Print Edition: March 27, 2013
Only a few short months ago, Barry Brust was the talk of the town in Abbotsford. Splitting time between the pipes with Danny Taylor, the two had combined to post one of the best records, save percentage and goals against average in the entire AHL.
In fact, Brust himself was breaking records at the AHL level early on in the season. His stellar performance in November broke a professional hockey league record that had stood for 55 years. The 29-year-old native of Swan River, Man. played 268 minutes and 17 seconds of flawless goaltending, which was enough to pass the previous AHL record of 249:51, established by Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower, who played with the Cleveland Barons in 1957.
Despite all of this early season success, Barry Brust has struggled mightily since the lockout ended back in January. In the past three months he’s put together a dismal 4-11 record, posting a 3.64 goals against average and a save percentage well below .900 over the stretch of 15 games. Friday night’s contest against the Rockford IceHogs saw him pulled in the second period after giving up three straight goals on only 11 shots, summing up his struggles over the past month.
With three goaltenders fighting for possession of the crease on a nightly basis, Brust could see his minutes decreased in Abbotsford, as both Leland Irving and Danny Taylor have posted significantly better numbers than Brust since the lockout ended.
Taylor’s numbers are stellar since January, posting a 9-4-1 record with the Heat over that time, while also getting a chance to start at the NHL level for the Calgary Flames twice in the past month. The 26-year-old rookie goaltender posted his first NHL win against the Vancouver Canucks, helping the Flames beat the Canucks 4-2 back on March 3.
Irving started the year as the Flames’ go-to backup, beating out Henrik Karlsson who was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the beginning of the shortened season. However, inconsistent play at the NHL level and the acquisition of veteran netminder Joey MacDonald caused Flames management to reassess Irving’s status on the team. Since being assigned to the Heat back in February, Irving hasn’t won many games, going 1-3-1 since February 20, but he as posted some respectable stats. His save percentage over that time is .923 and his goals against average (GAA) stands at 2.21.
With the playoff race in full swing and the seventh-place Heat needing as many wins as they can get against Western Conference rivals, they may need to abandon their system of letting every goalie play and instead start going with whoever’s got the hot hand. Brust, a crowd favourite at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, has indeed fallen from grace in this town and possibly out of the three-headed goalie rotation that Heat coach Troy G. Ward has initiated over the past month.
Brust is undoubtedly working hard with Jordan Sigalet, the full-time goaltending coach for the Heat. Sigalet will try to help him turn his game around and get another shot in goal with the team during this final playoff stretch. Coach Ward has never been forthcoming about who he’s going to start in the next game, but if Brust’s numbers over the past few months are any indication as to who’s going to get playing time, it looks as though Brust will be the one taking a backseat during this important stretch of games.