Standing in goal in the third period of a 7-0 blowout to the Syracuse Crunch, Brad Thiessen was filled with emotions.
He didn’t get the start in the Game 5 loss that knocked the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins out of the playoffs, but did come in to wrap things up after Jeff Zatkoff was pulled at the end of two periods. Thiessen only had to make one save in the final period, and the lack of action gave him a lot of time to think about his first summer as a free agent.
“There were a lot of emotions,” he said. “First, you’re losing a series, and you’re season is over and on top of it your time in the organization may be done.”
Thiessen joined the Penguins fresh off a successful college career with Northeastern University. That was four years ago, and along the way Thiessen blossomed into a professional netminder and was even named the AHL’s top goaltender in 2010-2011.He guided the Penguins deep into the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and played five games in the NHL with Pittsburgh last year.
Thiessen accomplished a lot in four years with the Penguins, but now he’s resigned to the possibility that his future accomplishments will likely be with another team.
“I had a great time with the Penguins, but they have a goaltender signed for next season along with a few others. It looks like I won’t be back,” Thiessen said on Thursday. “But it looked like that last year and I came back.”
No doubt Thiessen’s experience and successful track record will attract the interest of other teams, as will his success in the postseason. Over the last three postseasons, Thiessen has posted goals against averages of 1.38, 2.14 and 1.67. His save percentage during this year’s playoffs was .952 and he had two shutouts.
“Over the last three years I’ve been able to play with some good playoff teams and raise my level of game,” Thiessen said. “Hopefully that’s something teams have noticed.”
Ironically, over the last three seasons, Thiessen has shared the netminding duties with the likes of John Curry, Scott Munroe and most recently, Zatkoff.
Would he rather be a part of an organization where he can be the undisputed starter?
“As a goalie you always want to be the guy, but in the AHL with so many three-game weekends, a lot of teams go with a couple of guys they can rely on.
“I’m just hoping for the best opportunity to get to the NHL.”
While he hasn’t completely closed the door on a return with the Penguins, Thiessen said he’s letting his agent handle the contract talks while he takes some time off from hockey. He’ll head to New Jersey for a week with his wife, then back to British Columbia to visit family before vacationing in Hawaii.
“Mentally, it’s good to get away from things,” Thiessen said.
And when it’s time to come back, there’s a good chance that for the first time in his pro career Thiessen will be wearing a different jersey.
“It seems like college was a long time ago and I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last four years,” he said. “I have too many memories of Wilkes-Barre to narrow it down to just one favorite, but outside of hockey I’ll always look back on the relationships I developed with people - fans, teammates, coaches, front office. Those are the things that stick with you no matter where you play.”