BCHL extra: Former junior A goalie debuts with NHL’s Penguins
By Gary Ahuja
The puck is the same size in the NHL as it is at every other level.
Goalie coach Gilles Meloche passed along that message to Aldergrove’s Brad Thiessen prior to his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon.
Thiessen shared that nugget in a media scrum following his 22-save performance in a 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Consol Energy Center.
His efforts earned him first star honours.
“It was everything I expected and more,” he told reporters.
“It was a lot of fun to be a part of it and contribute to a win.”
Thiessen was recalled from the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last week after back-up goalie Brent Johnson suffered an injury.
And with the team playing back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, Thiessen figured he might get his first taste of NHL regular season action.
Thiessen’s dad and a cousin were able to make it to Pittsburgh to watch the game, as was his fiance. Thiessen’s brother and his fiance also made the trip.
Any jittery nerves he may have had, were soon gone.
The former BCHL star with the Penticton Panthers, Prince George Spruce Kings and Merritt Centennials used his head — literally — to make his first save, as a Derek Mackenzie slapshot deflected off Thiessen’s helmet and out of danger.
“They had a few good chances on their first few shots so just to be able to make those saves helped me get settled and into the game,” he said.
Columbus opened the scoring when captain Rick Nash beat Thiessen on a shorthanded breakaway 9:49 into the second period.
But Pittsburgh tied the game at one on an Evgeni Malkin goal and then scored three times in the third.
“I knew we had some pretty good forwards on this team that we were going to come through and eventually they did,” he said.
The Blue Jackets’ Vinny Prospal scored the final goal of the game.
Thiessen spent three seasons in the BCHL before starring at Northeastern University.
In his junior season, he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, presented to the top collegiate player.
He left school early and signed with the Penguins as a free agent in 2009.
Thiessen has spent the majority of his three pro seasons in the AHL and last year, won the Aldege ‘Baz’ Bastien Memorial Award as the league’s top goaltender and setting franchise records with 35 wins and seven shutouts.
He still returns to Aldergrove in the off-season and trains locally with TnT Hockey Performance Training.