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 Maryland Black Bears

Maryland Storms Back to Eliminate Maine, Win East Division

May 13, 2024 - North American Hockey League (NAHL)
Maryland Black Bears News Release

For the second time in franchise history, the Maryland Black Bears participated in a playoff series that went the distance and involved a win-or-go-home game five. The last time Maryland was in such a situation was back in May of 2021, when the fourth seeded Black Bears upset the first seed Johnstown Tomahawks on the road, winning game five 4-3 and advancing to the East Division Final. This time, Maryland had home ice advantage, forcing a game five back in Maryland in the East Division Final after staving off elimination with a 4-2 win in game four against the Maine Nordiques with a trip to Blaine, Minnesota on the line to represent the East Division in the Robertson Cup Playoffs Semi-Final. It was a goaltending duel headed into game five, with Black Bears' goalie Owen Lepak entering the contest with a .954 save percentage in the East Division Final, and Nordiques' goaltender Carter Richardson having a .962 save percentage in the series. On the back of an offensive explosion in the second and third periods, Maryland was able to remain undefeated in game fives, beating Maine 6-2.

The Nordiques struck first with 3:22 to go in the first period after the Black Bears turned the puck over on the far boards of their own zone. The puck found its way to the point where Maine defenseman John Paul Steele put a wrist shot on goal that found its way through a screen and past Lepak for a 1-0 lead. Then, with just 15 seconds to go in the first, Nordiques' forward Zion Green dropped the puck to his teammate and forward Nick Ramm, who put the puck top right corner for a 2-0 lead after one period.

Maryland started its comeback effort just over seven minutes into the second period, where Maine defenseman David Helledy turned the puck over at the blue line, sending Black Bears' forward and captain Dimitry Kebreau stole the puck and went in on a breakaway, beating Richardson top right corner on a wrist shot while being taken down by a backchecking Helledy to make it 2-1. Just over five minutes later, the puck came loose during a face-off where Maryland forward Riley Ruh found the puck and snuck it top left corner from the far circle to tie the game 2-2. With just under three minutes to go in the second period, Black Bears' forward Kareem El-Bashir buried a rebound from a shot from defenseman Luke Amell to make it 3-2, a lead Maryland would take into the second intermission.

The Black Bears wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the third period and never looked back, scoring three goals in the first 3:49 of the final period. The scoring started when forward Jérémi Tremblay received a pass from behind the net from forward Tyler Stern and snapped the puck from the far circle under the blocker of Richardson and in. Just 23 seconds later, El-Bashir cleaned up a rebound by sliding the puck under Richardson's pad in the slot for his second of the game to make it 5-2. Defenseman Trayce Johnson capped the scoring off just 2:05 later, cutting around the defense from the point and cutting near to the far side, snapping the puck to the far side of the net to make it 6-2. The goal chased Richardson from the net, bringing in Nordiques' goaltender Thomas Heaney. Maryland then cruised to the 6-2 win, taking the East Division Final in five games over Maine.

With the East Divison won, the Black Bears now shift their focus to Blaine, Minnesota, where Maryland will enter the Robertson Cup Playoffs Semi-Final as the third seed. Their opponent will be the Central Division champions in the Minot Minotauros, with their best-of-three series beginning Friday, May 17th, at 7:30 p.m. CT at Fogerty Ice Arena. Game two will be Saturday, May 18th, at 7:30 p.m. CT. If the series needs to go the distance, game three will be played on Sunday, May 19th, at 6:00 p.m. CT. The winner of this series will go on to the Robertson Cup Final in a winner-take-all game on Tuesday, May 21st at 7:00 p.m. ET. All games can be streamed on NAHLTV.

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