ORONO, Maine — University of Maine freshman goalie Shawn Sirman’s first start at Alfond Arena was a memorable one Saturday night.
The Blezard Valley, Ontario, native made 33 saves, including 14 Grade-A (high-percentage) stops, and the opportunistic Black Bears posted a hard-fought 4-0 men’s hockey exhibition victory over the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad at Alfond Arena.
Maine is 6-0 all-time against Team USA’s Under-18s.
The score was misleading as the Under-18s had the better of the play in the first and third periods, outshooting Maine 15-10 in the first period and 13-6 in the third. But Sirman was stellar.
“He played really well,” said Team USA defenseman Jarred Tinordi, son of former 12-year NHL defenseman Mark Tinordi. “He tracked his rebounds and we couldn’t break him today.”
“He was tremendous,” said Maine sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist, who had a goal and two assists as did sophomore defenseman Will O’Neill. “He came up with some huge saves, especially in the first period. He kept us in the game. They came out much harder than we did. It was thanks to him we got the win.”
“They were really good. I was impressed with them,” added Nyquist.
Maine senior center Brett Carriere and freshman defenseman Nick Pryor scored the other goals.
“[Team USA] really played well tonight” Sirman said. “We took them lightly at the start, but then we realized [how good they were] after they kind of kicked us around in the first period and we bounced back. We finished off the game a lot better.”
Sirman added that for the first time this season, “I played like myself. I was calm in net and I was reading the play really well. I just felt really good.”
Sirman handled several multiple-shot flurries in the first period before Carriere scored what proved to be the game-winner at the 10:31 mark against the run of play.
O’Neill took a shot from the left point that snaked its way to the net. Theo Andersson swatted at the rebound and it went off goalie Jack Campbell and rolled into the crease where Carriere tapped it into the empty net.
Sirman made seven of his 14 Grade-A saves in that first period.
“He’s their second-string goalie, but he played like a first-stringer tonight,” said Team USA defenseman Justin Faulk. “We had a lot of chances, but he kept coming up big for them and that took a lot out of us.”
Pryor made it 2-0 3:51 into the second period when Nyquist threaded the needle with a perfect diagonal pass from the side of the net to him.
“Every time [Nyquist] has the puck, something is going to happen,” said Pryor, who saw duty up front as well as on defense. “I came down the middle of the ice and I was lucky enough to put the shot upstairs.”
Pryor beat the helpless Campbell, who tried to scramble across from his left post to his right post.
Midway through the period, Kenny Agostino came out of the penalty box, took a pass and broke in alone on Sirman only to have the goalie get his stick and pad on his shot.
“He pulled the puck back like he was going to shoot and he did,” said Sirman.
Sirman made another important save a few minutes later off Brandon Saad, who turned 17 last October and was dangerous every time he touched the puck.
Saad and Chase Balisy worked a nice give-and-go and Saad ripped a shot from the middle of the right circle that Sirman saved on the short side.
“I thought he was going to shoot it toward the middle, but he went back across [to the short side] and it hit me,” said Sirman.
Nyquist expanded the lead on the power play with 1:02 left.
O’Neill faked a shot at the left point, carried the puck to the top of the left circle and fed it across to the bottom of the right circle where Nyquist one-timed it into the short side.
“It was a real nice pass. I had the open net,” said Nyquist.
O’Neill capped the scoring late in the third period when his wrist shot from the point deflected in off a Team USA player’s skate.
Team USA outshot Maine 33-27. Campbell also made 14 Grade-A saves among his 23.
Team USA is 21-15-2 overall, 3-8 against Division I teams.