Noah Kane joined the North American Hockey League’s Maine Nordiques for the 2019-20 season, his first in the Tier II junior hockey league.
When the season ended abruptly due to the coronavirus pandemic, it resulted in him sharing the league points scoring lead and solved a problem coach Nolan Howe had anticipated for his team.
The Nordiques had 20 wins as an expansion team and were still in playoff contention despite ranking 25th in the 26-team league in goals allowed, partly because Kane led the NAHL’s fourth-highest scoring team.
“As an organization, we’re very proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Howe said. “It’s somewhat ironic. We thought we might have trouble scoring.
“Fortunately, we scored plenty. It was keeping the puck out of the net that gave us trouble. We took a lot of really great strides in building toward the future and the most important part of that was establishing our culture and creating our family environment.”
Although Kane had been scoreless in six games with the Corpus Christi IceRays in his only previous NAHL experience, Howe identified him early as a potential leader on the team.
Kane reunited with a trusted, former coach, Nordiques assistant Matt Pinchevsky, when he committed to a season in Maine. He also built a bond with Howe through a shared perspective on the game.
It was not always comforting on the ice for Kane to be reminded, including by opponents, of his famous cousin, Patrick Kane, arguably one of the best U.S.-born hockey players with his combination of Stanley Cups, Hart and Conn Smythe trophies and international success with Team USA.
“At first, I guess I didn’t really like that always being attached to me,” said Noah, a 20-year-old from South Buffalo, New York. “Whenever I go somewhere, I kind of want to do my own thing. But, as I got older, and kind of more mature, I looked at it just as a positive thing. I’m lucky. It’s cool to have someone like that so close to me.
“I just try to take it with a grain of salt and go in there and try to make a name for myself as well.”
If anyone could understand, it was Howe, son of Hall of Famer Mark Howe and grandson of “Mr. Hockey,” the late Gordie Howe.
“He’s a tremendous young man,” said Howe, who began to get to know Kane better through a series of summer phone calls before the team got together for the season. “He’s been a leader on and off the ice and is working to make a name for himself and not always be compared to his cousin.
“I’ve tried to teach him this season, as it is something I am familiar with, that we must accept our lineage as a positive and at the same time strive to achieve our own successes.”
Noah Kane did just that in a breakout season. He scored 20 goals with 44 assists in 54 games. When the season was interrupted for efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, he was on a nine-game scoring streak and coming off a four-point game.
Kane tied Christian Gorscak of the Johnstown Tomahawks for the league scoring lead and had 11 more points than the next highest-scoring rookie.
“I really just wanted to work on my 200-foot game and kind of be that player that not only our coaches could trust out there in the last 10 minutes of a game, but also that college coaches could see and hopefully see me in that role down the road,” said Kane, who recently committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, beginning in the fall. “I think that was really my goal, to be as ready for college as I could. A couple of schools thought that, and I achieved that goal.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.