University of Maine men's hockey team plays the University of Alaska at Alfond Arena on Friday Jan. 7, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Two players have left the University of Maine’s hockey team due to knee injuries, while a third is sidelined by a similar injury.

Graduate student Emil Westerlund and sophomore Brad Morrissey have both been plagued by knee injuries and decided to hang up their skates. Senior defenseman Jakub Sirota is also dealing with a knee issue after being injured in the second period of Saturday’s 4-2 loss at the University of Massachusetts.

UMaine has now lost five players since the start of the season, and has just 22 total skaters and three goalies. The shrinking roster means players may be forced to fill roles they aren’t accustomed to. 

“Some guys will find themselves in positions they haven’t played before and, hopefully, they will be able to rise to the occasion,” UMaine head coach Ben Barr said. 

“This is going to be a great challenge for us. We’re not going to make excuses. Nobody feels sorry for us. We just have to keep plugging away.”

Westerlund had off-season knee surgery and last played at UMass Lowell on Jan. 15. He didn’t have any points in 14 games this season after tying for fifth on the team in scoring a year ago with four goals and five assists. 

He played in 116 career games at UMaine and tallied 16 goals and 18 assists.

“He never got back to playing the way that he could,” Barr said of Westerlund’s knee injury.

Morrissey hasn’t played since Nov. 19, and Barr said it’s possible he may never play again. 

Morrissey had a goal and an assist in seven games this season before suffering the knee injury after notching three goals in eight games a year ago.

Sirota’s status is unknown for the Friday-Saturday series against rival New Hampshire at the Alfond Arena in Orono. Both are slated for 7 p.m. starts. He was to be evaluated on Monday.

Sirota is UMaine’s second leading scorer with 14 points on four goals and 10 assists. He has also blocked 18 shots, second most on the team behind Adrien Bisson’s 24. 

UMaine was already without graduate student Jack Quinlivan and senior center-wing Adam Dawe on Saturday night.

Quinlivan was serving a one-game suspension while Dawe missed both games due to an upper body injury. Quinlivan will be back for the series this weekend and Barr is hopeful Dawe will return to the lineup.

“Whoever can play, will play. This isn’t a team that relies on two or three guys,” Barr said. “We’re going to have to win with heart and passion. We’re going to have to play for each other.”

Defensemen Dominic Dockery, Perry Winfree and Kabore Dunn left the team earlier this season. UMaine added Samuel Duerr, who was scheduled to join the program in the fall, to the depleted defense corps for the second semester.

Two bright spots of late have been the power play and the goaltending of sophomore Victor Ostman.

UMaine has nine power play goals in its last 10 games after scoring three in its first 16, and Ostman has posted a .912 save percentage over his last five starts.

UMaine is now 5-17-4 overall and 3-13-2 in Hockey East, while UNH is 13-14-1 and 7-11-1.

UNH snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-0 win over UMass Lowell on Sunday.