ORONO, Maine — At this time last season, University of Maine goaltender Martin Ouellette was backing up Dan Sullivan, who was coming off an exceptional sophomore season in which he posted a 22-11-3 record, a 2.59 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
But after two tough starts against St. Lawrence in which Sullivan allowed seven goals on 28 shots, Ouellette was back in the picture and he eventually unseated Sullivan for the job.
Ouellette went on to have an impressive campaign as he allowed two goals or less in 15 of his 29 starts and finished with a 9-12-2 record, a 2.42 GAA and a .917 save percentage.
Ouellette made 17 saves in Sunday’s 5-1 exhibition win over Dalhousie University of Nova Scotia and he will hope to continue his stellar play this weekend when Maine visits St. Lawrence for a two-game series to open the regular season.
St. Lawrence’s impressive 5-0 and 5-1 wins over Maine at Alfond Arena came in the midst of a dreadful 1-9 start for the Black Bears, who finished 11-19-8 including 2-9-6 at home.
Tim Whitehead was fired as head coach after 12 seasons with one year left on his contract and former Maine, UMass and Yale assistant Red Gendron was hired to replace him.
Gendron was impressed with his veteran goalie against Dalhousie.
“He played very well,” said Gendron.
Ouellette said he and his mates are “excited for the weekend. We want to go there and play hard.
“St. Lawrence is going to be a good team. Getting a good start on the road would be great for our team. It would give us some good momentum to take into the next few weekends,” Ouellette added.
Ouellette worked hard over the summer back in his native Quebec with goalie coach Eric Therien.
“I got stronger and the big thing I worked on was my speed,” said Ouellette, a seventh-round draft pick (184th overall) of the Columbus Blue Jackets. “I felt comfortable on Sunday and, as the season goes on, I think I’ll feel better and better. I just want to do my job and help the team win some games.”
Ouellette and his teammates will have their hands full with the Saints, who return the nation’s leading goal-scorer in senior left wing Greg Carey (28 goals). He also led the nation in goals per game (0.74) and in power-play goals with 14. His 51 points tied him for fourth.
And St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel noted that Carey is in great physical condition.
“He’s a step quicker,” said Carvel who is playing Carey on a line with his brother, redshirt freshman center Matt and 14-goal scorer Greg Wick on right wing.
That line combined for three goals and seven assists in a season-opening 4-2 win over Carleton University of Ontario last weekend.
“I always try to know who the best players on the other team are,” said Ouellette. “Obviously, you’ve got to be ready for everyone because anyone can score goals. But with the best goal scorers, you’ve got to expect them to shoot from anywhere.”
Ouellette and the Black Bears would like to avenge last year’s losses but the goalie said “we can’t think about the past right now. We want to go there and get some big points.”
Senior defenseman and captain Brice O’Connor said the team will definitely have “payback in mind.”
“We remember what happened to us last year,” said O’Connor. “We’re definitely excited about this weekend.”