Q&A with Brian Mahoney-Wilson

By Kevin Wey

Drafted by the San Jose Sharks late in the ninth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Brian Mahoney-Wilson has had a winding road across North America during a season of tumult in 2005-06, but he knows where he wants to go and how to get there.

The Sharks drafted Mahoney-Wilson after his senior season at Boston’s Catholic Memorial High School, where the goaltender had six shutouts in 24 games and a stingy 1.16 goals-against average. The Boston native didn’t have to go far for his first season of junior A hockey, as he played for the Walpole Stars during the 2004-05 season. Mahoney-Wilson posted a respectable 23-15-2 record and a .920 save percentage and 2.73 goals-against average.

After working with Sharks netminder Evgeni Nabokov for a week over the summer, Mahoney-Wilson looked to make the jump to the USHL in 2005-06, but instead ended up going all the way to British Columbia to play for the Burnaby Express of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League. Mahoney-Wilson looked set to be Burnaby’s starting goaltender after Bryce Luker went down to injury Oct. 14, but the next night Mahoney-Wilson suffered a Grade 3 concussion, among other injuries, when he was run into by an opposing player. The Express recalled junior B goaltender Matt Gordon from the Delta Ice Hawks and by the time Mahoney-Wilson had healed, he was out of a job.

Mahoney-Wilson next made the move from British Columbia to Indiana, signed by the Indiana Ice of the USHL on Jan. 5. Set to play for head coach Dean Grillo, a former San Jose Shark prospect himself, Mahoney-Wilson ended up making no appearances for Indiana. Grillo was released by Indiana shortly after Mahoney-Wilson arrived, and the Shark prospect was traded to the Lincoln Stars for veteran USHL goaltender Steve Jakiel on Jan. 12.

Bryan Hogan had already established himself as the starter in Lincoln and started nearly every game down the stretch as the Stars battled to make the USHL playoffs. Although Mahoney-Wilson only played four games, he established himself as a competent USHL goaltender with a .913 save percentage and a 2.80 goals-against average.

Mahoney-Wilson, who turned 20 Apr. 7, hopes to play in the USHL again in 2006-07 and attract attention from NCAA DI schools from back home, especially around the Boston area.

Hockey’s Future recently caught up with Mahoney-Wilson and discussed the winding road that has been his 2005-06 season, the junior A leagues he’s played in, his beginning tending the Fisher Price net, and his intention to tend a Hockey East net and play for the Sharks.

HF: Going back a few years, what was your reaction to getting drafted in the ninth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft?

BMW: It was a pretty cool thing coming from Boston, Massachusetts, being in high school, Catholic Memorial. The tradition of playing there was pretty cool. A lot of people get mixed up with my uncle Ron Wilson, who is the coach there. For two years before that they were scouting me. A lot of people think I got picked because of Ron Wilson, my uncle, but it’s a pretty cool accomplishment in my career.

HF: Were you surprised at all that San Jose has taken the number of high school players they have, both you and Brian O’Hanley from Massachusetts high school?

BMW: Yeah, they look for prospects for the future. I don’t know what they see, but they have a very good scouting staff. Tim Burke, their director of scouting, he’s unbelievable. Brian O’Hanley, for example, he has a great shot some day. We all have to work on things, but they project up, that’s what I see.

HF: Do you think it helped any that Tim Burke is based out of Boston and got to see you a lot?

BMW: Oh yeah, that’s for sure. Tim Burke goes to a lot of the Hockey East games, and the high school games and the prep school games too.

HF: What were some of the highlights of your career at Catholic Memorial?

BMW: At Catholic Memorial, I won two state championships there as the starting goalie. Then I went on to play in the EJHL last year for Walpole and did pretty well, and we lost in the semi-finals last year.

HF: How big of a step was it from high school to the EJHL?

BMW: The EJHL is a lot quicker pace, and I would say going to the USHL is a step further. But, you’ve got to adjust your game. Obviously, I’m planning on spending another year in the USHL next year. It’s been kind of an unfortunate year, since I’ve been all over the place. But, being faced with adversity, you have to move on.

HF: At the beginning of the year you were looking to play in the USHL, but you ended up playing in the BCHL, how did you end up in British Columbia?

