ORONO, Maine — University of Maine backup goaltenders Shawn Sirman and senior Dave Wilson both said they are ready to go this weekend when the Black Bears travel to take on Boston College on Friday night and Providence College on Saturday evening.
Sophomore starter Scott Darling suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee late in Saturday night’s 4-2 win over Merrimack College and will be sidelined for two to four weeks. Darling had started the last 14 games and, during Maine’s current nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2), he posted a 2.04 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.
Junior center Robby Dee (broken bone in foot), who has five goals and two assists in his last five games, and sophomore center Kyle Solomon (groin) will also miss the games.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead wouldn’t divulge Friday’s starter in goal, saying it will be a “game-time decision.”
Freshman Sirman and senior Wilson haven’t started a game since October.
“I’m excited,” said Sirman. “I’ve been working hard in practice since the day I got here trying to improve … get faster, get stronger and in better condition. I’m ready to play. We’ll see how I do.”
Wilson said he has been “practicing really well since the start of the season and I’ve been trying to build off that and be mentally prepared as well. I’ll get back in the swing of things once the first few minutes of the game hits and I’ll go from there.”
Wilson added that his biggest concern will be his “rebound control.
“When you’re nervous and haven’t played in a while, you might just kick out pucks to where they aren’t supposed to be. It’s [a matter of] basically settling down in the first period, controlling your rebounds and going from there,” he added.
Sirman said facing a shooter like sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist in practice every day has been beneficial for all of the goalies and should make the transition easier. Nyquist is tied for fifth in the country in points with 31 and tied for 11th in goals with 13.
“You’ve got the best guy in the league shooting on you. Who’s better than him? Not very many guys, right?” said Sirman. “I’ve just got to keep doing what I’ve been doing and stop the puck.”
Wilson, a senior, will be looking for his first career road win. He is 5-16-1 in his career with a 3.23 goals-against average and a .887 save percentage. All five wins have come at home.
“That doesn’t really enter into my mind,” said Wilson. “I had some bad games [on the road] early in my career. I’ve had some bad luck of late. I’ll just go from there.”
Wilson said the goaltending depth is better this year than it has been in the past because of the work ethic he and Sirman have maintained in practice.
“We’re in better position now than we have been in the past. It’s not a good thing for a team [to lose its starting goalie] but, at the same time, we’re more prepared this time,” said Wilson. “We’ll need some goals from our offense. Our defense will go from there. The team has been playing well on the road of late. I think Shawn and I will play real well.”
Their teammates agree.
“We definitely have confidence in both of them,” said Maine sophomore defenseman Ryan Hegarty. “Obviously, [Darling] was a huge part of our team but, for us to win, I don’t think either goalie will have to have an outstanding game. … We’ve got to play good defense in all three zones, keep a third guy high in the offensive zone, and make smart plays in the neutral zone.”
Nyquist added that Maine’s defense will need to step it up a bit.
“We’ve got to block more shots. But [Sirman and Wilson] have been playing great in practice,” he said. “We need to play the way we have been the past nine games [7-0-2].”
Sophomore defenseman Will O’Neill said Sirman is a “great young goalie” who was highly touted and Wilson “has been in the league and knows the deal. We can count on him [too].”
BC coach Jerry York said he is impressed with Maine’s 7-0-2 stretch and called them a “good club” that will test his Eagles even with a backup goalie.
Providence coach Tim Army said the loss of a key player can “energize” the player who replaces him as well as energize the team to play harder to compensate for their loss.