to the issue to suffice those around. It’s a thankless job.

Yet, when the problem has happened several times this season and you’ve been reassured two weeks ago that the issue was resolved at another venue…then it happens again– it’s not great for optics of a company. Sure, they have hundreds of games to deal with and pull in some bank doing this– but man, is it frustrating.

Now, I’m not just talking about me. It’s more about the family and friends of players who have moved away from their hometown to pursue a dream and all they want to do is watch them as they live it out. For them to go ahead and pay to see their child play and get nothing but tech headaches and sometimes a runaround about what’s wrong is frustrating at best.

Does this mean I hate HockeyTV?? Not really, I just feel they could do some things better and have a little more proactiveness and transparency when it comes to stuff like this, rather than brush it off and blame the users either at home or at the rink. Plus, since they’re the only option for NAHL and EHL games, it give me little choice if I want to follow the leagues and teams. They give stock answers or non-answers, which is frustrating, but with nowhere else to turn, you just sigh and deal with it, hoping it’ll get better next time you try. Like tonight’s game.

Clutch N’ Crab Hockey Weekend Preview 008: Men’s Edition

MARYLAND BLACK BEARS (6-7-1) at NORTHEAST GENERALS

After a spirited weekend split against blood rivals Johnstown, the Black Bears take on another challenge in the form of three games in three days, including a Sunday afternoon tilt against the Generals. It’ll be the first meeting of the teams this season, who will be battling for the last playoff spot throughout the season. Kyle Oleksiuk continued his hot streak this past week, while the goaltending of Andrew Takacs was solid and hopefully will translate into the big weekend coming up.

TEAM MARYLAND (10-7-2) at SEAHAWKS HC and WALPOLE EXPRESS

After a Wednesday victory, Team Maryland travels for another Showcase event– this time in Haverhill, Massachusetts. They’ll be taking on two top teams from the New England Conference, while trying to keep their three-game winning streak alive. Jackson Dobek, Jeff Rebmann, Denys Arkhypenko, and Tristan Mock remain hot and will be key in helping Team Maryland have a good showing in another Showcase event.

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS D3 (1-0-0) at CHATHAM UNIVERSITY

After a solid first weekend back, the D3 Mustangs make their first road trip, a one-off, to Chatham. It’ll probably be a tougher test for the ‘Stangs, as they only allowed 11 shots on goal last weekend, whereas they did create a lot of chances with eight different players getting points in their victory. However, Luke Benitez will be a big part of the team, not only in the face-off dot– where he won 12 of 16 last week– but also creating offense as the season keeps going.

NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMEN D1 (7-6-1) at UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE

After a split of the weekend against William Paterson and Towson, the Middies will go on the road to Delaware– who are undefeated at home this season. Joe Kelly, Conner, and Nate Hyden have been great offensively, while John Scaccia has provided big numbers from the blue line. They’ll need to be extra solid in order to try and beat the Blue Hens in their own Coop.

TOWSON UNIVERSITY TIGERS (2-11-1) at WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY and LEHIGH UNIVERSITY

It has not been a kind season for the Tigers. Back-to-back 6-0 losses last week showed that. Offensively, Ryan Dieter has been leading the pack with 16 points in 14 games, while Jacob Snyder is facing an average of 48.9 shots a game and has 440 saves in nine games of play. We’ll see what they can do on the road against two more tough opponents.

STEVENSON UNIVERSITY MUSTANGS CLUB (7-4-0) vs. RIDER UNIVERSITY and ROWAN UNIVERSITY

While the hype train may have left the station a bit prematurely, the Club-Stangs got a big win in Vermont last week to end three-game skid. A key to the success is better team play and much more spread out scoring for their team. Six players already have five goals on the season, matching last year’s team for a full-season. It’ll be the second meeting with Rider this season, while Rowan is one of the dominant teams– which means it’s another test weekend at home for the Green Horses.

NAVAL ACADEMY MIDSHIPMEN D2 (1-7-1) at UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA and DUKE UNIVERSITY

The D2 Middies will go to Tobacco Road…kind of…to take on UNC and Duke. It’ll be the first two-game weekend in almost a month for the Mids, which will either help them because they’re rested or hinder them for lack of playing back-to-backs. Duke and UNC, however, haven’t had many games themselves, so it could be very equal footing for the squads. Kevin Harris has been a bright spot for the Mids, though, leading offensively for the squad.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND TERRAPINS (2-7-0) vs. RIDER UNIVERSITY

Coming off of three rough weekends, a promising start for the Terps hasn’t been as much in the middle of the year. While Chris Bouchard and Liam Eden have been a driving force for this team, the rest of the team (Griffin Connolly the exception) has been mired in a bit of an offensive slump. They face another tough task in a one-off against Rider, as the Terps have only four more games until their long winter break.

