New goalie coach Rob Couturier making a difference in first year with the Mavs


Jordan McAlpine

Rob Couturier looks on from the press box during Omaha’s series against Long Island University. Photo taken by Jordan McAlpine.

When Rob Couturier was a young kid growing up in Maine, he could picture himself eventually being involved in the sport of hockey. At the same time, it’s still surreal to think back to what got him started.

“My neighbor and his dad were playing street hockey once the season was over, and they wanted someone to shoot at,” Couturier said. “I remember one day they knocked on my door, handed me a goalie stick and there was no looking back.”

That hour in the driveway would end up shaping Couturier’s career path going forward. He played between the pipes through his senior year of high school. Once the offers didn’t come to continue playing at the college level, the next step became clear — coaching.

“It felt so natural the first time I got on the ice as a coach and it was an easy transition for me,” he said. “There have been long winters, long bus trips and everything in between, but it’s been a fun journey and there isn’t anything else I’d rather be doing.”

That journey has brought him to Omaha. After spending the past two seasons coaching at Colby College, Couturier moved to Denver last March and started working for USA Hockey as a Goaltending Development Leader, a title he still holds.

His time in Denver was short-lived, however. Couturier saw the Omaha job posted last spring, reached out and expressed his interest to Omaha’s Director of Hockey Operations Jake McKamey and was in contact with Omaha head coach Mike Gabinet shortly thereafter. He was hired as the Mavericks’ goalie coach in July.

“His insight and guidance have been a tremendous addition to our program,” Gabinet said. “He’s here every day, he’s already built a great relationship with our three goaltenders and you can see his work paying off. His work ethic has been outstanding and he’s a great person too, so we’re extremely fortunate to have Rob here.”

Those three goalies are Isaiah Saville, Austin Roden and Jacob Zab. One of the biggest signs of Couturier’s work this season has been Saville’s improvement, and especially his response after an opening night loss.

The two sat down and watched clips from every game last season and have continued reviewing video early this season. Couturier said the tools and mindset are there for the Vegas draft pick and it’s fun to see it all coming together. From Saville’s standpoint, he attributes a lot of his success this season to his new coach.

“I think he’s really helped me identify some parts of my game that needed improvement,” Saville said. “He’s just been awesome to work with and it’s been great having a full-time goalie coach.”

Couturier’s job mainly consists of that video work with his goaltenders. As he jokes, he’s not here to reinvent the wheel and he’s mostly tinkering the small details. There are cameras set up at practice throughout the week and Couturier clips video to review after each game.

One of his bigger emphasis is actually on the mental side of the position, though.

“I think that’s one of my strengths,” Couturier said. “Being able to combine those two (physical and mental) elements is one of the biggest keys with this position and has been since I got my first goalie coaching job in the early 2000s. I kind of went through the mental struggles of the position myself and had seen the darkness of the position if you want to call it that but found a way to work myself through it.”

Like every other position in his coaching journey, Couturier said his time working here has been extremely rewarding so far. It’s the same message he tells his goalies, but you have to enjoy the moment and have fun because it’s still a game at the end of the day.

For Couturier, it’s a game that’s come full circle.

“When I was that little kid in the street taking pucks for the first time I had a smile on my face,” he said. “Now here I am achieving the next level of my hockey dream as a coach, and I’ve got that same smile on my face still.”