You could forgive Connor LaCouvee for feeling pumped through a near six-hour drive from Portland — that’s Maine — to Laval. Maybe it was what he listened to on the ride up.
“I listened to a couple podcasts, I think. Some music,” LaCouvee said. “Joe Rogan Experience. I like that. Find it’s pretty interesting. Also, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. It’s some pretty cool history and he makes it pretty interesting,”
LaCouvee’s pro hockey history has been short — he’s playing in his first professional season — but he’s been steady at the wheel for the Laval Rocket so far since signing a professional tryout contract in late December. He’s been used as reinforcements with Charlie Lindgren still sidelined. The 24-year old has yet to lose with his new team, while boasting a 1.68 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage.
“He’s making huge saves for us. We’re safe when he’s there,” teammate Phélix Martineau said “Usually sometimes when you have a backup from the [ECHL], you’re not too sure. But with him, we’re always safe every night and we know he’s going to [do] the job for us.”
The Rocket are LaCouvee’s fourth professional team he’s been on this season. He began the year at training camp for the Hartford Wolf Pack before joining the Maine Mariners of the ECHL.
“It’s just so many different faces, so many new systems,” he said. “But I think it’s a bit easier for me, being a goalie. Number-one priority: stop the puck. I think that’s a bit easier.”
The first time he got called up to the American Hockey League, LaCouvee suited up three times for the Utica Comets on a PTO. He picked up a loss but no wins. His goals-against average of 2.87 and an .877 save percentage also failed to impress.
“I don’t really think I had the best mindset going up to Utica,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’m just up for a couple days. I’m up until [Thatcher] Demko gets back.’ Kind of go there and fill that role. Here, I just wanted to make the most of it.”
LaCouvee’s first game as a member of the Rocket was not an easy one; a matchup against the league-best Charlotte Checkers. Not only did he secure his first AHL win, he even made a highlight-reel save.
“There’s kind of a little play behind the net,” he said of the play. “The net got bumped onto the back of my head. I was kind of discombobulated and I thought they might blow the whistle. Just kind of saw the puck squirt out and just tried to get over. Get as much on the shot as I could. Hope and pray. Close the eyes, right?”
With Lindgren’s return to the lineup still undetermined, LaCouvee still has his place on the team behind Michael McNiven. In the meantime, LaCouvee will try to enjoy his latest call-up as much as he can, and not just think of it as filling a role.
“I love this so much,” he said. “It’s my passion. It’s my life. At the end of the day, I know it’s just a game. They’re trying to score little pucks in a net. I try my best to stop them, and I’m just having fun with it right now.”