ORONO – Coach Tim Whitehead believes the University of Maine men’s hockey team has three capable goaltenders competing for the No. 1 job.

But Whitehead and his team still face a few goaltending questions.

Do Shawn Sirman, Martin Ouellette and Dan Sullivan have what it takes to become elite Division I goalies?

Will there be one that rises above the others?

And will that happen sooner rather than later?

“All three of them have made significant progress since Sept. 1,” Whitehead said. “We’re not where we need to be yet, with team defense and the shared responsibility of the goalies. We’re excited but we’re not satisfied.”

Ideally the situation would be resolved in a couple of weeks, when Maine resumes its Hockey East schedule.

When Maine opens tonight’s two-game series against second-ranked North Dakota, the Black Bears will continue to use their three goalies — sophomore Shawn Sirman, and freshmen Martin Ouellette and Dan Sullivan — rather than decide on a No. 1 starter right away.

“I think it’s good,” said Tanner House, the Black Bears’ captain. “It keeps those guys sharp in competition and then it gets everyone a chance to maybe rise up and be the No. 1 guy. We have confidence in all three of our goalies, which is nice to have. To have three goalies like that, for the team, it’s also a benefit.”

Nearly a month into the season, the Black Bears continue to go goalie by committee. Essentially it’s another way of saying that no one has won the starting job yet, and Maine’s three goalies will share the workload until the best man wins.

“Sometimes when you know you’re going to be the guy, you don’t push yourself as much,” said Sullivan.

“You’re in the mindset of, ‘Oh, you’re going to play so it doesn’t matter how you do in practice.’ But with your position on the line, more or less, you’re always pushing yourself. And the other guys are really supportive, which is great. It’s a great environment. We all want to win.”

Sirman, who has started two games for the Black Bears this season, entered the year aware of the situation.

“I don’t mind it,” Sirman said. “Everyone’s getting experience and time in. “I came in not expecting anything and that I’d just battle for the job. I knew it was going to be like this, and we have to all want it and all have to work for it. It wouldn’t just be handed to us.”

At 6 feet, Sirman is a hybrid-style goalie, while the 6-2 Ouellette and the 6-1 Sullivan use size and quickness.

“We push each other in practice to work harder and work harder, and I think it’s good for all three of us,” said Ouellette, who made 16 saves Oct. 9 in Maine’s 3-3 tie against Connecticut. “For me, it makes me work harder if I want to play more games and get better every day.”

Whitehead sees three possibilities:

One player could emerge this weekend after a strong showing against North Dakota.

Two players could rotate games for the time being.

Three goalies could keep sharing the job.

Whitehead sees potential among all three, but no one goalie has stood out from the other in terms of being ready to take on the workload.

“No one’s in a position yet to handle that,” Whitehead said. “That could change, even after this weekend. The three have shown flashes but we’re going to be patient.

“Any of the three could play right now. That’s the positive. Everyone’s in the mix. Hopefully someone will elevate. The flip side is that we’d like to have some clarity so that they can get that ice time and they can get comfortable.”

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]