The series with the Maryland Black Bears this weekend is big for the Maine Nordiques.

Maryland currently sits in fourth place, which is the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division.

The Black Bears held a three-point lead over the fifth-place Nordiques entering Friday’s game. The Nordiques’ deficit is now one point after their 5-2 win over Maryland in Odenton, Maryland.

“We have been working on playing playoff hockey all season,” Nordiques coach Nolan Howe said. “For us, we have to approach every game like it’s a playoff game. They aren’t must-win games; I don’t like to use that word. Every game is important, every shift is important.

“I think we have adopted a playoff mindset in our room, and guys are buying in the whatever-it-takes mentality. ”

The Black Bears (17-21-7, 41 points) jumped out to a 1-0 lead three minutes into the game on a Jackson Sterrett unassisted goal.

The Nordiques (19-25-2, 40 points) responded on a power play with about five minutes remaining in the first period when Cannon Green tipped in a Cole Ouellette shot.

Jude Kurtas found the back of the net to give Maryland the lead again, 2-1, just past the four-minute mark of the second period.

The Nordiques took the lead with a strong a three-minute stretch in the middle of the second period.

Green scored an unassisted shorthanded goal that tied the game with just under seven minutes to play.

Howe said that was the turning point, as the Nordiques were killing off Tristan Thibeault five-minute major for fighting. Thibeault also received a game misconduct for instigating.

“The game-changing moment for me was that penalty kill,” Howe said. “We scored one shorthanded and scored right (after the penalty kill) was over. It was a big, that was our bounce back right there.”

Trent Grimshaw scored with under five minutes remaining the period. Manny Sanchez and Isaiah Fox had assists on the go-ahead goal.

Nordiques newcomer Andrius Kulbis-Marino found the back of the net on the power play early in the third period to give Maine a 4-2 lead. Kevin Pitts notched the lone assist.

Maine was 2-for-3 on the man advantage, while the Black Bears went 0-for-2.

“We wanted to clean up our special teams and we spent a lot of time on it in practice this week, and it paid dividends,” Howe said. “I thought the power play was fantastic, and anytime you add a player of Marino’s ability to our lineup — who plays the game just like we want to play it, with skill and puck possession — he makes good decisions with the puck.”

Noah Kane capped the scoring late in the third period for the Nordiques.

Goalie Wesley Mankowski picked up his third win in a Nordiques uniform by making 32 saves. Aaron Randazzo made stopped 18 shots in the losing effort for the Black Bears.

Maine looks for a series sweep Saturday when the two teams meet again at 2 p.m.

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