May 5, 2023 - Binghamton Black Bears News Release
By: Brooks Hill, Director of Media Relations & Broadcasting
BINGHAMTON-The summer season is just around the corner, signifying the end of another hockey season. The 2022-23 campaign has ended, and now it times to reflect and look back at the franchise’s second season in the FPHL.
Before the ice was put in, Gary Gill was hired as the new head coach and during the offseason he began assembling the pieces to the puzzle of the Black Bears roster. Fast forward to October 14th, 13 returning players from the club’s inaugural season were a part of the active roster. Night one of the season started off with a bang. A crowd just north of 4,000 saw the Black Bears defeat the Elmira Mammoth in a dominant 10-1 fashion. Binghamton would finish the first month of the season 3-2-1.
|Black Bears finished the season 36-15-5 with 110 pts.|
The Black Bears would return home Veteran’s Day Weekend for a showdown with new league member, the Motor City Rockers. While the team would dawn military appreciation jerseys all weekend long, active military members and veterans, along with their friends and family would take part in the first sellout crowd of the season. After the November 12th game, the Black Bears would host their first postgame jersey auction of the season. In partnership with Lockheed Martin, the organization was able to donate over $10,000 to Owego VFW and American Legion Post 401.
Before the Christmas holiday break, Coach Gill informed the team that he needed to step away from the team due to a personal family matter. Under Coach Gill’s direction, the team boasted a 14-5-2 record in 21 games. Brant Sherwood, who had played for Gill in the past with the Columbus River Dragons, was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
Coach Sherwood’s first game would be December 30th in Watertown. Binghamton would skate away with a 6-0 victory. The Black Bears would take the rematch as well on New Year’s Eve, ending the final month of the season, 7-1-0. Goaltender, Riley McVeigh, would make history recording the first two shutouts in franchise history.
2023 started off with a bang, the Black Bears defeated the Port Huron Prowlers 13-2 on January 6th. Binghamton set another franchise record with eight goals in the first period, the most scored in a period by an FPHL team during the season. Binghamton would go on to expunge their demons from earlier this year and defeat the Hat Tricks in their own building for the first time this season. The overtime victory at the Danbury Ice Arena sparked a five-game winning streak for the Black Bears, a new franchise best (for the time being).
At the end of the winning streak, Binghamton hosted Star Wars Night for the first time in franchise history. A near sellout crowd once again back inside Visions Veterans Memorial Arena saw the Bears beat the Thunder 8-6. What was more impressive than the score, was the “Evil Empire” Star Wars branded jerseys that were able to raise more than $9,000 for the Southern Tier Hockey Association.
Like most teams in a season, you go through peaks and valleys throughout the year. The Black Bears would march through their valley at the end of February, losing three straight home games all by one goal. That sent the Black Bears down south with a bitter taste in their mouths, and they didn’t work themselves out of it until they beat the River Dragons 4-3 on March 4th. Captain, Jake Schultz, played one of his best nights of the year, scoring the OT winner against his former team. Finally, the Black Bears made it back to New York and won the next three games over Watertown and Elmira.
On March 31st, Sock-Out Cancer Night returned to the arena and the Black Bears were able to beat the Mammoth 6-2 in their new Sock-Out Cancer jerseys. The following night, The River Dragons made their only appearance in Binghamton this season on First Responder’s Night, the Black Bears were again able to raise funds for the American Heart Association. That weekend saw the Black Bears auctioning off, two great specialty jerseys. Binghamton looked like they were peaking at the right time going into the Commissioner’s Cup Playoffs on a six-game winning streak (now, the franchise best). Before making their way into the playoffs, another two records were shattered.
On April 7th, 2023, Tyler Gjurich scored his 297th FPHL goal, making him the all-time goals leader. On the same night the 100,000th fan of the season passed through the turnstiles inside the arena, marking the first time that an FPHL team has had 100,000 fans in a single season. Gjurich would finish the regular season with 299 FPHL goals and Binghamton would once again lead the league in attendance at 107,236. The Black Bears would finish the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the Empire Division with 110 points and a 36-15-5 record, surpassing the previous’ year win total at 32.
Binghamton took on the defending champion, Watertown Wolves, in the first round and made quick work of them. The Black Bears would go on to outscore their opposers 12-3 in the first round, winning in consecutive games. They became the first Binghamton hockey team to win a playoff series since the Binghamton Senators won the Calder Cup in 2011, punching their tickets to the semifinals for the first time. Advancing to the semifinals meant the Black Bears would get their rematch with the Hat Tricks from the inaugural season.
In game one, Binghamton was able to score six times in front of the hometown fans, and they skated into the locker with a 1-0 series lead over the top team in the league. Danbury evened the series in game two, knowing their season was on the breaking point, that set the two heavyweights up for a winner-take-all game three.
No shortage of effort and heart could be found for the Binghamton players in game three. In a 1-1 contest going into the third, everybody in the crowd felt that the next goal would win the game. Unfortunately for Binghamton, Danbury would score the next goal, and go on to eliminate the Black Bears in game three, ending the second season of Black Bears hockey. First-year professional, Chad Lopez, was tied with returners, Colan Fitzgerald and Gavin Yates for a team-high seven points in the playoffs.
The city of Binghamton celebrated 50 years of professional hockey this season. The Black Bears were able to wear special commemorative jerseys three times throughout the season, honoring all the former teams in the city’s half-century history. The Binghamton Hockey Hall of Fame was able to induct three members again this season. Josh Hennessy, Patrice Robitaille, and the late Charlie Jaworski were given the ceremony they deserved, after their original ceremony was postponed during the 2020 season.
The Black Bears had over 30 different players suited up this season. Tyler Gjurich, Tyson Kirkby, Gavin Yates, and Austin Thompson led the way for Binghamton on offense. Jake Schutlz, Mathieu Boislard, Cam Yarwood J.T. Walters, and Justin Coachman anchored the blue line for the majority of the season. Seven different goalies started a game this year. Riley McVeigh earned the honors of “Goalie of the Month” from the FPHL for his stellar play in December. Talor Joseph came in late, but set a new franchise record, starting in 11 straight games down the stretch for the Black Bears. Binghamton saw a resurgence of offense after their mid-season slump with new additions, ranging from veteran Don Olivieri to rookies Andrew Logar, Jestin Somero, Connor Smith and Brenden Stanko.
The 50th season of Binghamton hockey has come to an end. The Black Bears broke more records, led the league in attendance, and advanced to another round higher than they did a year before. While the team may look different next season, it’s important to remember what this one did to capture the hearts of the fans, and each other.
Cheers to another 50 years of hockey in the Southern Tier!