Feature photo by Paige Leckie.
Sean Pickens skated to the thin strip of old, unflattened blue carpet haphazardly sprawled out on the ice.
As one of seven seniors on Maryland’s roster, Pickens was being honored prior to Friday’s game against Kutztown at Herbert Wells Ice Rink.
When he reached the end of the carpet, he was greeted by teammate Tim Blount who handed him a bouquet of flowers to give to his family in attendance. Pickens took the flowers and walked halfway down the carpet toward the open door exiting the rink before turning around towards his bench, smiling and gesturing for two teammates to join him for a photo.
Captain Avery Clair and goalie Tanner MacPhee picked up on the signal and skated over to Pickens for a photo of the three freshmen to make the team in the fall of 2013.
“We were the only three freshmen on that team, I think we pretty much bonded that year as the three freshmen,” Pickens said. “We’ve come a long way.”
“I think this year especially, I mean Avery wasn’t assistant captain last year, but I think this year especially we kind of stepped up and have tried to be the best leaders for the team that we can.”
Over the years the three elder statesmen were joined by other class of 2017 classmates via transfer and promotion from the D3 club team.
Michael Shearer, who joined the team after transferring to Maryland in January 2016, was welcomed into the camaraderie right away.
“Guys like Sean and Avery and stuff like that being the leaders, they kind of facilitated the transition on the team and they made it easy,” Shearer said. “I loved it here, I would encourage anyone to transfer and come over here because anyone is welcome.”
That sense of belonging, along with blistering speed and talent, helped the Terps to a 13-2 win Friday.
Although head coach Jim Gaudet stressed to his team during Thursday’s practice not to overlook Kutztown, the final score quickly became a formality when Maryland scored seven goals in the first period.
Clair scored two goals, 2:22 apart and Eli Gorgevski-Sharpe added a pair of power play markers to propel the Terps to a 7-2 first intermission lead.
The Terps’ only consequential errors came early in the opening period, when several failed clears resulted in quality scoring chances for Kutztown.
Goaltender Sean Rankin, who made his second consecutive start Friday, initially bailed out his team with a series of timely saves, but ultimately surrendered two goals by the period’s end.
“I think they outshot us 13-12 in the first period,” Gaudet said. “We were having trouble getting it out of the zone. I thought we cleaned it up as we went along.”
Maryland’s play in their own end did improve as the game progressed, limiting the Golden Bears to just 14 shots over the final forty minutes.
In all other facets of the game the Terps were dominant, monopolizing possession and putting a total of 42 shots on goal.
“They did a good job after that first period but definitely that’s something we’re going to have to be solid on going forward here,” Gaudet said.
Pickens scored his second of the night on the man-advantage seven minutes into the second period, depositing a rebound past goalie Kevin Koerner, who completely lost sight of the puck amid a barricade of bodies.
Maryland’s unhindered ability to get players in front of Kutztown’s goal was paramount to the team’s offensive success Friday, especially on the power play.
“We did a great job of getting in front of the goalie,” Gaudet said. “It’s been a problem for us all year, getting in front, screening the goalie. We just can’t seem to get there and [Gorgevski-Sharpe’s] goal from the point on the power play and another shot from the point, I don’t think the goalie saw it. Guys were standing in front, guys were putting in rebounds.”
Zach Arden tallied the Terps’ fourth power play goal later in the period, burying a feed from Clair. By game’s end, the Maryland power play went an impressive 4-of-6 against Kutztown.
With a double-digit lead for much of the third, Gaudet managed his bench’s minutes in preparation of Saturday’s showdown with rival UMBC.
The UMBC game has major playoff implications for the Terps. Maryland, who has already clinched a berth in the Mid Atlantic Collegiate Hockey playoffs, could be as high as the two seed should they beat the Retrievers on the road. A win against the tenth-ranked UMBC squad would also go a long way in helping Maryland reach regionals.
“I think it might be their senior night, so they’re going to be coming out hard just like we did tonight,” Pickens said. “Huge game, we’re going to try to put this one behind us. Obviously we enjoyed it, we had some fun but we’re going to put it behind us and try to put together a good three periods tomorrow.”
The Terps take on the Retrievers at Reisterstown SportsPlex 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
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