Black Bears II: Electric Boogaloo: 2019-20 NAHL Schedule Released

Photo by Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

Tuesday evening, the NAHL released the schedule for the 2019-20 season, which means we can all start figuring out when Scotty is going to get home to see the Maryland Black Bears play in his old arena. There will be 60 regular season games, including the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota– and it’ll be a time for the Black Bears to see if they can not fall into a sophomore slump and make a big push in the East Division.

Puck drop for the Black Bears is at home on September 13th, as the New Jersey Titans will be at The Den at Piney Orchard for the two-game weekend set; which is the exact same match-up to open up the season last year. The Black Bears went 3-8-1 last season against the Titans, but played them tight with the exceptions of the first and last games of the year against them.

Maryland will play three-game weekends twice in the new season, first against the Northeast Generals November 8th through the 10th, while they’ll make their first trip up to Lewiston, Maine to take on the Nordiques December 13th through the 15th. The Black Bears will only see the Nordiques twice next season, with Maine traveling to Piney Orchard February 14th and 15th for a Valentine’s Day weekend of fun.

Of course, with Maine being the new team in town and travel being hell (about 550 miles between the two rinks), that’s seems to be the only reason why there isn’t more than two meetings between these teams. The Black Bears will get their fair share of their normal foes in Johnstown, Jamestown, Northeast, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and New Jersey in a push to make their first post-season appearance.

It should also be noted that the NAHL Showcase is not put into the schedule yet, but that will happen September 18th through 21st at the Schwan Super Rink. This will be the only time before the Robertson Cup Final Four that the Black Bears will play outside of their division.

Bruich Leads Drafted Group of Black Bears for 2019

Another NAHL Draft has come and gone and the Maryland Black Bears come out of it like every other team– with plenty of promise and upside to be had. With eight forwards, three defensemen, and two goalies picked, the Black Bears look ahead with a nice mix of youth and experience to their selections.

However, their first pick at fourth overall could be a solid cornerstone for the team next season, as power forward Aden Bruich got selected out of the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 16U organization. Only just turning 17 in March, the 6’3, 220 power forward could be what the Black Bears need in terms of grit and grind to counterbalance scoring. The Clarkson University commit put up 28 goals and 43 points across the Tier-1 Elite League and 16U Midgets. If he can get his size to translate into the NAHL style of play, it could be a huge boost to the scoring of the Black Bears. Even in his Twitter old Twitter bio he said he plays a North/South, heavy, physical game. Coming off a National Championship doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s how the rest of the Draft shook down:

3rd Round: Hampus Rydqvist (Frolunda 20U) 7g, 15pts in 44 games
3rd Round: Zachary Borgiel (Leamington, GOJHL) 2.25 GAA, .924 Sv% in 28gms
4th Round: Aidan McDowell (The Hun School, USHS-Prep) 12g, 27pts in 23 gms
5th Round: Samuel Mojzis (HC Slovan Bratislava 20U) 29g, 53pts in 45 gms
6th Round: Liam Ovington (NJ Avalanche 18U, T1EHL) 4g, 10pts in 27gms
7th Round: Brayden Stannard (Oakland 16U) 15g, 44pts in 69 gms
8th Round: Andrew Remer (Ottawa, CCHL) 8g, 25pts in 57 gms
9th Round: Philip Ekberg (Conneicut, NCDC) 14g, 31pts in 50gms
10th Round: Jack Quinn (Northfield-Mount Hermon, USHS-Prep) 19g, 41pts in 40gms
11th Round: Trevor Adams (Salmon Arm, BCHL) 17g, 41pts in 55gms
12th Round: Kyle Peters (Virtua 18U, AYHL) 8g, 26pts in 21gms
13th Round: Aaron Dickstein (Milwaukee, NA3HL) 2.93 GAA, .905 Sv% in 44gms

A couple of things to note from this draft:

-Hampus Rydqvist and Aaron Dickstein are 20 years old this year, making it their last year to be eligible to play. We’ll see if they make the team out of camp; which I think Rydqvist would be a better bet to make it as a right-shot defenseman with higher level experience. Dickstein will have to fight Anthony Del Tufo, Andrew Takacs, and maybe David Tomeo to get some crease time– same goes for Borgiel, though Borgiel does have some NAHL experience with Brookings (now St. Cloud) and Muskegon in 2017-18.

