It's been a learning curve, but University of New Brunswick men's hockey rookie Philippe Maillet certainly found his groove in his new league this weekend.
The Lachenaie, Que., native followed up a three-point performance in an 9-2 win over l'Université de Moncton on Friday, with a four-point night on Saturday against the University of Prince Edward Island as UNB went on to win 5-3.
"It feels good," Maillet said after Saturday's win. "I think I have a lot of confidence from the coach and I have confidence with the puck. So it feels good."
Maillet helped spark the V-Reds offence after a slow start – giving up two UPEI goals on the first three shots in only five minutes – feeding Keevin Cutting midway through the first to get UNB on the board.
After Chris Culligan netted the equalizer late in the first period, Maillet gave UNB the lead four minutes into the second, jumping on a loose puck in the slot after JP Labardo jammed it free from UPEI goaltender Mavric Parks.
Maillet netted is second of the game midway through the third, and added an assist two minutes earlier on a power play goal from Tom Nesbitt, en route to earning Subway Player of the Game honours.
Maillet was a latecomer to the V-Reds roster after trying his luck in the East Coast Hockey League. He attended the Vancouver Cauncks rookie camp in September, and after things "didn't work out" with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL, Maillet took UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall up on his offer to play university hockey.
"It's pretty high level hockey," Maillet said of his new league. "I got a couple games to adjust my game and it feels good now. I'm good with the teammates and they welcomed me great."
Last season Maillet scored 25 goals and 58 assists for the Victoriaville Tigers of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and tallied more than 50 points in each of his last three seasons in Junior. But even he was surprised at the high caliber of university hockey.
"The speed [surprised me]. The guys are fast, the guys are strong and there's 25-year-old guy," Maillet said. "I was still 20 when I first came in so yeah, the pace and the size of the guys was pretty surprising."
Hockey aside, this is also the first time Maillet has taken English-speaking classes.
"With practice, I'm way better [at English] than when I first came in," said Maillet who's in the business program and taking some online courses. "The guys help me a lot and they don't laugh, they just try and help me and it's nice. I gotta say, it's easier to read and write than to speak."
MacDougall said he was impressed with Maillet's weekend and noted a difference in the rookie's "compete level."
"He works hard and he went and got pucks," MacDougall said. "He's a dangerous player when he's got the puck. Rather than wait for the puck to come to him . . . he didn't get it much on Wednesday night. His work ethic went high and he had a great weekend."
With the four points on the weekend UNB stayed atop the Atlantic University Sport standings with a one-point lead over the Acadia Axemen. The V-Reds are in Nova Scotia next weekend to wrap up the first half of the regular season.
UNB returns to the Aitken Centre Sunday, Dec. 29, for the Peterbilt Pete Kelly Challenge against St. Thomas University.