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26 in 26: Maryland Black Bears

September 1, 2019
The 26 in 26 series features a look at all 26 teams in the NAHL for the 2019-20 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 26 in 26 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 26 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league.  It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
 
Maryland Black Bears
Head Coach: Clint Mylymok (2nd Year)
2018-19 record: 16-37-7, 39 pts. (6th in the East Division)
2018-19 leading scorer: Connor Pooley (47 pts.)
2019 Playoffs: Did not qualify 
2019-20 Division: East
First regular season game: Friday, September 13th vs. New Jersey Titans
Home opener: Friday, September 13th vs. New Jersey Titans
 
Last season the North American Hockey League expanded to the state of Maryland for the very first time with the Black Bears joining the league for the 2018-19 season. With the announcement of the team coming just a few months before the NAHL Draft, nobody new what to expect from the new club.
 
Head coach Clint Mylymok led the newly founded Black Bears to a 16-37-7 record in their inaugural season. While the team did finish in last place in the East Division, the Piney Orchard Ice Arena was the place to be this past year. Crowds packed the barn to watch their new favorite team and the new tradition of throwing fish on to the ice was born. The Black Bears players loved showcasing their talents in front of the fans as they won 10 of their 16 games on home ice, including a handful of thrilling overtime wins. 
 
“It was definitely a success,” said Mylymok. “The fans were great, our whole setup there was fantastic. The players loved it, the fans enjoyed the experience of meeting players and being able to interact. What you dream of as a player is playing in front of people and that place, I’m telling you, there’s something special there.
 
Watch: Maryland Black Bears head coach Clint Mylymok interview
 
With any inaugural season, wins and losses aren’t the true measure of success. However, the Black Bears have already been working to make year two better on the ice.
 
“On the ice, sure, you’re going to have your bumps and bruises and learning curve. The important thing is during the year we were already gearing up for year two. It’s going to be different on the ice and I think we’ll be much improved off the ice as well as on ice. It’s going to keep getting better,” said Mylymok. “The experience was good, it was good to go through. I think everyone should learn what it’s like to build a team from scratch and go through that experience.  It’s just going to help down the road.” 
 
The Black Bears will need improve in all facets of their game as they allowed the most goals against in the North American Hockey League. They allowed 244 goals in 60 games averaging just over four per contest. The offense didn’t provide much help either as they netted 141 of their own goals. Good for 22nd out the 24 NAHL teams in the league last season. Maryland also struggled mightily on special teams. Their 73.3% penalty kill was last in the NAHL while their power play wasn’t much better as they ranked 22nd with a percentage of 12.8.
 
On a positive note, Maryland was one of the youngest teams in the NAHL so they should have a good group of core players returning for this upcoming season.
 
The most important resource for the Maryland Black Bears this season will be time. Time to recruit players, time to make sure they’re getting the right guys for their program, time to market the team to more fans in the region. 
 
“Being hired three weeks before the draft, you don’t have time to get everyone you want. Once we got in, the blueprint for year two was in already. Recruiting kids, talking to them, interviewing them extensively, not just once but twice,” Mylymok added. “The kids that we drafted and tendered, they’re all kids we knew. They either skated in front of us during the season or we had extensive conversations with the kids. Time is a big thing. You can’t build a team overnight.”
 
Next up: Minnesota Magicians
 
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