Bobby Goepfert’s career has seen lots of ups and downs already. He’s changed colleges, and went unsigned by his originally drafting NHL team. But the 5’10 Long Island native is getting off to a good start on his pro career a world away in old-south Augusta, Georgia.
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the sixth round in 2002 out of the USHL, Goepfert played two years for Providence College before sitting out a year as he moved to St. Cloud State. The goaltender was a top 10 Hobey Baker finalist his senior year with St. Cloud, posting a 17-10-7 record, .924 save percentage and 2.29 GAA. He was looking to turn pro that summer, but the Penguins surprisingly signed 23-year-old free agent John Curry from Boston University instead.
Goepfert was signed by Stanley-cup champion Anaheim Ducks instead. After a late start to his pro career due to a groin injury, the 24-year-old is 4-0 with the ECHL Augusta Lynx, with a .960 save percentage and .99 GAA.
Hockey’s Future spoke to Goepfert earlier this week.
HF: How do you think your season is going so far?
BG: So far no complaints. It started kind of crazy with being hurt and stuff, but it’s good to be back playing and I’m happy with how I’m playing, and happy to be playing for these guys.
HF: What happened with the injury?
BG: I originally injured myself during the summer, but I didn’t really think of it too seriously. It kind of healed up and I thought everything was fine, just kind of went on. The first week of training camp in Anaheim, rookie camp, I did it again – [the groin] wasn’t strong enough the doctor said. It healed up, but wasn’t strong enough to withstand what I was doing, so it went out again. I had to go back to square one. I knew what the problem was, so I hit it real hard. I went back to St. Cloud and rehabbed and stuff. Portland to St. Cloud, Portland to St. Cloud. It was hectic the first two months, but it’s nice to be kind of settled down and back.
HF: Had you had problems with your groin in the past?
BG: No, it was just a freak thing during the summer. I was goofing around playing recreational softball and kind of felt something weird and a couple weeks later it went away, so I didn’t think anything of it. For a while there it was kind of bothering me, kind of nagging, but it cleared up, I went on with my training, went on with my skating.
HF: What kind of softball move were you doing when it happened?
BG: I played shortstop, so I turned [to the right] to make a play and – I made the play (laughing) and I made the next two outs – I sucked it up, I was limping out there, but the team needed me. As far as that goes, that was my last softball game. My glove and cleats are in a closet somewhere.
HF: You’ve retired from softball?
BG: Yeah, I’m retired. I’m officially retired. No Roger Clemens for me. I’m done (laughing). That’s it, I’m moving on, and happy to be a hockey player.
HF: Why did you choose to sign with Anaheim and were there other teams that you talked to?
BG: Yeah, it was weird you know, I was drafted by Pittsburgh, and it took a while for them to decide what they wanted to do. When I was notified that they weren’t going to sign me, we were perusing around and had to wait for August whole thing, wait to get released. And then when that happened, there were a couple team, but Anaheim – just to be in their system was an opportunity, to work with (goaltending coach) Francois Allaire and to be in the organization. They kind of know what they’re doing with college players. It was an honor to be contacted by them, and kind of a no brainer with the goaltending they’ve had and the goaltending coach and access I have to work with these guys.
HF: Have you gotten to work with him much already?
BG: Yeah, he’s actually here right now, for the last few days I’ve been working with him. He was there in Anaheim [at camp], but being hurt this is the first time. He’s just kinda got an aura about him and I think all of the goalies know about him. It’s definitely an honor to be working with him, I’m so excited. I’ve never really had formal training. I’ve had goalie coaches, and nothing against them, but to get to work with Francois Allaire, it’s pretty exciting.
HF: When you were out in Anaheim, did he share some thoughts with you then?
BG: A little bit. It was pretty hectic there. I was always in the training room or on the bike. And he’s a busy man so I didn’t really see him too much. But the first day, before I got hurt, I worked with him for 30 minutes and he ran us through a goalie session and I was dying. It was just cool the way he thinks the game and how he looks at things. It’s a different perspective and I’m a different kind of goalie than he’s probably used to.
HF: In what way?