-Along with Bruich, there are two other D1 commits picked in this draft. Brayden Stannard is commit to Nebraska-Omaha and Trevor Adams is a commit to Air Force. Stannard was also picked by the Green Bay Gamblers late in the USHL Draft this off-season.

-Aiden McDowell is an alum of the Mercer Chiefs system, one of the Black Bears affiliated teams. With 29 points in 24 games last year in the 18U program, his scoring touch could prove valuable with the big club this coming season.

It was a solid draft from GM Clint Mylymok and AGM Jason Deskins. We’ll see what the future hold for these players, as open camp for the Black Bears starts in less than two weeks (June 14th) with main camp being held July 17th, all at the Den at Piney Orchard.

Black Bears Gearing Up for Second Draft

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/FOHS Media Faction

It’s been a minute since we talked about the Maryland Black Bears here, but it’s a good time. This afternoon is the NAHL Draft, which means the season starts anew and we’re all at a clean slate. With a new assistant GM and head scout Jason Deskins , head coach and GM Clint Mylymok and the Black Bears look to be much more prepared for this draft than they were a year ago when they we’re a very fresh team.

There have been changes, however, from this team last season. Luke Mountain was selected in Phase II of the USHL Draft by the Lincoln Stars and if he carried over his hot streak from the end of last season, then he’ll be up in the USHL next year. Also, Luc Salem was traded to the Topeka Pilots for a tender contract. Salem had 21 points in 54 games and was relied on heavily after Quinn Warmuth was traded to Minot.

Speaking of tender contracts, all the slots in Maryland are full and here’s who’s got them:

G: Andrew Takacs
G: Ben Fritsinger
D: Anthony Mollica
D: Jack Hillman
D: Bryden Sinclair
D: Nick Hauck
F: Jude Kurtas
F: Bobby Batten
F: Reid Leibold
F: Finn McLain
F: Logan Kittleson
F: Brett Reed
F: Joey Petronack
F: Ethan Heidepriem

Many should be familiar with Takacs, Kurtas, and Batten– as they did play in some games with the Black Bears; so people know what to expect out of them. The Minnesota pipeline continues with Reed, Kittleson, Fritsinger, and Hauck; while McLain has DMV roots growing up in Woodbridge, VA; with some Canadian flair in Sinclair and Heidepriem. Should be interesting to see how they all fit into the team this coming season– especially Hillman, who has USHL experience from last season with the Omaha Lancers. Hillman looks like a stay-at-home defenseman, which is something that could be nice for the Black Bears when shoring up the Black Bears end.

Last season’s draft was the first for the Black Bears and they did have some solid pick-ups from the draft who contributed with the team last season. Seven draft picks from last season played at least a game for the Black Bears, with Kobe Keller playing the least at three games before going back to Ontario to play for the Soo Eagles. Keller, Mountain, Salem, Marek Wazny, Thomas Jarman, Patrick Choi, and Max Borst all made an impact coming out of that first draft, which helped with it being a young team and a team looking for players to step up right off the hop.

The Black Bears will slot in at the 4th spot overall this year, as the two expansion teams in Maine and New Mexico will pick first and second respectively, while the Brook–errrr… St. Cloud Blizzard will pick third. The fourth pick has yielded some solid picks, but also very risky ones. In 2018, Chippewa picked defenseman Sam Miller– but he played in the USHL all of 2018-19; in 2017, Amarillo picked Marko Sturma, who was then moved to Northeast and has tandemed with David Fessenden in his last two seasons. Defenseman Frank Sullivan was picked in the four-spot in 2016 and played one year with Janesville before going to D3 college, while in 2015 Casey Jerry was picked by Minnesota after time with Cedar Rapids in the USHL and some time in Austin in the NAHL, as Jerry then moved to Canisius for his college hockey. To wrap up a five-year plan, the 2014 fourth pick was Kenny Hausinger– who was a part of the Skipjacks HC team who played out of Piney Orchard– but Hausinger wouldn’t play for Odessa, as he would go to the USHL.

