By Paul Betit
Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
PORTLAND, Maine – After carrying the Augusta Lynx of the ECHL on his back for the past few months, rookie goalie Dave McKee has been rewarded with a trip to the AHL to play for the Portland Pirates.
The promotion came Saturday after Sebastien Caron was called up to the NHL by Anaheim to serve as a backup when J.S. Giguere, the Ducks’ top goalie, goes on paternity leave.
In helping the Lynx remain in contention for the fourth and final playoff spot in the South Division, McKee set a team record for wins (29).
“(McKee) played very well for us, a lot of times under adverse conditions,” Augusta Coach Bob Ferguson said. “Because of an injury to our other goalie, he had to make every start for a month, sometimes playing four games in five nights.”
McKee won all eight of his January starts, compiling a 2.74 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage, and was named ECHL rookie of the month.
McKee seems ready to take the next step, “I was (in Augusta) for almost the entire year so it was a great development year for me,” he said. “I knew I had weaknesses and I got to work on a lot of things. There’s always stuff to work on, and it gave me a chance to refine some things.”
Last spring, after signing a two-year, entry-level contract with the Ducks following his junior year at Cornell, McKee spent his first month as a professional with Anaheim during its run to the Western Conference finals in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“He had a good start last (spring) by being able to spend a month in Anaheim and get acclimated to the pro game there and watch how these guys shoot the puck and face that every day,” Portland Coach Kevin Dineen said.
While with Augusta, McKee, who broke many of NHL Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden’s team records during his three seasons with Cornell, started 52 games.
“Like us, (the Lynx) play a lot of games in a short amount of time, sometimes four in five nights, and that’s tough on a goaltender,” Dineen said. “With a schedule like that, sometimes it’s a step forward or back. But in the big picture the more hockey these guys play the better off they are.”
The busy schedule didn’t seem to bother McKee.
“It gave me confidence knowing I was being successful,” he said.”Hopefully that will carry over to the next level.”
In his AHL debut Sunday, McKee stopped 23 of 25 shots during a 5-2 victory at Bridgeport.
“The guys played really well in front of me,” he said. “It wasn’t a terribly difficult game, so it was a good game to get my feet wet and get used to what’s going on.”