Even though Jakub Sirota was playing in just his fourth game for the University of Maine men’s hockey team, coach Red Gendron had enough confidence in the freshman defenseman to put him into a key situation.
Late in Monday’s Hockey East game against New Hampshire at Alfond Arena, with the Black Bears trailing 4-3, Sirota was sent onto the ice.
It was Sirota’s first collegiate goal and point after he joined the team for the second semester.
“I had confidence in him but confidence is earned based on what he has done in the game, previous games and practices,” said Gendron. “I already knew he had hockey sense and he could shoot the puck. He got the puck in the right place at the right time, and he made the right play. He finished it off with a laser into the net.”
In addition to playing in even-strength situations, Sirota was also on a power-play unit, and had two shots on goal and a blocked shot.
“It is very good for me to be out there in that situation, that late in the game,” said Sirota, one of seven UMaine defensemen dressed for the game. “We’ll see how the next game goes.”
Sirota said he has enjoyed his brief time at UMaine so far.
“It has been perfect. They take care of us very well. I’m very appreciative,” said the 6-foot-2, 190-pound native of Prerov, Czech Republic.
Sirota had been playing for the Lone Star Brahmas of the North American Hockey League. He said college hockey is significantly different and that it has required a significant adjustment.
“The players are much better. They’re much stronger and much faster,” Sirota said. “But, at the same time, it’s still hockey.”
His teammates have been impressed with him.
“He has size and a good skills. He’s going to be a really good player,” junior left wing Mitch Fossier said.
“He makes smart plays and he’s good with the puck,” senior left wing Brendan Robbins said. “He has adjusted quickly.”
Robbins finds scoring touch
Robbins scored twice against UNH, his first multiple-goal game since he had a hat trick in a 4-3 overtime win over Merrimack last Feb. 2. Dating back to last season, he had scored only two goals over a 26-game span but he snapped out of it with three goals in his last six games.
“I needed a couple of bounces like that to get myself going offensively,” Robbins said after Monday’s game.
“He has played well,” said Gendron, who is encouraged by the fact his team has lit the goal lamp 11 times over the past two games.
UMaine beat Boston College 7-2 last Wednesday.
Robbins is the only Black Bear who has scored more than one goal in the past two games, which represents scoring balance that UMaine has been lacking.
The rare Monday afternoon game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day attracted 3,702 fans to Alfond Arena. Three of the previous four regular-season games between UMaine and New Hampshire in Orono, played on either a Friday or a Saturday night, were sellouts (5,125), and the other attracted 4,788.
Up next for the Black Bears (8-11-3 overall, 4-5-3 HE) are games Friday and Saturday against the No. 2-ranked University of Massachusetts (18-4, 10-2 HE).