Goaltender Adam Brizgala may have had the quietest record-breaking season in Lumberjacks history. Much like Sammy Sosa in 1998, Brizgala’s greatness was overshadowed by the slightly greater season teammate Keith Petruzzelli had.
Mark McGwire’s 70 home runs in ‘98 turned Sosa’s 66 into an afterthought, and Keith Petruzzelli’s 2.40 GAA made Brizgala’s 2.46 number seem like chopped liver. But in reality, Brizgala had the second-best season of any Lumberjacks goalie, and his 2.46 GAA is a number that not even Eric Schierhorn or Kevin Lindskoug were able to match.
Adam finished the season with a .914 save percentage and an 15-8-4 record, and along with Keith Petruzzelli, combined to limit opponents to just 157 goals, the fewest the Jacks have surrendered in their USHL history. ‘Petro’ and ‘Briz’ also became the first Lumberjack duo to each win more than ten games in a single season.
“No, actually I didn’t look at the stats during the year,” said Brizgala. “It’s really surprising that my numbers were that good. I want to get better, it’s not just about the goals, it’s about the whole team.”
With Petruzzelli off to Quinnipiac University, Brizgala will play a bigger role on the team, and he embraces that.
“I didn’t think about it that much,” said Brizgala. “I know that I’m going to have a big role, I’ll be in my second year so the guys are going to expect more of me. So I just did my best this summer, we’ll see how it goes.”
Briz did a lot of preparing over the summer, including playing with the Czech U20 national team. He even has a new battle scar above his left eyebrow that required three stitches.
“I played a few games with the [U20] national team, and my skate blade got broken in a game,” said Brizgala. “I didn’t have another pair, so I had to leave the game. I was sitting on the bench and a puck was flying out of the ice. I went to catch it, but a player wanted to catch it too and tipped it into my face.”
But the injury didn’t stop the 19-year-old netminder from Prague. He continued to fine-tune his game in hopes of making the 2017-18 season better than his last.
“On the ice I’ve been working on my hands,” explained Brizgala. “Better positioning and being faster. It’s different in the Czech because we have bigger ice, so I had to re-learn that technique. But at the same time, the coaches knew that I would be back here, so they know that it’s going to be different for me here. And the national camps were on NHL-size ice.”
Additionally, with his increased role on the team this year as the Jacks’ clear number one goalie, a need for stamina became a focus.
“Actually, it wasn’t my choice to focus on it,” said Brizgala. “We had a special trainer for this, he knows exactly what to do. We trained our skating, power and speed, and he understands it really well. He prepared me well, I feel great. It was a hard summer, but he prepared me well.”
In addition to working on his own game, Brizgala has peace of mind knowing that he has three returning defensemen in Colby Bukes, Travis Mitchell and Marc Del Gaizo, in addition to Collin Murphy, who saw action in five games (including playoffs) with Muskegon last year.
“It makes me calm, really, really calm,” said Brizgala. “They know me and I know them so I know what to expect. Also, they can help me to learn about the new guys, they can tell them what I need and how to work on the ice. It’s important to have some older guys on the team.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound goalie is still uncommitted, but has given NCAA hockey some thought.
“ I did think about it actually, I think it’s a good opportunity. I’ll see what happens after the season.”