File photo                                Alberni Valley Bulldogs goaltender Connor LaCouvee thwarts Victoria Grizzlies forward Myles Fitzgerald during BCHL action in the 2013-14 season.

File photo Alberni Valley Bulldogs goaltender Connor LaCouvee thwarts Victoria Grizzlies forward Myles Fitzgerald during BCHL action in the 2013-14 season.

Qualicum Beach goalie one step away from NHL

LaCouvee spent time in BCHL with Cowichan Valley, Alberni Valley

Connor LaCouvee of Qualicum Beach is one step away from the National Hockey League.

The 24-year-old goaltender and Oceanside Minor Hockey product – who played in the B.C. Hockey League for the Cowichan Valley Capitals and Alberni Valley Bulldogs – this week agreed to a professional tryout contract with the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League.

The Comets are the top farm club of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, who have been hit hard by goaltending injuries. Thatcher Demko, expected to be the starter in Utica this season, has been battling concussion issues. His backup, Richard Bachman, was called up by the Canucks after an injury to Anders Nilsson.

LaCouvee played for the Capitals in 2012-13 and was acquired by the Bulldogs in 2013-14 after a brief stint with the Merritt Centennials. He was chosen as Alberni Valley’s MVP for the season.

He then played three years of NCAA hockey with Boston University, where he graduated a year earlier with a summa cum laude honour. He then went on to join the Minnesota State Mankato, where he took a Master in Sport Management, finishing his collegiate career with a 36-15-6 record, a 2.19 goals-against average, and a .913 save percentage.

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This season, he signed a deal with the ECHL’s Maine Mariners, an affiliate of the New York Rangers. He put up a 2-0-0 record with a 2.57 GAA and .929 save percentage in three games.

With the Comets a netminder short due to the recall of Bachman, they reached out to the Mariners and acquired LaCouvee on loan. He travelled to the Comets to Laval for a game against the Laval Rocket (top farm club of the Montreal Canadiens) on Friday night. The teams met in a rematch on Saturday, with LaCouvee serving as backup to Ivan Kulbakov in both games.

LaCouvee’s parents, Lesley and Francis, were thilled to hear of their son’s latest move up the hockey ladder.

“We are hoping he gets a chance to play,” said Francis.

“It is a lifetime dream. We’re pretty excited that he’s really doing well.”

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