ORONO, Maine — When Martin Ouellette was introduced as the starting goalie for the University of Maine’s hockey game against UMass Lowell at Tsongas Arena on Saturday night, it marked the first time in nearly a year that he had started back-to-back games.
He had played in Friday night’s 2-1 loss, making 23 saves.
On Nov. 11, 2011, Ouellette lasted just 11:17 in a 5-3 home loss to UMass Lowell, allowing three goals on seven shots. The previous weekend, he had made 25 saves in a 3-2 loss at New Hampshire.
He never started another game, as Dan Sullivan won the job.
But Ouellette came through on Saturday night with a 27-save performance as Maine triumphed 4-3 to snap a seven-game losing streak.
It was Ouellette’s first win since a 5-4 overtime win over Providence on Oct. 28, 2011.
And Ouellette, a junior, has won the No. 1 job for the time being, with his next start being on Friday night against the visiting UMass Minutemen.
“Martin has made great progress,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “I’m really proud of him. It’s no accident. He worked extremely hard over the summer to get in the best shape of his career. He’s still young. He has a lot of upside. He is really emerging for us.”
Ouellette has made four starts this season, including three in the last four games, and he has not allowed more than three goals in any of them.
“He has given us a chance to win every game,” said Maine senior center Kyle Beattie. “He has been calm and confident. He has been absolutely huge for us. We were finally able to get him some goals on Saturday night, and hopefully we can keep doing that.”
Ouellette feels he has performed “pretty well” in each of his four starts, adding, “It’s good to get a win.
“I’ve been more in control and more focused this year,” he said. “The last few years, I’d sometimes let in a soft goal at a bad time and it would hurt the team.”
He said he had a “great summer,” working hard on his game on and off the ice.
“I had to be ready for anything,” he said.
Whitehead said the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Ouellette has “economized his movements.
“He has been in better position to face all of the shots. He’s using his size to his advantage more.”
Senior defenseman Mike Cornell said Ouellette “has his confidence right now and has been consistently coming up with big saves.
“He has the best of both worlds. He has the ability to play very technically but, at the same time, he can come up with those really athletic saves, too,” Cornell added.
“He’s very talented and extremely athletic. and now he’s getting a chance to show it off,” said sophomore center Stu Higgins.
Ouellette said he intends to continue to get better.
“There’s always things you can improve on,” he said. “I’ll watch video later. That’s going to help me get better. It would be good to get a second win in a row on Friday. I think we’ll have a good week of practice and be ready for Friday’s game.”