Abbotsford Heat’s Barry Brust on cusp of AHL record
Goalie just 18:11 shy of Johnny Bower’s shutout mark
METRO VANCOUVER — Among those playing professional hockey in North America, Barry Brust might be the most interviewed man in the game.
The Abbotsford Heat netminder is within reach of a 54-year-old American Hockey League record for shutout minutes and it’s generating a lot of publicity. Many reporters are wanting a piece of Barry Brust, at least those not numb from covering NHL lockout meetings.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind and kind of crazy but it’s been fun,” Brust said Wednesday from Houston, where the Heat were holed up waiting for Friday's game against the Texas Stars. “I don’t know if I am the most interviewed player in hockey right now. Maybe I am. I’ve done probably between 10 and 15 the last few days. It’s nice and I think it’s nice for our team, too.”
Brust, 29, has recorded three consecutive shutouts and hasn’t allowed a goal in 231 minutes and 41 seconds. The AHL mark of 249:51 was set by legendary Johnny Bower during the 1957-58 season when Bower tended goal for the Cleveland Barons. Brust needs just 18:11, less than a full period, to get it done.
What makes his story unique is that he’s not even the No. 1 netminder on the Heat. Brust is part of a three-man rotation with Danny Taylor and Leland Irving. He’s had only four starts in 15 games. In those four starts, he’s allowed one goal – to Chicago Wolves right winger Zack Kassian at the 8:19 mark of the first period in his first game. That was on Oct. 20. He then blanked the Toronto Marlies on Nov. 1 before back-to-back bagels over the Lake Erie Monsters Nov. 13-14.
Brust hasn’t played since. In fact, he didn’t even dress as the backup when the Heat beat the Rochester Americans 3-2 last Friday and then lost 5-0 to the Marlies two days later. Even more curious, he won’t start this Friday either when the Heat take on the Stars. (Taylor will.) This seems to fly in the face of going with the hot hand. Brust’s numbers are eye-popping: a 0.25 goals against average and .991 save percentage.
“Barry’s shutout streak was really a hot issue right after the two Lake Erie games and then it was, like, how can you not play this guy?” said Heat coach Troy Ward, chuckling. “And I was, like, well, he’s a part of the team and we’re going through a process. The process has worked for Barry to this point so why would I change it?
“Barry is a good pro and he just prepares himself really well,” Ward continued.
“So he’s not starting Friday and I really couldn’t tell you when he will. In a perfect world, it might be Saturday in San Antonio or Sunday in Houston. He’ll backup Friday and we’ll just see how the game goes. Barry is prepared for all that. I think he understands where we’re at.”
Brust is the classic journeyman so maybe he does. Born in Swan Lake, Man., he moved to Kelowna when he was eight. He played in the WHL for Spokane and Calgary before embarking on a pro career that has seen him suit up in the ECHL, the AHL, the NHL and the German Elite League. His NHL resume is short and consists of just 11 appearances with the L.A. Kings in 2006-07.
The Heat are his eighth team. He is on an American League contract only.
“We have three good options in goal here and it’s been nice that I’ve been able to share it,” Brust said diplomatically. “I think the situation here is unique. As far as the streak goes, goals against is a team stat and I feel like it’s been a nice little feather in our cap, showing how good we’ve been defensively as a group so far.”
Brust even knows a bit about Bower, who set the AHL record 25 years before he was born.
“I got the Legends of Hockey Series for Christmas when I was younger and I used to watch it religiously,” he explained. “So I saw little bits and clips of him and saw his interviews. He seems like a wonderful man so it’s kind of neat that it’s his record I’m getting to chase. It’s kind of cool.”
ICE CHIPS: The NHL record for shutout minutes is held by Brian Boucher, who put together a run of 332:01 during the 2003-04 season when he was with Phoenix. ... The Heat, 10-2-1-2, next play at home Nov. 30-Dec. 1 when they face the Hamilton Bulldogs and former Vancouver Giants captain Brendan Gallagher.
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