UMass Lowell freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) has been a big reason behind the River Hawks’ successful run into the Frozen Four. He currently leads the nation in several categories, including goals-against average (1.31) and save percentage (.953). His six shutouts are also tied for the most nationally.
Hockey’s Future spoke with Hellebuyck after practice on Wednesday at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA.
Hockey's Future: I know that it’s been quite a process for the team to get here to the Frozen Four. Can you talk a little about going through that process and how it has been for you personally?
Connor Hellebuyck: It’s been a long process and we’ve put a lot of hard work into it. We’ve come together and bonded really well as a team. I believe that we’re really a family. We started off a little slow but that was because we were introduced to a new system and it took a little while to learn the new system. Once we did that, I think we started to become contenders every night. I think we started to pay the price a little more as the season went along and that’s why I think we’re here today.
CH: We have a great relationship and he’s one of my best friends on the team. We’re always talking to each other between whistles, time outs and in practices about what we should do here and there and in a certain situation. It’s great to have him around. He’s experienced it all and I would say that he’s one of my teachers because he mentors me. But I also think that I give a little bit of it back to him by giving him a different perspective on things. So it’s a great relationship that we have. I can go to him for anything because I know that he’ll make my game that much better.
HF: In watching you play throughout the season, you just look so calm, cool and collected in goal. What’s your secret?
CH: I don’t know. I think I’ve just been taught that growing up. I think the guys feed off of that. I need to be calm so that they don’t get nervous because I’m the last line of defense. I trust them so much that I can be calm and I don’t have to worry because I’ve got five great guys in front of me every given shift.
HF: Would you say that the calming factor works both ways?
CH: Oh Definitely. The fact that we trust each other so much enables us to calm each other.
HF: I know that you’re a prospect of the Winnipeg Jets. How does it feel to be a part of this organization, knowing that you could one day bring to them what you’ve brought to UMass Lowell so far?
CH: I can’t believe how great of an organization they really are. They treat every player so professionally and graciously. I feel that it’s an honor to have been drafted by them. They come around (to UMass Lowell) every once in awhile to say hello and just check in with me. It’s great to see them around because it shows that they care. And hopefully one day I can bring to them what I’m doing here as a goalie.
HF: When you guys got into the Frozen Four did anyone from the organization contact you to congratulate you?
CH: Yeah, they sent me a few texts. They know that we’re all focusing on what we’re doing here, so they don’t want to distract us too much from that.
HF: Did you attend their prospect camp last summer?
CH: I did and it was great. It was real professional being there.
HF: What were some of the lessons that you learned from the camp that you’ve been able to bring back to UMass Lowell with you this year?
CH: I think it is just more hockey play. It’s a better level and helps the developmental curve for goalies. They brought in a goalie (to work with us) and they decided to do extra goalie drills. I think that just makes you better as a goaltender. There was just so much that I learned from the camp that I can’t really pinpoint it. It was just a really good camp to go to.
HF: Would you say that one of the things that you did learn was what it was going to take to be a pro as far as how you conduct yourself on and off the ice?
CH: Oh definitely. I think that was probably one of the biggest things that I got out of it because there are a bunch of other pro guys around there that are trying to do the same thing that you are. And they bring hard work and their mentality of just how they manage themselves on the ice and project themselves off the ice too. So it’s been a big learning experience.
HF: You’ve been working with Dwayne Roloson, who is obviously a goalie but also played at UMass Lowell as well. What are some of the things that he has taught you that have made you a better goalie?
CH: Oh, he brings so much to the table and he’s so experienced. The way he goes about himself is just an experience itself to learn from because when he comes out and skates with us, it’s great. He teaches us so many little things that just makes the game so much easier like looking over the inside shoulder and knowing the other guy on your backside because that’s what our defensemen are taught to do. And things like doing a little rotation before you push, just makes your life a lot easier. Just having him around gives you so much experience that you probably can’t get anywhere else.
HF: Has it been extra special for you personally knowing that he also played for UMass Lowell?
CH: Oh definitely! He’s someone that I look up to and always will because he’s been through everything.
Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF