By Leif Skodnick
Special to ECHL.com
Johnstown goaltender David Currie has no doubt about why he started off his professional career with only two wins in his first seven starts.
“Confidence,” says Currie, who began his professional career in 2003-04 with a 2-5-0 record. “The first half of my first year was a little slow going.
“It was tough to have that kind of a start at Christmas time. I just tried to work harder, do the same things I’d been doing, and after a while I got a little more confidence, a little better feel for things up here and things started to turn around.”
Chiefs’ head coach Toby O’Brien explained it a different way.
“When we were having bad games at the beginning of last season, David was in net,” said O’Brien. “But he shrugged it off. I always tell the goalies, ‘don’t think about the last shot, think about the next one, don’t think about the last game, think about the next one,’ and that’s what he did.”
With the assignment of two-time National Hockey League All-Star Arturs Irbe to Johnstown, the slumping rookie goaltender found himself in the middle of the ECHL’s biggest story of the year.
“It was definitely a difficult kind of situation, him coming down here,” said Currie, who finished 2003-04 with a goals-against average of 2.93. “It was definitely cool to get to play with him, and it’s tough because you want to play too.
“But you can understand why the coach would play a guy like that, especially in a tough division like this.”
O’Brien did the best he could to ease the situation.
“I pulled both our goaltenders aside and told them about Irbe before I told the team,” said O’Brien. “I explained to the guys that they’ll learn more from having him here and working with him than they would from the three or five starts that they would miss.”
Currie took his coach’s advice and made the best out of what could have been a bad situation, taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from one of the best goaltenders in hockey.
“David worked out with Irbe constantly, and when Irbe left, he kept going,” said O’Brien. “That’s what makes David the kind of player that he is. His work ethic is great.”
Currie agrees that he made the most of the opportunity.
“It was definitely a special opportunity to get to play almost a whole season with him,” said Currie. “When I look back at it now, it was definitely one of the best experiences that I could have had, just trying to pick everything up from him and going from there, it turned the second half around.
“I learned a lot, it made me more confident when I got out there,” Currie added. “That’s really what helped turn things around.”
The turnaround hasn’t stopped. After going 17-5-3 to finish out 2003-04, Currie has helped the Chiefs get at least one point in each of the five games he’s started, earning a 2-0-3 record.
“David’s work ethic and drive were the big difference,” said O’Brien. “Everyone on this team rallied around him and wants to win for him, and when Campbell and Irbe were injured last year, he picked up the slack and led us to a record breaking season.”
The young goaltender enjoys playing for O’Brien.
“It’s different, having a goalie coach,” Currie says of O’Brien, who played in Johnstown during 1987-88 when the Chiefs played in the All-American Hockey League and with Carolina in the ECHL’s first season in 1988-89. “He kind of knows a little bit more and knows what you’re thinking out there. With other coaches, it’s ‘stop the puck,’ but Toby knows a little more and gives us some help back there.”
While looking to the future, Currie tries to keep everything in perspective.
“I try not to set any numerical goals,” Currie said. “As far as wins go, you want to win every game. I just want to make a name for myself in this league, and make more opportunities for myself and try to get to the next level.”
“David never quits, and he always wants to win, it’s contagious. He’s the kind of guy I’d take with me anywhere I went,” said O’Brien. “He’s a player you build around. I think that with his attitude and ability, he can go a long way and definitely play at a higher level than the ECHL.”