AMHERST, Mass. — University of Maine senior goalie Martin Ouellette and UMass junior netminder Steve Mastalerz were goaltending partners for two seasons at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H. They will be squaring off for the third time in their careers on Friday night as the Black Bears and Minutemen play the first of two Hockey East games at the Mullins Center.
They will conclude a four-games-in-nine-nights series. Maine swept UMass 3-2 in overtime and 8-4 last weekend in Orono in a pair of nonconference games that the two teams played to help fill out their 14-game nonconference schedules.
Ouellette and Mastalerz have split their first two starts against each other.
Last season, Mastalerz made 23 saves as the Minutemen beat Ouellette and the Black Bears 5-2 in Amherst, Mass., on Feb. 23. The previous night, Ouellette had made 30 saves to win 2-0 with Kevin Boyle getting the start in goal for the Minutemen.
Mastalerz relieved Boyle in the third period.
Boyle has since transferred to UMass Lowell.
Ouellette outdueled Mastalerz last Friday night in the overtime victory.
Ouellette made 27 saves, including 18 of the Grade-A (high-percentage) variety, while Mastalerz finished with 34, including 23 Grade-A’s.
Freshman Alex Wakaluk started Saturday’s game but was pulled after allowing six goals in two periods. Mastalerz allowed one in the third.
The two goalies have remained close friends, and they look forward to their duels.
“We’ve always stayed in touch. We want each other to do well,” said Ouellette. “It’s a good challenge. It’s kind of weird to play four games back to back, but it’s fun.”
“We talk as we come up to these games,” said Mastalerz. “We had a good thing going in high school. We always pushed each other. We’re very supportive of each other. It’s fun.”
Adding to the equation is the fact that first-year UMass assistant coach Ryan Miller was their head coach at Kimball Union.
“He was a great coach. We had a great time. I learned a lot from going there,” said Ouellette who shared the goaltending with Mastalerz his first season before getting the majority of the playing time the next season.
He left to attend Maine, and Mastalerz assumed the No. 1 role the next year.
“They’re two excellent kids. I’m happy for their success,” said Miller. “They are both big and athletic. They’re similar in some ways and different in others.”
“Every goalie has their own style, but we both play the butterfly style,” said Ouellette who felt Mastalerz turned in a quality performance last Friday night.
Mastalerz will be looking to avenge last weekend.
“Marty definitely played well last weekend,” said Mastalerz. “All the credit to him. He took advantage of his opportunities. It was a tough weekend for us, but we’ll bounce back.”
Ouellette will have to adapt to the wider rink at the Mullins Center. It is 10 feet wider than Alfond Arena. The Mullins Center is 200 feet by 95 feet while Alfond Arena is 200-by-85.
“The angles are different,” said Ouellette. “It can be positive or negative. The negative is guys have more time to pick corners. At the same time, the shots seem to come from further away so you have more time to react and see the puck.
“It’s a different game [on the wider sheet], so we’ll have to adjust. But we did well on the bigger ice sheets at New Hampshire [win and tie] and UMass [win and loss] last year,” said Ouellette.
Ouellette and his Black Bear mates practiced on the Olympic-sized sheet at the University of Southern Maine’s rink in Gorham on Thursday.