Goalie Shawn Sirman and center Kelen Corkum won’t be playing for the University of Maine men’s hockey team next season.
Maine head coach Tim Whitehead said Sirman, who is a sophomore, has been cut from the program because he wants to give Dan Sullivan and Martin Ouellette “more ice time in practice and in games in order to develop.”
Sullivan and Ouellette were freshmen this season.
Corkum won’t return due to health issues. Corkum hadn’t played in more than two years due to postconcussion syndrome and, after appearing in five games this season, hip and back ailments shelved him for the season.
Whitehead said both players are on partial scholarships, and the university will honor those scholarships if Sirman and Corkum decide to return to school in the fall.
Corkum didn’t register a point in his five games, while Sirman went 4-2-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average and a team-best .894 save percentage.
Sullivan, who missed seven games due to a knee injury, was 10-7-2 with a 2.73 GAA and a .890 save percentage and was the All-Hockey East Rookie Team goalie. Ouellette was 3-3-2 with a 3.18 GAA and a .862 save percentage.
Maine’s .884 save percentage ranked 57th among 58 Division I teams. Maine finished 17-12-7 and missed the NCAA tourney for the fourth straight year.
“We made a decision after the season that we really needed to get down to two goalies,” explained Whitehead. “We felt the two freshmen have the most potential to elevate their games down the road and emerge as strong Division I goalies.”
“I have tremendous respect for Shawn,” added Whitehead. “He’s a great guy and a very strong goalie. For whatever reason, things didn’t pan out here the way we wanted or he wanted.”
Josh Seeley will return as the No. 3 goalie, but he doesn’t always practice with the team.
Sirman concluded his career with a 5-8-3 record, a 3.55 GAA and a .872 save percentage.
“I’m obviously upset. It came as a shock to me,” said Sirman, who learned of the decision last week.
“I thought I played well all year with the exception of the New Hampshire game. But I guess it wasn’t good enough,” said Sirman.
He was referring to the 5-4 loss in Durham on Feb. 5 which was decided by Paul Thompson’s goal from behind the extended goal line that hit Sirman’s back and trickled into the net with 16 seconds left.
Sirman said he felt Whitehead perceived him as the third-string goalie and his margin of error was smaller than it was for Sullivan and Ouellette.
Sirman had only one stretch of back-to-back starts and that came in January when he beat league regular-season and tournament champion Boston College 4-1, tied Northeastern 3-3 and lost to Boston University 4-3.
“You can’t have three goalies in a rotation. I understand that. But you can’t get into a groove if you aren’t playing (consecutive) games,” said Sirman, who added that Whitehead would often sit him for allowing “soft goals” even if he won or tied the game.
He isn’t sure about his future, but he knows he wants to continue playing hockey.
“It’s tough to figure out what to do next year,” said Sirman, who will have to sit out a year if he transfers to another Division I school or a Canadian university.
“I don’t want to go to another Division I school and Division III is out of the question,” said Sirman. “I’m hoping to go to a Canadian university.”
He said he will miss his teammates, particularly close friends Kyle Beattie and Klas Leidermark.
Whitehead said his “heart goes out to Kelen.”
“It’s a tough situation,” added Whitehead. “From a health perspective, it’s not unexpected. He had been in and out of games due to health reasons. It became clear this was not the right move from a health perspective. But it isn’t a chance worth taking any more.”
Maine associate head coach Bob Corkum, Kelen’s father, said his son loves to play, but the decision is the right one.
“How much is enough?” asked the elder Corkum. “It has been one thing after another and we didn’t see an end in sight. Even if he was healthy, he would still have to make up for all the development time he lost. And he would have to deal with all the stress (it would put on him). The decision has been made and I hope he can live with it and move on.”
“But it’s tough (to hang up the skates for the last time). It was for me,” said Corkum. He followed his four-year University of Maine career with a 13-year, 720-game NHL career before retiring in 2002.