Barry Goers is trying to get back his lost season.
For a player who was undrafted and spent the first three years of his pro career mainly in the ECHL, Goers figured he got his big break before the start of last season when he signed an AHL deal with the Lake Erie Monsters.
Finally, Goers figured, he can start to build his AHL career and hopefully earn an NHL contract at some point. There was plenty of reason for optimism after Goers finished up the 2011-12 campaign with a 19-game stint in Lake Erie that saw him post seven points, good enough to earn the AHL deal.
But the plan hit a few bumps along the way.
It began in the preseason when Goers received an invite to the Colorado Avalanche’s training camp.
“It was going to be my first NHL camp and I was very excited,” said the 27-year-old defenseman. “
But then the NHL lockout struck and Goers lost the opportunity when the NHL preseason was scratched.
“It was pretty devastating,” Goers said. “But the lockout happened to everybody so I’m sure there were others in a similar situation.”
Still, it wouldn’t be the last time the NHL lockout would haunt Goers’ season.
For the first three months of the season, Goers didn’t register a point and found himself in and out of the lineup. Part of the reason, of course, was the lockout that sent an exodus of NHL players to the AHL, creating a logjam of depth at every position.
Goers was the odd man out.
“I was fortunate to stay with Lake Erie, but it was hard being in and out of the lineup a lot,” he said. “It was something I had to overcome.”
There was a light at the end of the tunnel last season when word trickled down that the lockout would soon end. Finally, Goers thought, the depth that kept him out of the lineup on so many nights was about to lessen, freeing up plenty of ice time.
But that’s when disaster struck again.
Shortly before the lockout ended in January, Goers suffered a severe concussion and missed the next three months. He had to watch as players went back up to the NHL and opportunities for ice opened up in Lake Erie.
When Goers did get healthy enough to play again, Lake Erie sent him down to the Central Hockey League where he joined the Denver Cutthroats for their playoff run. Denver was eliminated from the postseason before Lake Erie’s season was over, so Goers did make it back to the AHL for one game to finish the year.
He was happy with the opportunity to at least finish the season in the AHL, but Goers can’t help but wonder what things would’ve been like if not for the lockout and concussion.
“The season was pretty broken,” he said. “I went through a lot of adversity.
“Now, I just want to get back to building off the last several years of my career and continue working my way up.”
So far Goers has done just that. Although he started the season back in the ECHL with Wheeling, he earned a call-up to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in December and signed a PTO.
So far, Goers has impressed, posting a goal and five points in his first seven games with the Penguins.
“I take what the game gives me and don’t overdo things,” Goers said of his approach. “I want to be hard to play against, bring a lot of speed and push the pace offensively when I can.”
While his offensive numbers are nice, there’s more to Goers’ that has caught the eye of head coach John Hynes.
He said Goers doesn’t necessarily have to produce points in order to stay in the lineup. He simply has to play a good, overall game at both ends and be an impact.
“In his pro career he’s a guy that has had to earn every opportunity he’s gotten,” Hynes said. “He doesn’t take a day off, and a player like that is a pleasure to coach. His professionalism and ability to compete allow him to make the best of his situations.”
That includes both on and off the ice.
Away from the rink, Goers gets involved in numerous community and charity projects. Despite playing sparingly in Lake Erie last season, Goers was still named the Monsters’ Man of the Year for the work he did with Cleveland-area charities.
Even dating back to his childhood outside of Philadelphia where Goers was an Eagle Scout, his college days at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and later with Las Vegas in the ECHL, he was involved in the community.
There is one program that Goers has implemented at every stop of his career — Cell Phones for Soldiers. His dedication to the program stems from his brother who enlisted in the military out of high school.
“I wanted to do something while I was playing hockey and this was a great fit,” he said. “They recycle old phones and buy calling cards for soldiers overseas because it’s very expensive for them to communicate with their families back home. So far, in all the years I’ve been involved, we’ve collected about 2,000 phones. My brother was my inspiration for that.”