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2022-2023 Black Bears Year in Review, Improved Offense, Defense & Goaltending
April 18, 2023

Posted by: Bob Howard
Credit:
Binghamton Hockey.net

Grujich had a lot of milestones this season including breaking the FPHL goal scoring record.
BINGHAMTON, NY Ė The Binghamton Black Bears 2022-2023 was an improvement for their first in every way on the ice compared to the inaugural season. In the Black Bears first season, they played in an 8 team FPHL leagues vs. this season where they played in the 5 team Empire Division. In season 1, the Black bears finished with 32 wins, 25 losses and 2 overtime losses in a 59 game season. They finished with 94 points and a .531 winning percentage. This season the FPHL saw all 10 teams play 56 games compared to the very unbalanced amount of games of last season. The Black Bears improved their wins this season from 32 last season to 36, in less games played of 56. With that, the Black Bears only lost 15 games in regulation and 2 in overtime, finishing with 110 points and a .655 winning percentage. They once again finished 4th in the league but as a whole won more games in 3 less games played, but very much an improvement in season 2 from season 1.

So what contributed to this improvement? Well there was a lot factors that assisted in the Black improved winning percentage and finishing in 2nd place in the Empire Division. Letís start with the #1 offense in the FPHL, with 285 goals. Before Nikita Ivashkin was suspended for the remainder of the season, Nikita in 37 games scored 35 goals, 31 assists for 66 points. At the rate he was scoring, he was on par to score well over 100 pts and likely would have had another 50 goal season. Tyler Gjurich also dominated this season but was limited due to his injury suffered late in the season, but in 43 games played scored 32 goals, assisted on 37 for 69 points.

Jake Shultz was a leader of the D-corp but wore the C on the his sweater, the Black Bears first Captain.
The Black Bears also saw a few players excel on the offensive side of rink with 66 points from second year player Tyson Kirkby who was playing in first full season scoring 30 goals and assisting on 36 goals. Gavin Yates had another good season scoring 21 goals for the Black Bears, assisting on 38 more for 59 points. Austin Thompson led the secondary scoring for the Black Bears with 29 goals, assisting 27 for 56 points. Chad Lopez, a great pick up for the Black Bears scored 16 goals, assisting on 29 for 45 points in 31 games. All of these forwards were at a 1.0 or higher Points per Game Average, but the Black Bears also saw this type of production from Defenseman, Cameron Yarwood who in 36 games played score 8 goals but assisted on 32 goals for 40 points. The Black Bears had 7 players who scored 40 points or more this season and 7 more players who scored 20 points or more. If there was one thing the Black Bears not lacking, was offense.

The Black were #1 in Goals For Average with 5.1 per game but were also deadly on the Power Play this season scoring 27% of the time on the man advantage ranking also #1 in the FPHL. The Black Bears scored 69 power play goals this season, which was 18 more than the next closest team, the Rockers and Thunderbirds who both scored 51 goals. Impressively the Black Bears saw a lot of players score on the power play but Tyler Gjuruch and Austin Thompson both scored 10 power play goals and throughout the year they were unusually on two different power play units meaning either unit or combinations of players the Black Bears rolled out on the ice could score on the man advantage.

Where the Black Bears improved the most was defensively from last season to this season. Last season the Black Bears scored 3 more goals, 288 to this seasonís 285 in 3 more games however where they really saw the improvement was goals against where they only gave up 195 goas in 56 games for a 3.5 goals against per game average. This is a tremendous improvement from last seasonís 283 goals in 59 games for a 4.8 goals against per game average. Thatís just under a goal and half decrease from last season a considerable improvement. But why?

Olivieri joined the team late but was a needed spark to get the Black Bears rolling at the end of the season.
Clearly goaltending was improved this season with Riley McVeigh and Talor Joseph coming into the organization. Talor Joseph finished this season with 11 wins, 2 losses and 2 over time losses but led the team with a 3.06 GAA and a 91 % save percentage. Riley McVeigh won 13 games this season, along with 8 losses and 3 overtime losses but had the teams only 2 shut outs for either Black Bears two seasons. McVeigh finished with a 3.51 GAA and a 90 % save percentage, both he and Joseph had better #ís then the goaltending tandem from last season. You could say that the defensemen in from front the goaltenders were better as well. FPHL veterans like Jake Shultz, the captain of the team this season along with Justin Coachman, Cameron Yarwood and Kyle Powell clearly all four are excellent puck moving defenseman, helped to keep the puck out of their own zone while teaching and helping the younger defensemen like Boislard, Walters and Fitzgerald to be better defensemen early in their careers.

I would be negligent if I didnít mention veteran defenseman Donald Olivieri who came to the team late in the season, played the 15 games needed to be qualified for the playoffs and scored 12 goals, 15 assists for 27 points in just 15 games. This was the key to the turnaround from a second half season slump that the Black Bears had to battle out of. Where Olivieri was playing on a line of forwards or was on the d-line match up with Mathieu Boislard, he was able to contribute on many plays and had 6 power play goals for the Black Bears.

A couple more notes from this season which also contributed to the Black Bears better defensive game was the less than last year neutral zone turn overs leading to shorthanded breaks. The Black Bears still had those moments this season, but it wasnít as much as last season. Also and I think this is a much underrated part of the defensive philosophy. The more the very talented puck movers you have which leads to more offense, the better your defense is. So the best defense is having the best offense in the league, which the Black Bears were. No one can argue that with Shultz, Olivieri, Powell and Yarwood on the ice, that the four are arguably 4 of the best puck movers in the FPHL.

The Black Bears season wasnít all sunshine and rainbows as they had a few obstacles to overcome as all teams do. Gary Gill started as the Head Coach of the Black Bears but then left the team due to a family emergency and the Black Bears brought in Brant Sherwood. The two coaches clearly had their own identity attached to the Black Bears as Gill promoted a more physical in your face type of play and Sherwood made select changes to the Roster which saw Binghamton natives Mj Maerkl, Gavin Abbot and Geno DeAngelo leave the organization to the dismay of some of the Binghamton fans. Nikita Ivashin, the Black Bears leading goal scorer from both seasons was suspended for the remainder of the season by the Black Bears and the FPHL. When the mini slump happened in March of this year, frustration of the players led to more than a few 10 minute misconducts and game misconducts which the Black thankfully recovered from.

Lastly the Black Bears season wouldnít have been as impressive this season without the performances of some college standouts that the Black Bears picked up this season: Connor Smith and Brenden Stanko from Adrian College. Jestin Somero from Morrisville State College (SUNYAC) and Andrew Logar from Buffalo State College (SUNYAC). Jesse Anderson was also very impressive who played well before his call up to the SPHL and then after his return fitting into a slightly looking team.

The Black Bears finished 2nd in the Empire Division and will now face the Watertown Wolves in the 1st round of the Commissionerís Cup Playoffs, as team they had a 7-1 record against this season.

Here are some quick notes about the Black Bears 2022-2023 season.

Record: 36-15-5 Ė 110 Points - .655 Winning Percentage
Goals For: 285 (1st in the FPHL)
Goals Against: 195 (4th in the FPHL)
Power Play Goals: 69 (1st in the FPHL)
Goals For per Game Average: 5.1 (1st in the FPHL)
Goals Against per Game Average: 3.6
Longest winning streak: 6 Games (3-31 Ė 4-15)
Leading Point Scorer: Tyler Gjurich 32-37=69
14 Players finished with over 20 points for the Black Bears.


 

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