BG: I’m small, so I can’t play the blocking style. I’m more athletic and kind of reactionary. But I’m looking forward to incorporating some of his stuff and his mentality to my game. I don’t know if I have a technical game – I just stop the puck. I’m sure he’s going to help me with that.
HF: When it didn’t work out with the Penguins, I saw you quoted as saying you wanted to prove people wrong. You’ve gotten off to a good start. Do you feel like you’re starting to do that?
BG: I don’t know if there’s a timeline to prove them wrong. It’s pretty early in my career and the season. It’s tough to say they’re scratching their heads wondering, but down the road sometime I’d like to kind of make some people rethink what they thought was best. Anytime you get passed over for other people, you take it personally. I’m a confident guy – I believe in myself and I believe in my ability, and for someone to say ‘we’ll take this instead of [you],’ it’s kind of a slap in the face, it’s a wakeup call. I’ve been itching to play since then I guess. With the groin injury, it kind of put me on a little delay, but I’ve been excited to get in there since March, honestly.
HF: You strike me a salesman rather than a goalie.
BG: (laughing) What do you want – this tie? How much? I’ve been labeled ‘quirky’ and stuff like that. I think I’m an easy-going fun guy. But if you want to buy something, I can sell it to ya.
HF: You don’t even seem like a hockey player.
BG: I’ve heard that before! Numerous people. No, I’m a hockey player and proud of it.
HF: I saw you were from New York State, but how close to New York City?
BG: I grew up in Queens until I was about 9 years old. I’m a Long Island guy, and proud of that Long Island kind of…mafia and all those guys. I grew up playing with (Chris) Higgins, (Mike) Komisarek, (Eric) Nystrom, and those guys, they’re really close friends of mine. It’s kind of weird, a lot more Long Island guys in the game now and I’m proud to be part of it.
HF: I think people could pick you out as from there.
BG: I’ve been told that too (laughing). I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or a good thing.
HF: You must have had a lot of mental highs and lows this past year – top 10 finalist for Hobey Baker and then you don’t get signed (by Pittsburgh).
BG: Yeah. I think that’s what the toughest thing about the summer was. My senior year it didn’t end on a good note. I didn’t play my best towards the end of the year. The saving grace that kind of got me through that rough time not playing and going out on a sour note was the fact that I’ve got to turn in around because something good might be around the corner. I didn’t think I had a poor senior year, so I was king of expecting something to happen pretty quick, but in the end it turned out not to happen so it was pretty tough. It just fueled the fire for me to work hard, get back to square one. It’s in the past, but I’m kind of happy that that happened because it initiated like a new spark.
HF: There’s a lot of familiar faces in the Lynx lineup for you.
BG: Yeah, I’ve known a bunch of these guys for a long time. A couple Long Island guys, a couple Providence guys where I played, a lot of guys I met in Anaheim. It was good coming in here and a real comfortable atmosphere. For a new guy coming down to a new place, it’s kind of tough, but everybody here’s so friendly and everybody kind of knows each other. It’s a good camaraderie.
HF: How do you like the weather (recently in the 70’s)?
BG: From what I’ve heard, back home in New York it’s pretty cold, so I’m not complaining at all.
HF: Is it too warm for hockey?
BG: Well, I’ve been in Minnesota and Portland so all I’ve got are long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirts and jeans. I don’t have any shorts and barely have short-sleeved shirts, so I’ve kind of been adapting myself.
HF: What’s your goal for this year?
BG: I don’t really set goals. I just want to be playing my best, and continue to play my best. Try to be consistent, try to give the team a chance to win, not to sound too cliché. It’s the truth. Try to play my best and keep that over a long period of time.
HF: You wouldn’t say getting back to Portland?
BG: It’s not a goal, it’s more of a marker. My goal is to play in the National Hockey League. I think that’s everyone’s goal. I want to get to Portland, I want to do certain things, but they’re not really goals. I need to focus on small things for the big things to happen. I feel like now I’m in a good state mentally and physically.
HF: You seem happy.
BG: I am happy. I’m a happy guy. No complaints in the world.