As the clock counted down to 1:10 remaining in the first period, most of the 5,682 fans at the AT&T Center in San Antonio had no idea they’d just seen hockey history being made.
The time marked the moment when Johnny Bower’s 55-year-old AHL shutout streak record of 249:51 fell and Barry Brust’s took over.
His Abbotsford Heat teammates gave him a hand, battling through two penalty kills and holding San Antonio to a meager three shots in the first period.
The streak ended and a new record was set at 268:17, late in the second period when James Wright scored for San Antonio on a power play goal.
Unlike the mostly unnoticed moment the record was broken, the end of the streak was marked by a hail of teddy bears. Teddy Bear Toss night, as it was for San Antonio, is a tradition among many minor league teams where bears are tossed on the ice for charity after the home team’s first goal.
“Doesn’t it all seem appropriate?” laughed Brust after the game. “Yeah, there was a lot happening on that goal. The streak ends and I get hit with fur.
“I think it’s okay because it’s a big goal. The other team knows what’s going on and that charges them and sometimes you get one, two, three, the floodgates open up. It might have been kind of a blessing for us because of the delay. I’m just happy we won. Who wants the record in a loss?”
It looked like it might not end in the 3-2 shootout win for Abbotsford that it did, as San Antonio scored just seconds after their first goal (plus time to clean up teddy bears) and a 2-1 lead held until Brett Olson tied the game with just 13 seconds on the clock.
The game ultimately took an 11-round shootout to decide a winner, putting Brust, who stopped 9 of 11, back in the hot seat
“It’s nice. It’s a good feeling for our team, I think. I’m glad it wasn’t a distraction that cost us after we got scored on. We got scored on right again after, but I thought we did a good job coming out in the third and competing, I think was the biggest thing,” said Brust.
“I don’t know if everybody knew or (knew) exactly when it was, but they knew I had a pretty good roll going, and it’s just the kind of group of people that we have in there. Everybody pushes and pulls with each other. It makes me kind of emotional thinking about it, just the way the guys battled for me. It’s pretty special.”
Coach Troy Ward, who coached Brust in Houston for three seasons, credited the group effort as well, and said he feels the team’s maturity in goal and on defense is giving them an unusual early-season bond and patience.
“It’s pretty astounding actually,” said Ward. “On the personal side, to work alongside Barry for a long time and then help get him to Abbotsford is even more special, because he’s a good man. But it’s a reflection of our team. Our team has put our goalies in that position this year and our goalies have put our team in that position, so I couldn’t be happier.”
As for battling what could have been a storm of distracting nerves, Brust just resorted to the relaxed mindset that’s been a hallmark of his career.
“I’ve been around. It was in my mind, but I was trying not to think about it. I think that’s one of the things that’s made me successful is just being relaxed and composed and not thinking,” said Brust. “I was just trying to take it easy and trying not to take things too seriously, and I’m glad we got it for the boys. It’s a feather in our cap.”
Barry Brust Photo Gallery by Clint Trahan, all rights reserved: