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Thiessen Dominates the Crease

Monday, 04.4.2011 / 3:05 PM ET / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Thiessen Dominates the Crease
When Brad Thiessen got his first call-up of the season to Pittsburgh on March 25, head coach Dan Bylsma pointed out just how outstanding the goaltender’s play has been for a long period of time.

“I think he’s proven over the last two years that he’s one of the best, if not the best goaltender in the American Hockey League,” Bylsma said. “He has outstanding numbers. He’s done an unbelievable job.”

Thiessen’s status as the AHL’s most outstanding goaltender was officially cemented on Monday when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton netminder received the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award, which honors the league's best goaltender and is named after former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Baz Bastien. Thiessen is just the second WBS netminder to earn the award.

Photo courtesy Anthony Fabrikant/AFC Media Photography
As Bylsma noted, Thiessen’s numbers are certainly remarkable.

In just his second season with WBS, he has posted a 34-7-1 record, ranks first in the league with those 34 wins (six more than the second-place goaltender) and is tied for the top spot with his 1.93 goals-against average. His 34 wins and seven shutouts represent new single-season franchise records.

But what’s even more remarkable? He’s accomplished all of that despite having an influx of his teammates recalled to Pittsburgh because of injuries (including WBS’ top-seven scorers at one point).

It takes a certain type of mental toughness and work ethic to keep the ship steadied through such turmoil, and that mindset is something Penguins assistant general manager Jason Botterill said the organization saw in Thiessen from the get go.

RELATED: Brad Thiessen Named American Hockey League's Outstanding Goaltender >>

It’s why they kept an eye on him throughout his three-year career at Northeastern University, and the main reason why the Penguins signed the undrafted free agent to an entry-level contract at the end of his junior season.

“We felt each year he got a little bit better,” Botterill said. “We saw that type of work ethic, and the type of character that we saw off the ice really impressed us.

(Thiessen) is an athletically-gifted player and he’s got talent, but it’s his mental makeup where he doesn’t get too high or too low. Whether he gets three or four wins in a row, he’s practicing the same way. He wants to continue to get better. - WBS head coach John Hynes
“What we’ve liked so much about him is his demeanor. When things go wrong, he doesn’t get too worked up about it and he stays focused. ... I think he is a kid who has a lot of mental toughness. Bad goals are going to go in eventually. But he just refocuses and gets back to playing well.”

WBS head coach John Hynes has spent the last two seasons mentoring Thiessen. While Thiessen was solid in the 2009-10 campaign, Hynes agreed that what stands out this year is the 25 year old’s mental maturity.

“He’s an athletically-gifted player and he’s got talent, but it’s his mental makeup where he doesn’t get too high or too low,” Hynes said. “Whether he gets three or four wins in a row, he’s practicing the same way. He wants to continue to get better.

“When you see him in games, he doesn’t get rattled. He’s got a mental toughness and demeanor about him that’s great for that position.”

Thiessen said that mindset is something he’s tried to cultivate throughout his career both as a Husky and now as a Penguin.

Photo courtesy Anthony Fabrikant/AFC Media Photography
“It’s something I think I’ve taken with me through college and onto the pros,” Thiessen said. “I think it’s something that, as a goalie, it’s an important trait to have, and something I try and bring out there every night.”

Thiessen has yet to make his NHL debut with Pittsburgh, but the entire organization has faith that he’ll be ready when the time comes.

“I’m ready for my chance whenever it comes,” Thiessen said. “It’s something that I try not to think about down there. Just kind of do my job and whenever that chance does come, to be ready for it.”

“Having a guy in our organization who’s one of the best in the American Hockey League speaks volumes to where he’s at and where he might be down the road in the National Hockey League,” Bylsma said.
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