BMW: Bill Ranford was the goalie coach there and I thought it was going to be a very good fit. I went there and as soon as I stepped on the ice I attracted their eye, so they picked me. Five weeks into the season I was doing very well, I had a 4-2-0-1 record, but I ended up getting intentionally hit by a player, and the night before our other goalie got hurt and got 157 stitches in his left leg. I was out for four weeks and they ended up releasing me because they thought they had a three-year guy down in junior B that needed to play junior A. I understood what they had to do, so I found my spot in Indiana, and Indiana traded me here. So, here I am.

HF: What was the nature of your injury in British Columbia?

BMW: Well, I got a Grade 3 concussion, I got a left separated shoulder, and I pulled a little muscle off of my hip bone. I was dazed for about a week, but I rested up well, got back into good shape, set for next year, looking to put on a good 15, 20 pounds, all muscle. I have a pretty good work ethic and I think I can do that.

HF: In Indiana, back at the time Dean Grillo was the coach, former Shark prospect, son of Chuck Grillo, was that part of a connection that helped open a door for you?

BMW: Yeah, that’s for sure. I knew Dean very well beforehand and his father, definitely. So, San Jose contacted them and said, “This would be a good spot for him to play and get some games.” Unfortunately, things didn’t work out, just because, I don’t know, something with the owner and Grillo, essentially Grillo got fired there and relieved of his duties. It’s something that didn’t work out, so I understood it and took it with a grain of salt and moved on here. I haven’t played that much, but I have a good goalie in front of me, he’s played very well.

HF: What are some of the things you’ve been working on so that you can supplant Bryan Hogan?

BMW: You got to keep battling through, You’ve got to keep working on a daily basis in practice on your movements and your stickhandling, and flexibility. I’m the last one in the weight room all the time. Other than that, you look toward next year. I’m prepared mentally to go through this summer, put on 15, 20 pounds, and be ready for next year.

HF: Having played in three junior A leagues, how does the USHL compare to the BCHL?

BMW: I think the BCHL would give this league a run for its money, that’s for sure. There are a lot of good prospects up there that might have a chance of playing in the National Hockey League someday. Scouts tend to direct more attention toward the USHL. The BCHL is made up of 17 teams, so they pick and choose where to go. Offensively, it’s a tough league to play in. If your numbers are .900 save percentage and a 2.75 G.AA, that’s pretty good. Here, on the other hand, you look at Alex Stalock, or (Brian) Foster, or (Alex) Kangas, and they’ve got a .940 save percentage, around that, and around a 2.15 G.AA.

HF: Do you feel that the USHL is more of a defensive league?

BMW: I believe so, yeah. There’s more systems implemented. In the BCHL, however, the coaches just say to the team, “Just go out and score as many goals as you can.” Usually that’s why the games are 10-5, 9-8.

HF: How would you say the USHL compares to the EJHL?

BMW: The USHL by far dominates the EJ, that’s for sure. The EJ, each team has good prospects. Last year when I played for Walpole we had kids go to UMass-Amherst, BU, and a couple other places, and another kid’s going to Air Force. The USHL definitely has a lot more skill because it’s more diverse, it’s all across the United States. The EJHL is more Eastern.

HF: Do you think playing the USHL gives you a better chance of getting a college scholarship, rather than playing all the way out West, where there aren’t any NCAA DI teams aside from the Alaska team?

BMW: Oh yeah, that’s for sure. I think so. When I was playing in the EJHL, it would only be made up of Hockey East college scouts. And now, Hockey East and every division comes out here to the USHL, the centerpoint of America. So, this is where I want to play, either Lincoln or one of the other teams if they’re willing to take me. We’ll see what happens down the road.

HF: What do you feel are the strengths of your game?

BMW: I think athleticism does it. I’m not a big kid at all, I’m 5’10, 168 right now, but I want to put on that weight, like I said. It’s being as aggressive as possible, I learned under Warren Strelow, you know Evgeni Nabokov, Vesa Toskala, you see how far they are with challenging the play. The guys in the NHL take slap shots you can’t even see, you can’t even imagine how fast they are. You just have to play at the top of your crease and read the play very well, if it’s a left-handed or right-handed shot, where the guy’s positioned, where he’s supposed to be on the power play, I read the play very well. It’s been a tough year, like I said, a year of adversity, but, you’ve got to move past that and look for things down the road to be better off.

HF: Are there any NHL goalies you compare yourself to?

BMW: I have basically a style between Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov is very upright as well am I. Vesa Toskala is relaxed, I’m very relaxed. My glove and blocker, I challenge the shooter. Nabokov is the best that I’ve seen in a while at pushing off and using one foot, but he doesn’t drag his back foot. I use that like him.

