SIOUX CITY, IOWA (KCAU) – Throughout the USHL, it’s every player’s dream to make it to the pros, and it’s become a reality over the past few years for former Sioux City Musketeer goaltenders. But with Muskie goalie coach Shane Clifford, that professional experience is brought to its tenders long before they sign a contract.
“Being a part of the Musketeers organization is huge,” Muskies goalie coach Shane Clifford said.
A former goalie coach in the NHL, Shane Clifford is one of the top tender consultants in the country, and the success of his goalie school in Pittsburgh speaks for itself, developing NHL talent such as Anaheim’s John Gibson and Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury.
“It just puts a smile on your face and you’re just excited for them and you kinda watched them worked so hard towards that,” Clifford said. “It just makes you proud that you work towards something and you achieved a goal that is very very hard to get to.”
While his school in Pittsburgh certainly keeps him busy, Clifford’s work in Sioux City has certainly showed in the success of Musketeer goaltenders in recent seasons, including last year, when the Muskies gave up the fewest goals of any team in the USHL. And that kind of success is in no small part due to the relationships he’s fostered with the players and coaching staff.
“My relationship with him has been nothing but amazing ever since I stepped foot here in Sioux City last year,” Muskies goaltender Alex Tracy said. “He’s actually coming into town this week so everyone’s really excited.”
“He’s a gem, Cliffy is, and I wouldn’t be doing this without Cliffy being my goalie coach,” Muskies head coach Luke Strand said. “His consistency with his approach has made all of his former goalies and current goalies just the way they are.”
And one of his most treasured relationships was with late Muskies great Matiss Kivlenieks, whom Clifford worked closely with in the 2016-17 season during his Player of the Year campaign.
“He was special just the way he was with his teammates,” Clifford said. “Of course he’d say he was eating right, you go around the corner and there’s a bag of Skittles and a Pepsi in his thing. ‘It’s the first one today’… you know what I mean. He was just always cracking jokes and having fun. I miss him, but a really great person to be around.”
It’s those kind of relationships that have made Clifford the name he is among professional hockey players. And it’s his biggest motivation to continue to train the next generation of goalies.
“I’m just trying to keep doing it and find the next one and help them through their journey and to get where they need to go,” Clifford said. “I really have the best job in the world. I work with amazing people and I’m very, very fortunate for sure.”