Portland Pirates: Former University of Maine goalie right at home with AHL club

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But Maine is still home.

He retired as a professional player after his fifth year with Soenderjyske in Denmark last spring. Tuesday, he was back on the ice — and in full gear — helping out another Maine hockey institution, the Portland Pirates.

The team hired Michaud this summer as a part-time goalie coach. He’s also the head coach of the Portland Junior Pirates’ U-18 team in the United States Premier League.

“I’m very fortunate to come out of playing hockey and get right into a coaching job with the Pirates,” Michaud said. “I told my wife, this is like catching lightning in a bottle, to get a goalie coaching job with the only pro team in the state, an hour from where I live.”

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Michaud wore a pair of hats Tuesday. With only one of the goalies on the Pirates’ roster in town and healthy for the start of training camp, the team needed a second keeper for the first day of on-ice sessions.

“Why not?” Michaud figured.

“As I’m skating, I’m still trying to evaluate and watch Adam Brown down at the other end,” he said. “That’s my job, really, to evaluate these goalies and hopefully help out their development in some way, shape or form. So (Tuesday), it was about that — and don’t get hurt.”

Michaud admitted he took a little more time to stretch the hamstrings and back muscles in advance of his return to the ice.

“It’s been quite a while,” he said.

As a goalie coach, Michaud said he plans to look for and help cultivate the same skills that allowed him to remain in the pro game for so long.

“The biggest thing is the work ethic,” Michaud said. “Their preparation and their attention to detail, that goes into goaltending.

“Whoever’s here, they all obviously want to get to the next level,” Michaud added. “My job is to basically be a sounding board. They’ve all got the ability, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. I’m just here to hopefully be another set of eyes, another set of ears, just to help the process along.”

The goalies with which Michaud will work run the gamut from rookie to experienced pro. Brown turns 23 next week and played last season with Colorado in the ECHL. Mark Visentin is 22 and in the third year — a contract year — with the Arizona Coyotes organization. And Mike McKenna, at 31, has played in all three major North American professional leagues, including 21 games in the NHL — not unlike Michaud’s journey.

“Everything is kind of falling into place here,” Michaud said. “To have Mike here is definitely a great addition to the hockey club, especially for the other goaltenders. He’s a eight-year pro now, he’s been in the NHL, the American league and he’s dabbled in the ECHL, too. He can definitely relay a lot to these kids and hopefully makes my job a little bit easier.”

Michaud said the biggest change he’s seen in the goaltending position hasn’t necessarily been driven by goalies, but rather by the evolution of players at forward and on defense.

“They’re definitely bigger,” Michaud said. “These guys can skate. The biggest thing for me is the size. They all skate like the small guys skate now, that’s the thing. I played my UMaine days with Steve Kariya, and there’s guys that can move like him who are 6-2, 6-3 now. It’s a big difference. The game had really evolved.”

That change has forced goalies to be more attentive to the puck at all times, and more nimble and quicker in their lateral movement.

Michaud, meanwhile, is perfectly content to be retired and free from adapting to those changes. He’s too busy adapting to his new roles, anyway.

“It’s kind of two jobs, so I’m still trying to get used to that,” Michaud said. “To go from playing, where it’s three, four hours a day tops, to, now it’s a 12-hour day.”

A 12-hour day, Michaud said, for which he’d trade nothing.

“I’m very grateful, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” Michaud said.

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