The NAHL East Division Final isn’t going to be as easy for the Maine Nordiques.

After sweeping second-seeded New Jersey Titans in the semifinals in three games, the third-seeded Nordiques will have to come back if they want to knock off the top-seeded Maryland Black Bears in the East Final.

The Black Bears scored two third-period goals to take Game 1 of the best-of-five series 4-2 Friday at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, Maryland.

Game 2 is Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Odenton.

Maine coach Matt Pinchevsky said errors by the Nordiques led to Maryland’s victory.

“We told the boys, ‘We are still undefeated in the playoffs,'” Pinchevsky said. “That team didn’t beat us; we beat ourselves. They took advantage of the opportunities. We aren’t concerned with the scoreboard or time clocks, we are just concerned about our plan. It’s not about us — it’s about the plan.”


Pinchevsky said the Nordiques’ plan is to return to the Robertson Cup, as they did during the 2020-21 season, and this time win the title.

Defenseman Nicholas Bernardo gave Maine a 1-0 lead a little more than five minutes into the first period when he put home a one-timer. Forward Patrick Schmiedlin won the faceoff back to Bernardo. Tony Achille had the other assist.

“I feel like winning draws at key times help any hockey team, but when it produces, it’s a big momentum shift in a key part of the game,” Pinchevsky said. “A great win by Patrick Schmiedlin, great support by Tony Achille, and we all know Nicholas Bernardo is offensively gifted up there and has a great release.”

Maryland evened the score early in the second period. Kareem El Bashir netted his first playoff goal on a shot from the top of the crease nearly a minute into the stanza to tie the game 1-1.

“Not the way anybody wants to start a period, and we have been on the other side of that several times when we scored right away in a period,” Pinchevsky said. “We kind of know both sides of it, and that’s why it doesn’t affect us. We just need to go back to work and keep hitting our details.”

Branden Piku ripped a slap shot from the left circle past Nordiques goalie Thomas Heaney (22 saves) for a power-play goal that gave the Black Bears a 2-1 advantage 3:40 into the middle period.


The Nordiques had three power plays in the second period. They didn’t score on the first two, but forward Brendan Gibbons notched his fourth goal of the playoffs by deflecting a Bernardo pass into the net midway through the period to even the game 2-2. Hallberg had the secondary assist.

“When you have a productive player who goes into the dirty areas, and he makes himself available, and the vision of Nick Bernard who has an elite stick, you are making plays like everyone saw,” Pinchevsky said. “There were chances by both units.”

Pinchevsky said the Nordiques’ breakouts could be better on the man-advantage, and they plan to correct that for Game 2.

Maine went 1 for 3 on power plays, while Maryland was 1 for 2.

Dimitry Kebreau started the third period by giving Maryland a 3-2 lead 33 seconds in from the slot. It was his second goal of the playoffs. The Nordiques tried to clear the puck a few times out of their defensive end before the goal.

The Black Bears’ lead was extended 12 minutes later when defenseman Gunnar VanDamme scored an unassisted goal while the Nordiques were trying to clear the puck out of the defensive zone to the neutral zone.


“We could have made ourselves more available in that situation for an exit,” Pinchevsky said. “There were probably three different options to choose from. We chose the (center) ice, but no one picked that off directly in the slot. That was a one-on-one battle high in the zone between a wing and (defenseman). The (defenseman) won the battle.”

William Hakansson made 20 saves in goal for Maryland.


The Tier I United States Hockey League held its Phase II draft for 2003-2007 born players Wednesday, and a pair of Nordiques players heard their names called.

Sanford native Oliver Genest went in the eighth round to the Des Moines Buccaneers. The 18-year-old forward had 20 goals and 20 assists in 58 regular-season games for Maine this season.

Defenseman Evan Orloff was selected in the 19th round by the Green Bay Gamblers. It’s the second straight year Orloff has been drafted. He was picked by the Muskegon Lumberjacks in 2022.

After playing in one game with Muskegon at the start of the season, Orloff returned to Maine for a second season and had eight goals and 14 assists in 50 regular-season games.

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