ORONO, Maine — When the game ended and the University of Maine had secured a 4-1 exhibition win over St. Francis Xavier of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, the Black Bears mobbed their goalie.
The goaltender wasn’t Dan Sullivan, who turned in a 25-save performance over 53 minutes and 25 seconds.
It was Matt Strickrott, who would normally be handling the video of the game.
Strickrott relieved Sullivan and stopped all three shots he saved over the final 6:35.
“If I die tomorrow, I’ll die a happy man,” beamed Strickrott afterward. “It was a great experience.”
Strickrott was part of the team’s support staff a year ago. He handled a variety of chores, working with equipment manager Kevin Ritz and doing some of the videotaping.
When goalie Matt Morris underwent offseason surgery and was lost for the season, Maine coach Red Gendron asked Strickrott, a former New Hampshire Junior Monarchs backup goalie, if he would serve as the third-string goalie behind seniors Martin Ouellette and Sullivan.
Gendron told Strickrott a week ago he had planned to use him in the exhibition game to reward him for his contributions to the program.
“He is a terrific young man,” said Gendron. “He works his tail off and he would do anything for this program. Whether it’s Paul (athletic trainer Paul Culina), Kevin (Ritz) or any of the coaches, all you have to do is ask him and he’ll get it done.”
“It was great to see him in there,” Sullivan said.
“He has done a ton of work behind the scenes for us. Even last year, he’d be up all hours of the night doing things to help us out and he never asked for thanks or anything in return,” said sophomore center Devin Shore.
Strickrott admitted he was nervous before he stepped onto the ice.
“I haven’t played a game in forever,” said Strickrott. “But the guys supported me a lot.”
Strickrott received a loud ovation from the crowd of 3,664 and he said he heard the chants from his buddies in the mechanical engineering program.
When he entered the game, Maine was holding a 3-1 lead but Will Merchant gave him some breathing room with his second goal of the game 2:12 later.
Strickrott was happy with his performance and said he will do anything he can to help the team — whether it be as a third-string goalie or a member of the support staff.
Maine has added another goalie in former Connecticut Oilers standout Nik Nugnes so, in all likelihood, Strickrott will return to his supporting roles.
But he realized his dream.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play Division I hockey,” said Strickrott, a native of Gilford, N.H.