It is certainly a challenge making the jump from junior hockey to Division I college hockey, especially for a goaltender.
Players have harder shots and release them more quickly. You also have players parking themselves in front of you to screen you.
Victor Ostman was thrust into a difficult situation last season as a freshman goalie at the University of Maine.
Not only was he making the transition from the United States Hockey League, where he played for the Chicago Steel, but he and his Black Bear teammates played all of their regular season games on the road due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state of Maine and at the University of Maine.
His debut certainly wasn’t what he wanted as he allowed four goals on 17 shots and was pulled in favor of Matt Thiessen after 22 minutes and 48 seconds of a 9-5 loss to UMass Lowell.
But the 6-foot-4, 205-pound native of Danderyd, Sweden, rebounded two games later by leading the Black Bears to their first regulation win — UMaine had opened the season with a shootout win over New Hampshire — as he made 24 saves in a 4-3 triumph at Vermont.
He made it two wins in a row as he stopped 37 shots in a 4-3 victory over Providence.
Ostman won the starting job and kept his team in most games the rest of the way, allowing three goals each in six of his last eight starts while making 56 saves against Boston College, and 40 and 43 in back-to-back games at UConn.
He finished the season with a 3-6-1 record, a 3.77 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.
UMaine went 3-11-2.
Ostman, who had a 2.34 GAA and a .913 save percentage with the Steel, is looking for an even better year this season under first-year head coach Ben Barr who has replaced the late Red Gendron.
Ostman, who let in two goals in a period of work in UMaine’s 7-0 exhibition loss to Quinnipiac last Saturday, said he was “pretty happy” with last season but added that there is a lot of room for improvement.
“I can obviously be better. I need to be more consistent. I let in some bad goals and I wasn’t happy about that. I have to fix that,” Ostman said. “You can’t take a second off in any game.”
Thiessen, a junior, and sophomore Connor Androlewicz are competing with him for the job and they each played a period against Quinnipiac.
UMaine graduate student captain Jack Quinlivan said Ostman has continued to get better.
“He has a great work ethic,” Quinlivan said.
Senior defenseman Cam Spicer said Ostman has a healthy combination of size and agility.
“He moves well [for a big goalie],” Spicer said.
Barr and the UMaine players have confidence in all three goalies.
Barr said he feels Ostman has the potential to be a very high end goalie.
“He has the ability to be as good as anyone in our league. I’ve been around a lot of good goalies at different schools and he ranks up there with any of them,” said Barr, who was an assistant or associate head coach at five other schools including Union, Providence and UMass, which won national championships thanks to players he recruited for those schools.
UMaine has a long history of quality goalies who have gone on to have impressive NHL careers like Garth Snow, Mike Dunham, Jimmy Howard and three-time Vezina Trophy (NHL’s best goalie) finalist Ben Bishop.
UMaine’s last goalie, Jeremy Swayman, was an All-American and the Mike Richter Award winner (best college goalie) winner and he is vying for the starting job with the Boston Bruins in just his second pro season.
Ostman is looking forward to the season and being able to play his first game in front of an Alfond Arena crowd. Fans were not allowed at UMaine’s only home game, a 7-2 Hockey East playoff loss to New Hampshire last season.
“I’m excited. It’s going to be a different year,” Ostman said.
Ostman and his Black Bear teammates open the season at Nebraska Omaha on Friday and Saturday nights.