ORONO, Maine — Senior goaltender Martin Ouellette is one of the primary reasons the University of Maine has already won more men’s hockey games than it did a year ago.
Maine will take an overall record of 12-9-2 to Notre Dame for a two-game series this weekend after going 11-19-8 a year ago.
Ouellette’s numbers have dropped off over his last five starts, but he is ready for the stretch run and nobody in the Maine camp is concerned about the decline.
After posting a 1.18 goals-against average and a .959 save percentage during a five-game stretch in the middle of the season, Ouellette has registered a 2.90 GAA and a .908 save percentage over his past five starts and has given up a couple of uncharacteristic soft goals.
He was pulled in a 7-2 loss at Boston College on Jan. 18 after allowing four goals on 16 shots in 25:56 of work. He had made 39 saves in an exceptional outing the previous night, a 1-1 overtime tie at UMass Lowell.
He followed that with a 24-save showing in a 3-2 loss at New Hampshire and a 23-save performance in a 4-2 win over UNH the next night. The Black Bears had last weekend off.
Ouellette dismissed fatigue as an issue in his recent outings.
“I’m not tired,” insisted Ouellette. “You always have these stretches. I felt great at Lowell but, as a team, we had a tough game at BC. No one played well. The New Hampshire weekend was kind of weird.
“[New Hampshire] didn’t have a lot of scoring chances either night, especially in the first two periods,” said Ouellette. “It’s always harder to stay focused in those games.”
He said the weekend off helped the team, especially the players nursing injuries.
“I think we’ll be ready for Notre Dame,” he said.
Coach Red Gendron and Ouellette’s teammates expect him to be on top of his game.
“I’m not concerned. Marty’s fine,” Gendron said.
“He managed to win a huge game for us against New Hampshire,” said sophomore center Devin Shore. “A lot of the errors were on the defensive side of things and had nothing to do with Marty. It was with us.
“He’s lights out. I’m not worried. He has played well,” added Shore.
“We all know the type of player he is. We trust him,” said sophomore defenseman Ben Hutton.
Despite his recent slump, Ouellette is still ranked 11th in the country in save percentage (.930) and 12th in goals-against average (2.08). He has an 11-9-3 record and he is tied for second in the country in shutouts with three.
Steven Swavely closer to return
University of Maine sophomore center-right wing Steven Swavely is getting closer to returning to the lineup but he said he doesn’t know if he will be ready for the Notre Dame series.
Swavely suffered a leg injury in a 7-3 win over Boston University in the Frozen Fenway game on Jan. 11.
Swavely had been playing on the right wing on the top line with Shore and junior left wing Connor Leen. He had also been playing on the power play and was one of the team’s best penalty-killers.
He has two shorthanded goals and a power-play goal among his seven on the season. He also had six assists in 20 games.
Before being elevated to the right wing on the Shore line, he had been centering a line. He has spent most of his career at center.
With junior center Stu Higgins lost for the season with a knee injury, Swavely could play either wing or center when he returns.
“I feel good. I’ve got a shot to play but nothing is definite,” said Swavely, who began skating a week ago and is wearing a brace.
Swavely was injured when BU’s Sam Kurker stuck out his leg and tripped him along the boards.
Shore, Hutton among leaders
Shore is 13th in the country in points per game (1.29) and Hutton’s nine goals tie him for the national lead among defensemen. Hutton’s 0.83 points per game is tied for ninth among defensemen.
Maine, as a team, is ninth in goals-against average (2.25) and tied for 14th in goals-per game (3.21). The Black Bears are 28th in power-play efficiency (18.9), 20th in penalty kill (83.5 percent) and they are 55th among 59 teams in penalty minutes (8.2 per game).