ORONO — The University of Maine’s men’s hockey team began the season with a question mark in goal.
The choices were sophomore Shawn Sirman, who played in eight games a year ago, or freshmen Dan Sullivan or Martin Ouellette.
Sullivan has started the last three games and has gone 2-0-1 against the likes of North Dakota, Vermont and Boston University with the latter two games being played in hostile road environments.
He allowed two goals in each game and has made 74 saves. He is currently 2-1-1 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.
“He has been very consistent in all of his games and he has been exceptional in his last three games,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
“He has been fantastic for us. You can’t say enough good things about him,” said senior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen. “He isn’t fazed by anything out there and that really helps him.”
Sullivan said he was “happy” with the way he has played so far but there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“I’m looking to keep improving every day,” said the 21-year-old Sullivan, a native of York, Pa. “The biggest thing is you can’t get too satisfied.”
He said he will continue to work on the “little things” in practice.
He feels he has improved “a lot” since the first day of dry-land training.
“All of the guys have had a great influence on me,” said Sullivan. “Everybody is working really hard. The other goalies are great guys. By pushing each other, we have all gotten exponentially better as a group. We learn from each other’s mistakes.”
He said he maintains his focus by “just worrying about the next shot, no matter what the score is. If we score (to take or add to a lead), that’s great. But I just pretend it’s 0-0. If the other team scores, I think what I could have done differently to block the shot. But once the puck drops, it’s time to forget it and move on to the next shot.”
“He’s really mentally tough,” said freshman center Kelen Corkum. “He always focuses on what he needs to do and he executes very well.”
He said his teammates have played exceptionally well in front of him.
After two successive weekends with just one game, Maine will have four two-game weekends leading up to the Christmas break with a weekend off in between.
Whitehead said Sullivan has the upper hand “based on his performance” but they could go with a two-goalie rotation.
“We want to give the other goalies an opportunity to play when we can,” said Whitehead.
“Sully has played tremendously but Shawn and Martin have looked great in practice,too,” said junior right wing and assistant captain Gustav Nyquist.
Injury sidelines O’Neill
Whitehead said junior defenseman Will O’Neill, who led the Bear defensemen in points a year ago with 31 (8 goals, 23 assists), will be sidelined for “four to six weeks” with a lower body injury sustained on his second shift of the 2-2 overtime tie at Boston University on Saturday.
O’Neill was one of the keys to the power play, notching 22 (6 & 16) of his 31 points with the man-advantage a year ago.
He had 1 & 4 in eight games this season including three power play assists.
Whitehead also said senior center and captain Tanner House (back), sophomore right wing Joey Diamond (lower body) and junior left wing Theo Andersson (groin) are questionable. But freshman right wing Carlos Amestoy ( shoulder) should be available. House (5 & 3) missed the BU
game, Diamond (4 & 4) got hurt late in the game and Andersson has missed the last two games.
Whitehead said Mike Cornell, who was returned to defense from right wing after O’Neill left, could stay on defense or they could use freshman Brice O’Connor or sophomore Nick Pryor. O’Connor has played in one game but Pryor has yet to play.
“Pryor could quarterback the power play,” said Whitehead.
Amestoy or fellow freshman Jon Swavely could see duty up front or Cornell could remain at wing.
“(Depth) is one of the strengths of our team,” said Dimmen. “We’ve had some injuries but the guys who have stepped in for them have been good so far.”
Corkum strong in debut
Corkum made his official college debut — he played in the exhibition game against Acadia — against Boston University and impressed his coaches and teammates. He had a couple of bone-rattling hits and a couple good scoring opportunities.
Corkum had been out for two years due to post-concussion syndrome.
“He looked great out there,” said Nyquist.
“It was exciting. It was a ton of fun,” said Corkum, who flattened BU’s Joe Pereira on his first shift. “My rule of thumb is to get a hit or take a hit on my first shift. That gets me into it. I went in hard on the forecheck and finished my check.”
He was set up alone in front by Klas Leidermark in the third period but fired it over the net.
“I was overexcited with the puck on my stick,” said Corkum.
He said he felt “real comfortable” out there.
“It’s a game I know how to play,” said Corkum, son of Maine associate head coach and former Black Bear Bob Corkum.