The Maryland Black Bears scored two goals with less than a minute remaining in the second period that propelled them to a 5 – 0 victory over the visiting New Jersey Titans in the 2021-22 season opening game for both teams.
It was the first time in Titans’ history that they had been shutout in the season’s opener.
After a very physical first period that resulted in no goals, the middle stanza was playing out the same way until less then one minute remaining in the period. Maryland’s Ryan Bottrill picked up the loose puck along the near side half wall inside the Titans zone. As he cut towards the inside of the faceoff circle, he passed it down low to Miles Gunty. As Gunty went towards the side of the Titans net, he was knocked off the puck by Titans forward Stephen Willey as the puck slid to Jacob Brockman in the slot. Brockman lifted the puck up and over Red Buckets sprawled out netminder Owen Hains and into the open net to give the Black Bears a 1 – 0 lead with :49 left in the period.
Forty-five seconds later veteran Aden Bruich doubled the Black Bears lead. After the Titans were called for icing, the faceoff took place to the left of Hains. Maryland’s Ryan Bottrill won the draw deep inside the Titans zone and the puck went back to Matthew Davies at the near side point. Davies took a shot on net that was blocked out in front and the loose puck was picked up by Bruich who took a wrist shot that beat Hains short side to make it a 2 – 0 game.
Trailing by two going into the third, the Titans pressured the offensive zone. With eight minutes into the final period, Red Buckets rookie defenseman Colin Grable looked like he was about to cut the Titans deficit in half, but Maryland’s Michael Morelli made a spectacular grade A save to keep New Jersey off the board.
With 10:44 remaining in the third period, Maryland went up 3 – 0 on Trace Johnson’s first junior career goal. After receiving a drop pass from Brad McNeill, Johnson took a shot that went off the shaft of Hains’ stick to Branden Piku. As Piku went around the Titans net towards the far side corner, he passed the puck back to Johnson at the point. Johnson took a shot that found its way through a maze and past Hains to break open the game.
The Black Bears’ Philip Tornqvist and Piku later scored goals to close out the scoring.
Hains stopped 22 of 27 shots while Morelli turned aside all 23 shots for his third junior career shutout. Click here for the complete box score.
The two teams will conclude their weekend series tonight starting at 7:00 PM at the Piney Orchard Arena.