There’s some room to have a stellar player at the fourth-spot or someone who goes elsewhere in the league or up to the USHL overall. It’s a tough spot to be in, as the Black Bears know from their first overall pick in Steve Agriogianis never suiting up for the team and moving to the USHL with Lincoln. We’ll see what the afternoon brings and hope we’ll get a solid pack of Black Bears coming into next season.

Black Bears Season in Review: My Three Wishes for 2019-20

Photo: Jon Pitonzo/ FOHS Media Faction

As it goes, a new season is going to be upon us sooner than we think. The biggest question is how can the Black Bears improve on this past season?? Off the ice, it’s really just keeping the name out there and getting the community as involved, if not more involved that last season. On the ice, however, there could be some interesting things ahead. The core of players the team may want to build around is there– it’s a matter of putting them in a place to succeed that’ll be the task. Couple that with some possible system changes, it could be an interesting look to the Black Bears next year.

This, however, is if I had a magic lamp and was granted three wishes– what I would like to see happen for next season for the Black Bears. It’s not really in any order, either, so you can prioritize them as you see fit.

SPECIAL TEAMS IMPROVEMENT: This should be an obvious one and it’s one that’s almost unfairly harped on, but best to get it out of the way early. The Black Bears had the second most power play opportunities last season (288, only one shy of Johnstown) and yet they were 22nd in the league with a 12.8% efficiency despite having 37 goals with the extra-man. It seemed many times, the power play couldn’t adjust to the tight-check PKs they faced. When they were able to move the puck around– they were a second or two too late to get a good shot off. Once they can nail down a quarterback on the point to pace the play and direct traffic, this will be a better system.

On the penalty kill, the Black Bears had the most times shorthanded at 303, which was 47 more the next highest team. So, first discipline needs to come into account– but that’s another story altogether. Maryland also let up the most power play goals (81) while– to no surprise– ranked last in the league on the PK (73.3% kill rate). It’s as simple as not taking as many penalties, though you can’t really tell what the refs will call in a given situation. To that point, the team needs to not run so much on the PK. Many times you’d have guys running around, out of position from the quick passing, and it leads to guys getting open and scoring. It seems like an easy task, but it does require some work and dedication to the system.

BULKING THE BLUE LINE: Towards the end of the season, the Black Bears only had four natural defensemen rostered for games thanks to injuries. Which seeing guys like George Vonakis and Jude Kurtas up on the team is great for the offensive creation, the lack of defenseman who were brought up for the season is a bit of a head scratcher. This season, the team had ten defensemen of the listed 46 players. That includes Quinn Warmuth (who was traded), Cameron Teamor (who was released), and Colt Corpse (who went back to prep school). So seven guys from the trade deadline on and they were real beat up with Thomas Jarman, Bradley Jenion, and Sean Henry missing time due to bangs and bruises. It should be noted that the team had six goalies through the season.

Defensive call-ups should be a priority after this season, especially with the -103 goal differential the team had this season. When you’re throwing forwards back a defenseman as a fifth defenseman, it’s a rough time. To have only five defensemen in a game– that’s a very rough time. As much as I love having the scorers on the team, the back of the house needs to be taken care of, as well. The tender of Nick Hauck steer it in the right direction, but it is still to be seen.

DEFINITE FIRST LINE: With injuries and all of that, it didn’t seem like there was any constant first scoring line presence. Connor Pooley was a constant with the first line center, but the parts around him always seemed to move and couldn’t get much figured out in ways of offense. The dynamics of a first line is in the roster, but didn’t really seem to get figure out until late and even then, didn’t spark too, too much to change things.

In a perfect world, Jonathan Young stays to reconnect with linemates of Kurtas and Luke Mountain because the synergy and chemistry they had in the last couple weekends was fantastic. Short of that, if Daylon Mannon can come back, he can slot into the Young spot and add another scorer on that line with Mountain having Kurtas the set-up man between the two. Of course, you have to have some kind of second line system to protect that first line so if they’re shutdown, the rest of the team isn’t lost. In that end, have Vonakis between perhaps Bobby Batten and Luke Posner for that secondary scoring.

Those are the three wishes I hope for in the coming season. Of course, it’s not up to me to determine if they are right or not– that’s GM/head coach Clint Mylymok’s decision to what’s best for his group of players moving forward. The biggest thing is that there is some kind of growth– personal or otherwise– from this team. They don’t need to make it to Robertson Cup finals, but to see them improving would be a great happening, even if it’s just being in the playoff hunt late into the season.