ORONO, Maine — When asked if he had ever previously gone 44 games without a goal in his hockey career, University of Maine sophomore defenseman Rob Michel smiled.

“I don’t think so. That’s a first for me,” said Michel.

Michel’s first 44 games during his collegiate career were goalless, but after scoring a shorthanded game-winner in a 5-2 win over UMass Lowell on Nov. 11, he has added two more goals over the next four games to give him three.

Michel said he tried not to think about the dry spell when he was going through it, “but, at the same time, it’s in the back of your head. You want to help out as much as you can.

“It’s definitely nice to get a couple,” added Michel.

Michel had eight assists in 34 games a year ago but has been thrust into a more prominent offensive role this season after Dan Renouf, who had six goals and nine assists in 2015-16 to lead the Black Bear defense corps, decided to pass up his senior year and sign with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.

All the other UMaine defensemen had combined for four goals.

Renouf quarterbacked a power-play unit and now Michel finds himself in a similar role.

“With Dan leaving, there was definitely a hole on the power play for someone to produce. So I took it upon myself to kind of take over that role,” said Michel, who has a goal and two assists on the power play and has three goals and four assists in 15 games overall to pace UMaine’s blue-line corps.

“He has taken it upon himself to shoot the puck an awful lot more,” said UMaine head coach Red Gendron. “He has been doing a better job, every game, of hitting the net more. The poise he has been showing at the blue line [is noticeable]. His offensive game is evolving nicely, no question about that.”

“Once he got that first one, you knew they were going to start coming for him and they have,” said UMaine senior right wing and assistant captain Blaine Byron. “He has been playing great. Last year, he had great chances but didn’t get the bounces. Now that he has gotten one, it has given him confidence and pucks are finding ways into the net for him.”

Senior center and captain Cam Brown said Michel “moves well along the blue line and he opens up [shooting] lanes for himself.”

“I’ve been getting more shots through to the net, which has been a good thing to see. My decision-making is better. I’m playing with more confidence and I’m taking more of a leadership role,” said Michel.

He didn’t feel he had a great year last season but said, “I’m glad to see it happening now. November has been good to me and, hopefully, it will translate to later months,” said Michel.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound native of Camillus, New York, is also solid defensively as he uses his quick feet and physicality to move the puck out of the defensive zone.

He is plus-four in plus-minus, which awards a plus-one to a player on the ice for an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus-one if the other team scores one.

“He was very good last year. He wasn’t far behind Dan Renouf as a defender. He’s a heck of a player,” said Gendron.

Michel and his teammates, who are now 5-7-3 overall and 1-4-1 in Hockey East, will play a home-and-home series with New Hampshire (6-6-2, 3-1-1 HE) next weekend: Friday at 7 p.m. in Durham, New Hampshire, and Saturday at 7:30 in Orono.

“It’s always a battle regardless of where we’re ranked. It’s going to be a great two games,” said Michel.