Curtis McElhinney enjoyed an outstanding season with Colorado College. The Calgary Flames prospect help lead the Tigers to a share of the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular season champions. The senior goaltender earned numerous accolades including WCHA Goaltender of the Year and a selection to the WCHA All-Conference First Team. Most recently, McElhinney earned a spot on the CCM All-American First West Team. In his 25 starts coming into the Frozen Four, he went 21-3-1 to along with a 2.09 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
Hockey’s Future spoke with McElhinney after the Tigers practice on Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center.
HF: Let’s go back to the game against Colgate in the Midwest Regional. What was it about Colgate that was so tough to have to play against?
CM: It’s tough to say. Each situation is different. They have a lot of seniors and they’re a lot older. They worked hard and drove to the net hard. The type of hockey they play is so different being in the east and we being in the west, that it was a challenge for us. They really gave us a run for our money. We were extremely happy to get by them.
HF: As a soon-to-be graduating senior and a Calgary Flames prospect, does the current NHL situation concern you at all?
CM: Not so much. My main focus has been to first graduate, second having a great year of hockey and to get this team back to where it has been in the past couple of years. Personally, it was a disappointing year for me as a junior. For us to be sitting in the position we’re in now, we’re pretty happy about it.
HF: Have you had any contact with the Flames at any point this year?
CM: They called one or twice to let me know that they’d be watching but other than that, they kind of let me do my own thing and not worry about my season.
HF: You obviously have had a great season. What area do you think has been your biggest area of improvement this season?
CM: I think it’s been focus and determination. I knew coming into the season that I’d be in a rotation situation with Matt (Zaba), especially with him playing so well in his freshman year. I came in knowing that I was going to get one game a weekend and I’m going to have to make the most of this situation. I have to make sure that I get a win every time I get the chance to play. That’s been kind of my goal.
HF: Tell me about your relationship with Matt.
CM: It’s been pretty good actually. His freshman year was a difficult year for myself. We both knew this past summer that we would be splitting this season. Matt’s a kid I’ve actually known since I was 16 years old when I played against him. We have a good relationship and the way things have gone this year, it’s worked extremely well.
HF: What areas do you feel that you’ll need to improve going up to the next level?
CM: Probably puck-handling. That’s been one of my biggest weaknesses. That’s something that I’ve tried to improve on a little bit. I know that they (the pros) are trying to restrict it. It’ll start backfiring on me if they start to implement those rules. Controlling my rebounds is also important to improve. Both puck-handling and rebound control are so important at the pro level and it helps your team also if you can do that.
HF: The changes that the pros have made such as restricting the size of the goaltender’s equipment or are proposing to make has got to be tough on goaltenders like you who are coming up into the system.
CM: Yeah definitely. Here we are trying to establish ourselves and they want to restrict the goaltending equipment size. To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s right. If you look at goaltenders back in the day and how goaltenders and skaters have developed, we’ve become much more athletic. The style has changed so differently. The way the (pro) teams play the game now it has become more of a defensive game. It’s totally different. Yeah, sure you can restrict the equipment size but to be honest with you I don’t know if it’s going to make that much of a difference.
HF: Obviously the Tigers are very good scoring team in addition to being a very good defensive team. Do you feel that the defensive part of the team is underrated, particularly considering how well Marty (Sertich) and Brett (Sterling) have been playing this season?
CM: Yeah, I think so. We have the two leading scorers in the nation here at Colorado College and they make so much happen for us, but I think that our defense is one of our strongest points. We have a lot of great guys back there on defense. That’s been one of our keys to our game. It didn’t really show in the regional but that’s honestly what got us through it.
HF: With so much attention paid to Marty and Brett, do you feel that it has almost become a distraction to the team?
CM: I don’t think so. I think those guys are playing at the same level that they’ve been playing at since they got here. For them to be in the situation that they’re in now is pretty nice. It’s a great experience for both of them. We’re extremely proud of them and it kind of takes some of the pressure away from some of the other guys. All year long they’ve been handling it pretty well.
HF: Now that you guys are here at the Frozen Four, how has it been for you personally and the team so far?
CM: It’s a little different. There’s a lot of media here and a lot of different things that we’re not used to. We’re all making the transition to it pretty well.
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