Barry Brust‘s point was a simple one, but it really makes you think about just how impressive his record-breaking performance really was.
"A lot of things have to go right just to get one shutout, so it’s kind of amazing to think about how many things had to go right in order for this to happen," Brust told ECHL.com in a phone interview.
"This," of course, was the former Florida Everblades and Reading Royals goaltender breaking the 55-year-old AHL shutout streak of 249:51 established by Johnny Bower back in 1957. Brust, now with the Abbotsford Heat, didn’t let a puck get past him for an incredible stretch of 268 minutes and 17 seconds.
The 29-year-old, who didn’t allow a goal for over a month, had plenty of time to think about approaching the record considering he was splitting time between the pipes with fellow ECHL graduates Danny Taylor and Leland Irving.
"I think after the second shutout and going into the third game, I knew I was playing well and our team was playing well," Brust said. "We were shutting teams down defensively…there was a little bit of a build-up, and it was definitely a fun time to be playing."
Brust broke the record in San Antonio, but it certainly wasn’t uneventful. Just as he started letting himself think he had it, it turns out he had one last scare.
"You try not to think about it, and you try not to look at the clock," he said.
"With about two minutes left (for me to break the record), we had the puck in the offensive zone and I kind of relaxed my mind for a second and said, ‘I think I got it.’ And then we took a penalty in the offensive zone and the draw came down to our end with less than two minutes. I guess I counted my chickens before they hatched. But we ended up winning the draw and getting the puck down the ice, and I was able to get the record. It was a pretty special feeling, and a nice thing to share with my teammates."
But Brust also got to share the moment with his family as well. Brust’s father grew up a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom Bower went on to star, and idolized the legendary future Hall of Famer. Bower was, Barry Brust said, his dad’s favorite goaltender growing up. Surely, his son has taken over that role now, but for Barry Brust, he’s now six seasons removed from his lone NHL stint, an 11-game stay with the Los Angeles Kings in 2006-07.
That stay came after spending all of his rookie year with the Royals, followed by a handful of games in his return the following season. After his time at the game’s highest level had come to an end, Brust went back to the AHL for two very productive seasons with the Houston Aeros before a foot injury sent him back to the ECHL for part of the 2009-10 season, this time with the Everblades.
"The ECHL is a great league, and I’ve had a lot of fun playing there, I really enjoyed my time there," he said. "I thought it was a big step developmentally for me the first time around, and it was nice to get some games in when I played in Florida. You want to play at the highest level possible, but at the same time, it’s a good league to play in and there’s a lot of good players that play in the league.
"(Going back) was tough, but it was part of the process. I was coming off an injury and I hadn’t played yet that season, so it was kind of where I had to get some games and just see pucks again. It wasn’t too disappointing, and it was nice to go to Florida, that’s for sure. It was kind of a win-win, that’s for sure."
Once he proved to teams that he was finally healthy, Brust made a full-time return to the AHL in 2010-11, helping the Binghamton Senators win a Calder Cup. After spending last season overseas in Germany, the Swan River, Manitoba native returned to North America this season with the hope that he could get one more chance in the NHL. That started in training camp, where Heat head coach Troy Ward — formerly of the Trenton Titans and Victoria Salmon Kings — was more than willing to give Brust a chance given that they’d had success together when Ward was an assistant on the Aeros’ staff.
A few months later, and it seems that decision has paid off for both sides.
"It’s nice to reward the people that brought you into an organization and rewarded you for a good training camp," Brust said. "It’s nice to be able to re-pay those people and make them look good for the decisions that they’ve made."
Thanks to that decision and Brust’s strong play — which he was quick to point out shows how well Abbotsford is coached, of course — his record-breaking run in the AHL very well have once again put himself on the NHL radar one more time
"I can’t worry about things that are beyond my control," he said.
"All I can do is worry about how I play and whatever good comes of it, comes of it. Hopefully, there’s something at the end of the road, but I just have to worry about how I play and win as many games as I can and hopefully something good will come of it."