The downside of junior hockey is the fact that there is a definitive end to it all. Whether it’s leaving for college when the time comes or it means getting to the age-limit; there is a finite amount of time players have in the NAHL. It’s time to relive what they were able to bring to the Black Bears– no matter the term.
NOTE: This is for the players who are definitely leaving as of this writing. It does not take into account players who may be leaving for the USHL or elsewhere.
First things first, we start with the captain– Logan Kons. Going from fighting for every minute last season to being the leader of the Black Bears this season, Kons grew as a player in the off-season and showed off his personality off the ice as a leader for the community. It should be no surprises that Kons took home the East Division Community Service Award, as he was front and center of initiatives for the team within the Baltimore/Washington community, as well as showing his appreciation to people who came out to The Den by coming out and being around the fans after games.
On the ice, he was very noticeable with 24 points in his 52 games on the season, as well as potting three game-winning goals– tying him for the team lead with Aden Bruich and Brayden Stannard. With an appearance at the NAHL Top Prospects game, Kons was able to put his hard work out on a bigger scale for scouts to see. While there hasn’t been a clear path for his future, the way Kons carries himself will make him successful as his life moves forward.
Another part of the leadership group leaving is defenseman Hampus Rydqvist. In his first year in North America, Rydqvist was able to pick up on the different nuances of the smaller rink and succeeded enough to capture the East Division Defenseman of the Year, as well as being named to the East Division First Team. With an explosive shot, smooth skating ability, and a small wrecking ball when the opportunity arises; Rydqvist provides all the tools to be successful moving onward.
His time in Maryland allowed the Swede to get recruited by Miami University to play in the NCHC starting next season. A player with a good outlook off the ice, but serious when the blade hits the ice; Rydqvist took the time in a new locale in stride and as the season went along, got plenty comfortable with his new surroundings Stateside. Here’s hoping it continues for him in Ohio.
A third member of the leadership team departing is Jackson Sterrett, the leading scorer for the team this season. With his speed and ability to find holes in the oppositions’ defense, Sterrett was able to put home 19 goals, including four short-handed. The UMass-Lowell recruit was consistent all season, never going more than three games without a point. With the departure of Wilmer Skoog, Sterrett put up 21 points in 27 games to end out the campaign.
Having moved all around North America to pursue his goal, Sterrett leaves the Black Bears having set the single-season mark for goals and short-handed goals. There’s a tremendous upside with Sterrett, which he will put on display in Hockey East starting next season in hopes of helping the Riverhawks get back to the NCAA Tournament.
One of the late-season acquisitions for the Black Bears is Aaron Swanson, who came over from the Springfield Jr. Blues. However, even in his short time; Swanson made a big impact for the Black Bears with four goals and nine points in only 12 games with Maryland, while adding a veteran presence to the squad and would have been a great asset for the playoffs.
Even with the short time, Swanson was able to leave an impression with his teammates in regards to his work ethic and with the Black Bear Nation in his hustle and grit in his games played at The Den.
To round it out, Jack Smiley was another late-season pick-up, but made a mark on the team. The physical forward brought more size to the team when he was picked up from Corpus Christi, as well as a tenacious forecheck which helped the Black Bears create some turnovers in the neutral zone.
Much like Swanson, the hard work Smiley was able to put in won the favor of Black Bear Nation. Despite only getting one goal in his 12 games, the intangibles that Smiley brought to the table helped give the team an important piece they may have been missing for their playoff run.
To all five of these men, thank you very much for your tenure with the Black Bears– regardless of service time. Even just one game makes you part of the family from this point forward. Make sure to come back and visit or call every once and a while.