Little Falls junior goaltender Dane Couture started his Friday in the most excruciating of ways, slamming his right hand’s index finger in his car door as he was leaving home on the way to school.
Couture, questionable at that moment to play in that night’s game at Monticello, ended his day in glorious fashion, throwing himself against the glass in front of the Little Falls cheering section and then leading the high-five parade in front of the Flyers’ bench after scoring the final goal in a 6-2 victory.
You read that right: Couture, a goaltender, scored a goal.
Monticello, trailing 5-2, pulled its goaltender in favor of an extra attacker with about a minute remaining. With 38 seconds left, Couture—son of longtime Little Falls coach Tony Couture—gathered a loose puck in front of the Little Falls goal and fired a rising shot past an onrushing Monticello player, over the outstretched arm of a teammate and into the Monticello goal.
“My first thought was to just get the puck out,” Couture said. “One of our players stuck his arm out to try to catch it, and then I watched it roll into the net.
“Right when it happened, everybody was kind of shocked, including me. I was like, ‘Did that just happen?’ The whole rink was kind of excited. Everybody got up on their feet. It was fun.”
Goalies at any level don’t often score goals. It’s happened 14 times in the NHL, with Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils accomplishing the feat three times. Such records aren’t kept for Minnesota high school hockey, so there’s no telling how many times it might have happened previously.
“I don’t remember it ever happening,” said Tony Couture, a former goaltender who played his high school hockey in the mid-1980s at International Falls and later at the University of North Dakota. “Of course, there haven’t always been many ways for people to know about something like this happening. Twenty years ago, you couldn’t put it out on social media.”
Osseo goaltender Dale Pfannestein was credited with a goal earlier this season after he was deemed the last Orioles player to touch the puck after Centennial, with its goaltender pulled, misfired on a pass and sent the puck the length of the ice and into its own net.
Couture’s goal was altogether different, and much more rare, in that it was an actual rocket of a shot off his stick and straight into the net. Eleven NCAA goaltenders have been credited with scoring a goal, but only four of them shot them puck in themselves.
Couture’s first thought might not have been to score, be he said that notching a goal has been in the back of his mind ever since he saw a goalie in Michigan do it in early November for his Midget AAA team.
“Ever since then I’ve been working on shooting it the length of the ice,” Couture said. “If you get down and shoot on one knee, you can elevate it pretty good.”
Little Falls scouted Monticello before Friday’s game and knew Couture would be handling the puck a lot on dump-ins. Couture, who said his injured finger was wrapped in several layers of “spongy grip tape,” had his share of misadventures, dropping his stick three times and whiffing on one attempted clearing pass before connecting on the second try.
Couture's initial orders from his dad were to get the puck up to his defensemen or wingers along the boards. As the game reached its final minutes, Tony said, “If you get an opportunity to shoot it out, especially if you get it on your forehand, go ahead and dump it.”
By following his dad’s orders, Dane has become the most famous goaltender in Minnesota high school hockey, at least for the time being.
Dane said his phone was filled with congratulatory text messages, including several from Monticello players.
“And I don’t even know most of those guys,” he said.