Coach Greg Moore, a former St. Dom’s and University of Maine standout, behind the Chicago Steel’s bench for Game 1 of the Clark Cup final against the Sioux Fall Stampede in May. Dave Eggen photo

Greg Moore had quite a year as a rookie head coach in the United States Hockey League.

After a three-year stint as an assistant with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Michigan, Moore was hired last summer to coach the Chicago Steel.

The 35-year-old Lisbon native, who was a standout at Saint Dominic Academy and the University of Maine before a nine-year professional career, took the Steel to the Clark Cup final, where they fell to the Sioux Falls Stampede in a three-game sweep.

Lisbon native Greg Moore behind the Chicago Steel bench during the 2018-19 season. Chicago Steel photo

The USHL is the lone Tier I junior hockey league under USA Hockey’s umbrella. The league had 356 players this past season with NCAA Division I commitments, including 19 of the Steel’s players. (The North American Hockey League, in which the Maine Nordiques will begin play in the 2019-20 season, is a Tier II league under the USA Hockey’s junior hockey umbrella.)

Despite falling three wins shy of winning the league championship, Moore said 2018-19 was a successful season.

“The NTDP is a development model, and we approached this year as an USHL organization wanting the same type of mindset, in terms of development,” Moore said. “With the adage that if we develop players the right way, wins will take care of themselves. That was the case this past season.”

The Steel finished second in the Eastern Conference in the regular season with a 37-21-4 record. They made their third straight playoff appearance, a stretch that includes winning the Clark Cup after the 2016-17 season.

Chicago had four players drafted in the NHL Draft last month, including Jake Schmaltz, who went in the seventh round to the Boston Bruins.

“He really developed himself into a two-way forward,” Moore said. “He was one of our younger players this season, and by the end of our season, he was probably our most defensive-responsible forward that I could trust on the ice. … He approaches every single game with a winning mentality, he will do anything for the team. He’s the most selfless kid, the most hardworking kid, and just really a good person.”

Schmaltz will play at the University of North Dakota before embarking on his pro career.

In addition to the four draftees, Moore also coached defender Owen Power, an University of Michigan commit who will be trying out for Canada’s Under-18 team that will play for the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in August.

Moore’s coaching style has been heavily influenced by his time in the National Team Development Program, in which Moore played from 2000-2002 prior joining the University of Maine. He said that his NTDP experiences have helped him view hockey in terms of development and not just wins and losses.

Moore said he also learned a lot from Don Granto, who was with the NTDP from 2011-2016 as a head coach before leaving to be an assistant coach of the University of Wisconsin for the 2016-17 season. Granto then spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks and will be an assistant with the Buffalo Sabres in 2019-20.

“I got to work with him with my first year working at the NTDP, and he’s really the one that got me to look at the sport through a completely different lens,” Moore said. “He flipped my brain, how I approached coaching, how I think about coaching, how I think about developing the players, having the growth mindset, trying to develop systems, concepts and ideas on how the game should be played five years from now without any concern for how the game was played five years ago.

“I really owe it to Don Granto to my own development as a coach and the success I had so far.”

Chicago Steel coach Greg Moore, center, talks to his team behind the bench during a game this past season Chicago Steel photo

Moore said he likes to coach a puck-possession game in which players can make plays with the puck instead of dumping it or chipping it off the glass in the defensive zone.

Moore said the biggest challenge of making the transition from an assistant coach to a head coach had to do more with managing the coaching staff than coaching strategies or anything on the ice.

“The biggest adjustment was overseeing the staff or managing the staff,” Moore said. “As an assistant coach, you are one piece and you are in a supportive role to the head coach, but without as much responsibility. As a head coach, I took on more responsibility and management of people within the staff and not just the players.”

He said he got more comfortable in managing his assistant coaches Brock Sheahan and Mike Garman as the season went along.

Greg Moore, middle, behind the Chicago Steel bench with his assistant coaches. Chicago Steel photo