Former Northeastern goaltender Brad Thiessen just signed a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins this April, but he’s already experienced pro hockey’s most exhilarating moment.
Thiessen, the 2009 Hockey East Player of the Year, raced onto the ice for the celebration after the Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings in game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals last Friday.
The standout college netminder, who was a playoff call-up for the Penguins, had the opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup trophy in front of more than 20,000 people at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. Penguins star Sidney Crosby, widely regarded as the most talented offensive player in the National Hockey League, personally passed the Cup to Thiessen.
“It was a surreal experience,” Thiessen says. “Sid asked if I’d had the Cup yet, then he said, ‘Here, take it.’”
Thiessen was called up from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League at the beginning of Pittsburgh’s second-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals. He practiced with the club, playing goal against the likes of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who tallied 36 points in 24 playoff games, earning the postseason MVP award.
“It was a little bit of an eye-opening experience playing against two of the best players in the world,” Thiessen says. “They know exactly where to go. They have that instinct, that shooter’s touch.”
He received goaltending advice from Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins’ talented young starter, whom Thiessen calls one of the “nicest guys” he’s met. “Fleury told me to be calm,” he explains. “At the NHL level, it’s more about being in position. If you’re caught out of position, guys will pick you apart. It’s hard sometimes when you have 18,000 fans yelling, but you can’t worry about that.”
This past collegiate season, Thiessen enjoyed one of the most successful campaigns of any goaltender in Northeastern history. The junior set school records in every major category, including wins (25), goals against average (2.12), save percentage (.931), saves (1,195), games (41) and minutes (2,495:44). He is Northeastern’s career leader in goals against average (2.40), save percentage (.922) and shutouts (nine).
He’s excited for training camp to start next fall, even if he’s not sure how his rookie season will shake out. “I’ll go to camp and see what happens,” he says. “I’ll most likely be in the AHL next year, getting experience and playing games. I’ll go from there.”