CEDAR RAPIDS — It goes high school/prep school, followed by juniors, then college. If you’re good enough, add pros to the list after college.
That’s the order for the career of the typical high-level American hockey player.
“I’m kind of doing it backward,” pointed out Steve Michalek.
The 19-year-old goaltender went from a Connecticut prep school straight to Harvard, where he played in 24 games last season as a freshman. He came to town Tuesday to join the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and will get the start tonight against Chicago.
That’s prep school, college, juniors, by the way. Or backward, as he said.
“Basically I’m taking the year off from Harvard,” Michalek said. “I plan on going back there next year. This is the best option to continue my hockey career, to play here before going back to school.”
Michalek, drafted in the sixth round by the NHL’s Minnesota Wild in 2011, is a potential upgrade in net for the Riders, who have lost three games in a row and seven of nine. That’s at least from an experience standpoint, considering Chad Catt and Chris Birdsall were making a significant leap from the Midget level to the United States Hockey League.
The two combined for the lowest save percentage in the league, though it wasn’t entirely their fault, as the RoughRiders have struggled defensively, especially lately. Catt was sent to the lower-level North American Hockey League upon Michalek’s arrival this week, though he remains on the club’s affiliate list.
“What do I expect out of Steve?” Riders Coach Mark Carlson said. “He’s a quality goalie. It’s going to take a little while for him to get acclimated, but he should help our team.”
Michalek didn’t play at all this season for Harvard, serving as backup to junior Raphael Girard until deciding to leave school recently mid-semester. He’ll have to shake off some rust.
But the potential is definitely there for the RoughRiders to have a bonafide rock-solid No. 1 goaltender.
“I didn’t leave because I wasn’t playing,” Michalek said. “I wasn’t playing because I was leaving. There are just a few different reasons that I’m taking the year off.
“I want to help this team win. I want to have a good season, make a good run. I think this is a really talented team, and hopefully I can make a positive impact and help them win a lot of games. It’s a good league, has a great reputation, so I think it can only help me going forward.”
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