ORONO, Maine — University of Maine men’s sophomore hockey goalies Dan Sullivan and Martin Ouellette consider themselves a work in progress.
They have had their ups and downs and are searching for the consistency that can help the Black Bears rebound from their 3-6-1 start beginning with Friday night’s game at UMass.
“We’re not getting the results that we wanted. I realize its tough for the fans. They really want us to win and we’re really trying,” said Sullivan.
“We’re doing all we can. We know we can bring it together.”
Ouellette added, “It’s going to come. We’re going to get better as the year goes on. We’re working harder every day.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead maintains that he is encouraged by their progress and expects it to continue.
“The most important thing is that they’re way ahead of where they were last year. They have the potential to become elite college goalies and, right now, we’re working on having them bring [good performances] on a consistent basis,” said Whitehead.
Their statistics are almost identical.
Sullivan is 2-3-1 with a 3.26 goals-against average and a .875 save percentage. Ouellette is 1-3 with a 3.31 GAA and a .873 save percentage.
Maine’s overall 3.3 goals-against average is tied for 45th out of 58 schools. UMass has a 3.6 GAA which leaves it in a tie for 52nd with New Hampshire.
Ouellette and Sullivan have each turned in some solid performances and each has been pulled early once in Maine’s current four-game losing streak.
“There has definitely been a big improvement in us from last year,” said Sullivan. “We’re more experienced and a lot more comfortable. But there is definitely a long way to go. It’s a learning process and you can never be satisfied.”
Ouellette said that he’s had “some good games and some games in which I could have done better. I can do better in the future.”
Whitehead is hoping his goalies will persevere.
“I’ve told them that even [New Jersey Devils’ star goalie] Martin Brodeur gives up bad goals once in a while,” he said. “The important thing is to bounce back when they’re facing adversity and not let one tough goal become two or three. That comes with experience and confidence.”
In analyzing their games, Whitehead said Ouellette needs to play “more within himself to use his size to his advantage.”
He said Ouellette is quick and athletic but sometimes “overextends himself” and gets out of position.
“I’ve got to simplify my game,” said the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Ouellette.
“That will make my job easier. I’ve got to make sure I’m square to the shooters. I need to be more patient and wait for the puck to come to me.”
Whitehead said Ouellette also needs to refine his puck handling and reduce his turnovers.
Sullivan, according to Whitehead, is a technically sound goalie who needs to be “a little more aggressive.”
“We need him to get out of the net more and cut off the angles,” explained Whitehead.
“That’s accurate,” said Sullivan. “The more out of the net you are, the better the chances are that the puck will hit you in terms of a screen or a situation where you don’t happen to see the puck. What goes along with that is rebound control. You have to be a bit more conscious where you put the rebound.”
Sullivan and Ouellette are close friends. They room together at school and on the road.
They try to help each other out.
“There is competition there as well but it’s all positive,” said Sullivan.
Whitehead said it is equally important for the team to play better in front of them.
“The bottom line is the team needs to play great team defense to help them gain their confidence,” said Whitehead. “It has taken a little bit of time but I’m very confident our goalies and our team will get there.”
UMass coach Don Cahoon said Ouellette and Sullivan “aren’t unlike most of the goalies in our league.
“When it’s their night, they’re more than adequate. When they struggle, they struggle,” said Cahoon who has two freshman goalies, Kevin Boyle and Steve Mastalerz, and a sophomore, Jeff Tegliar, with just 12 career games under his belt. They are also a work in progress, he said.