Fitzgerald, Curry Benefit From Team USA Experience
Yet, it was a golden experience for Tom Fitzgerald and John Curry.
Fitzgerald, in his first season as the Penguins’ Director of Player Development, and Curry, a goaltender in his first season in the Penguins’ system, gained valuable lessons with Team
Fitzgerald served as an assistant coach for the team, which lost to
“Everyone takes this tournament seriously and wants to win, but the intensity is a little different than the World Juniors or World Championships,” Fitzgerald said. “The kids playing in
“It was good for me, coaching for the first time, to be in a good environment. It was pretty casual and laid back. There was no pressure – you just went out and played. We didn’t handcuff the kids with systems. You gave them a foundation of how you wanted them to play and what you wanted them to do in certain situations. We felt like we gave them the best opportunity to win the games by pre-scouting the other teams and breaking down their trap or what they do on a power-play break. Every team in
Meanwhile, Curry was the go-to guy in goal for Team
“It was awesome. I’ve never got a chance to play for Team
“I was lucky enough to get in there and play most of the games most of the time I was over there. Just to play, not only with the guys from your home country, but to wear that jersey was unbelievable.”
Curry got the nod in Team
“I didn’t know what to expect; I got that call for the first game against
Fitzgerald was impressed.
“John Curry stood on his head. He played incredible,” he said. “The two goals they scored on John were both 6-on-3s. We got ourselves in trouble 5-on-3 and they pulled the goalie and scored. They did it again at the beginning of the third and scored again. They did it again with about 1:30 left and he stopped them. Curry played unbelievable. He played really well. He looked like the John Curry the staff scouted and signed this summer.”
Curry got the start in the championship game, too. He stopped 34 of 36 shots – including all seven he faced in overtime – in a 3-2 shootout loss to
“He gave up two goals in regulation and they both were bombs – right underneath the crossbar, near his earlobes. I don’t know if he could have stopped them,” Fitzgerald said. “In overtime, they had seven shots and we had none. He shut the door.
“The first guy for them scored on him in the shootout, but I thought it was a really questionable goal because the guy came down really slow and deked to his left. John bit, but his right leg immediately pushed off the post to get over and John actually knocked the net off and they still counted the goal. One ref waved off the goal and said they’d go to video replay, but another awarded the goal,” he continued. “He played very well. We’re talking about playing against the Swiss national team that was without only a few Swiss players playing in the NHL.”
The tournament was a good stepping stone for Curry, who starred at the collegiate level. Last season, he ranked fourth in the NCAA with a 2.01 goals-against average and was sixth in save percentage (.928). He led the country with seven shutouts and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the country’s top college hockey player.
Signed by the Penguins as an undrafted free agent, the
“I think the best thing for him was playing and playing in the ECHL and going to
Curry, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder, was happy to get a promotion to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“I don’t really have any definite expectations, as far as time and place, on where I’m going to be. Right now, I just really want to take it game by game and practice by practice. I know I’m being evaluated all the time, and the coaches are always watching. I’m getting a lot of support too and a lot of opportunities.”
Fitzgerald, who retired from a 17-year playing career following the 2005-06 NHL season, enjoyed getting behind the bench and coaching.
“Without a doubt it was great. In my role with the Penguins, for instance, I like talking about John Curry to Chuck Fletcher and
“The chess match part of playing hockey from behind the bench, I really enjoyed that. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed it,” he said. “Also pre-scouting other teams and figuring out how to beat that high trap and things like that. It was a great experience.
I am going down this path right now and it’s eventually going to veer one way or the other – coaching or management.”
Fitzgerald would welcome another coaching opportunity with USA Hockey.
“Definitely. I couldn’t thank USA Hockey enough for the opportunity and I hope they keep me in mind for future teams,” he said. “Who knows what will happen? It was a lot of fun.”