Former University of Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs is off to an excellent start to his pro career as a member of the ECHL Idaho Steelheads. In 17 appearances this season, Briggs has compiled a 10-5-1 record that includes one shutout. His 1.97 goals against average leads the ECHL and .932 save percentage places him second.
Hockey’s Future spoke with the 24-year-old after the Skills Competition on Tuesday during the ECHL All-Star Game festivities at the Stockton Arena.
HF: How does it feel to be here? You did pretty well in the skills competition.
KB: It’s fun. It’s good for the league and good for the fans. The players enjoy it too. You get to see some guys that you’ve played against and get to know them a bit instead of just competing with them on the ice.
HF: You’ve been having a great season with Idaho so far. How has it been for you and what’s been the secret to your success?
KB: It’s been really good that the older guys have helped the younger guys make the transition to pro hockey. We have guys like Darrell Hay, who’s here at the All-Star game and Marty Flichel. They won [the Kelly Cup] last year and know how to win. You just kind of sit back, watch those guys and see what they do to be successful and just kind of feed off of that.
HF: The Steelheads are an affiliate of the Dallas Stars. Have you had any contact with them or have they been keeping tabs on you?
KB: I went to the Iowa Stars training camp at the beginning of the season for the week and then went down to Idaho. Other than that I haven’t talked to or had any contact with them.
HF: You were up in Rockford (AHL) last week, how was it?
KB: It was good. They’re a real good hockey team with a lot of skilled players. It was a great opportunity to see what the next level is like and practice with those guys. Wade Flaherty was out with a bit of an injury, so I was able to talk to him and kind of learn some stuff from him. He’s been around the game for awhile, so he knows what he’s doing. It was a really good experience for me.
HF: What are the chances of them bringing you up again?
KB: You know, I’m not sure. That’s definitely a great club to be with from just having been there for a week. Any opportunity that I get, I’m going to go in with an open mind and try and make the best of it.
HF: This being your first pro year, what has been the biggest adjustment for you?
KB: I think it’s a little more structured. That’s what it is. Playing in the WCHA and at the University of Minnesota, it’s a lot of high-end skill and offense, offense, offense. It’s a flow game and up and down. Here, it’s a little more defensive-minded, which is good for the goalies (laughs). I’m not going to complain about that. I think that’s the biggest difference. It’s a little more structured. Guys are always where they usually should be, which helps out defensively a lot.
HF: You obviously played for some great coaches at Minnesota. What were some of the things that they taught you that prepared you for the pro game and to have the success that you’ve had thus far?
KB: I think in college hockey, you don’t play as many games as you do at this level, so every game matters. So you just have to take that mindset into every practice and every game, knowing that this game could be the difference between home ice and making or not making the playoffs. I think in a long season, it can get tough and kind of lose track or say that this game doesn’t matter if we don’t win. It’s a winning tradition at Minnesota and it always has been. So that’s the biggest thing that you learned.
HF: Do you try and keep up with the Gophers? A pro schedule can get pretty hectic.
KB: Yes, I try to. I don’t think that they’re having the year that they quite want to have. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to see any of the games because they’re always playing when we’re always playing. You know what, I think that with the guys that they have on the team, I think that they’ll pick it up. They know what’s on the line and know that they should be winning. They know how to win, and just need to get back on track.
HF: What are some of your greatest memories of having played at the University of Minnesota?
KB: Every game at Mariucci was unbelievable with 10,000 screaming fans and the maroon and gold. I remember one of the first times that I walked into the rink and saw it. It was just unbelievable. To be able to practice and play games on the weekends on that ice was just an amazing experience.
HF: If there was something from the University of Minnesota that you could bring with you up here to the pro game what would it be?
KB: Definitely not the weather! (laughs) Maybe the Olympic-sized ice. I’d enjoy that.
HF: Do you prefer playing on the larger ice sheet than on the smaller one?
KB: Yeah, I do because as a goalie you can get out there and play the puck more, and you have more time. Guys are kind of forced to the outside and it takes longer for the puck to get to the net sometimes. So I really enjoy playing on the bigger ice and maybe watching our guys wheel around and skate circles around everybody else.