HF: Do you think that’s a case of San Jose trying to mold you like them or them drafting you because you’re similar to them?

BMW: I think similar. Nabokov is a very rare goalie in that he’s not the new hybrid type of goalie where he goes down in the butterfly. He flops all over, he does the two pad slide, he’ll do some crazy things still. I think that that’s what they’re looking for. The same thing with Alex Stalock, we’ve got athleticism. So, that’s what there looking for in goalies I think. Stalock has good puckhandling skills too. I think that’s what the NHL is looking for, is future puckhandlers and stuff like that, which I am working on and continue to work on.

HF: With college, do you hope to return back out East and play for Boston College, BC…?

BMW: Oh yeah, that’s for sure. Boston College would be a great place to play. I know they have a spot for ’07, BU will have a spot for ’07, as well as Northeastern. It’s always been my goal to play in the Beanpot Tournament. If you’re a native of Boston, that’s the think to play in.

HF: Do you think your odds may increase for going to one of those two schools since San Jose has taken a lot of players who have gone through there?

BMW: Oh yeah, Mike Morris at Northeastern, and a couple others, as well as Brian O’Hanley at BC. Yeah, I think so, maybe. They’ll take a look. I know Tim Burke interacts with all three coaches, Jerry York, Jack Parker, and Greg Cronin there. I think once I get a lot of games under my belt, whether it’s here in the USHL or the BCHL, I think I’ll have a good shot and get a good look in.

HF: Academically, hockey doesn’t always work out…

BMW: Oh yeah, that’s for sure. I’m well aware of that. That’s my priority, to go to college and get good grades. Right now it’s exercise physiology. I’ve always been intrigued, I always like to work out, or something in business, my father is in business. I realize you need some money to have a good living in this world. But, I realize the opportunity I have now to play hockey, even college, I’ll continue to go after that. If I don’t get a tryout with the big club someday, that’s fine. I take it with a grain of salt. I don’t really think about being drafted, pro hockey is five to seven years down the road. It’s a little progress each day, you keep working at it.

HF: Do you think studying exercise physiology would give you an advantage in training and just knowing the kinesiology of your body?

BMW: I think so, definitely. What to eat before and after the game, knowing what’s right for your body, protein shakes, breaking down, what proteins, carbs, fats, all that stuff, knowing what are the right workout specifically for your position, making your legs strong, making your core strong. I’m not really concerned with making my upper body strong, because I don’t want to lose quickness. I like the Russian development stuff, with the Russian squats, Russian squat jumps, all of that stuff, making your core and legs that much stronger and more athletic and more quick in the net.

HF: Who were your favorite goalies growing up?

BMW: Andy Moog was one of my favorite goalies. Just because he, when you needed, in a sense, he dove everywhere. He was so athletic. So, I appreciated that. Another one is Martin Brodeur. He’s the best goalie in the world by far, because he has that old style, kickout save. He knows where the guy is on the ice, when the guy is shooting from the blue line, he’ll get it to that far blue line left side and they’ll break out with an odd-man rush 3-on-2, because he reads the play and his whole line is in front of him.

HF: When did you start playing and how?

BMW: I started playing when I was the age of two. Basically my dad, and mom, put me in front of the Fisher Price hockey net and started shooting tennis balls at me. I don’t know what got into them to do that, but I obviously enjoyed the position and I haven’t let up ever since.

HF: Maybe your family just needed a goalie.

BMW: Yeah. It’s an odd thing, because my dad grew up in a family with four brothers, three of which were drafted in the National Hockey League, all three of them to Providence College and played there. His father, my grandfather, put them in front of the net and shot pucks at their head and asked them, “Do you really want to be a goalie? ” They all said no. I think my dad always wanted to play goalie, so he first tried it on me and how I’d react to it. I just love everything about it. You’ve got to be a little whacked to face 90- to 100-mile-per-hour slap shot. But, it’s a fun job, to go out every day and do that.

HF: What are your goals with hockey?

BMW: My goals with hockey is to take it every day step by step. My goal is to play in the National Hockey League. But, if that comes or not, you know, you have to take it with a grain of salt, because every opportunity you get is basically upon your work ethic. I have a great work ethic, I know I can go far. It’s almost like a “Rudy” work ethic, you can’t give up. That’s what my motto is right now. My idol is Tiger Woods. He’s a perfect example of an athlete who never gives up. People can criticize him on whatever his swing is, but he goes by one rule, to always make himself better, and I can always make myself better.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.