Back in October of 2006, The Northeastern Huskies took on the Boston College Eagles for the first game of the season. In net, BC was touting the 24th overall pick of the 2004 NHL Draft in Cory Schneider, whose level of play is currently having some NHL teams consider converting him from an underused backup into the starting goaltender he should be. On the NU end was an overage, average-sized goaltender from Aldergrove, British Columbia named Brad Thiessen. It was his first start after winning the job outright as a freshman, and while Schneider put on a display of consistency, Thiessen struggled to find his in the 5-2 loss that night in Chestnut Hill. Despite these differences, not one, but both guys would make their way to the NHL.
Over the next three years, Thiessen improved steeply, culminating in an impressive junior year which saw Thiessen garner both All-American and Hobey Baker finalist honors. It’s a true testament to his propensity to improve and play with a level head. The Pittsburgh Penguins rewarded Thiessen with a two year deal, and the experience of seeing the Penguins win a Stanley Cup. Thiessen was a part of the team’s taxi squad before being relegated to the AHL. He would go on to earn his keep with AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre Scranton, winning the AHL’s goaltender of the year award and starting the the league’s annual all-star game in 2010-2011.
Fast forward to this season, and Thiessen has been in a rut. He’s gone from having a .922 save percentage the year before to a .885 for 2011-2012. The prospect of Thiessen making the run for a cup he experienced has faded significantly. But again fortune (and Penguins GM Ray Shero) have rewarded Thiessen’s determination again. With backup Brent Johnson falling ill on top of his own share of struggles, Ray Shero has used the goaltender exemption to bring Thiessen up, giving the Penguins three goaltenders for a few days, which avoids creating issues with Johnson’s one-way contract. But just as it seemed Thiessen was going back after a short stay, the Penguins have not only decided to keep Thiessen up for the day, but he’ll be making the start this afternoon against the Columbus Blue Jackets at 1pm. So call it luck, a low pressure start, a tryout, or whatever you want but Thiessen’s made it and that’s all that matters. Cheers to the former Husky, he’s earned it.