Last season, Cole Bruns was content to wait his turn and learn from fellow goaltender and friend Alex Lyon.
Since his turn as the Omaha Lancers’ starting goalie began in September, Bruns has been turning heads with a streak unprecedented in junior hockey.
In the Lancers’ first five games, Bruns has faced 117 shots. None have gone into the net.
That’s 300 minutes and not a single goal against Bruns or his teammates, whom he says have been critical to his success.
“It amazes me that when we’re in a game that’s 4-0, I have guys laying face-first on the ice in front of me to block shots,” Bruns said. “That gives me goose bumps.”
Bruns needs one more shutout to tie the franchise’s single-season record. With 55 games left, he knows this is a good thing that won’t last forever.
“You just can’t expect a shutout every night,” Bruns said. “We’re happy it’s happening, but for it to happen consistently every time we’re out there, that’s too much to ask for.”
The 19-year-old from Prairie Grove, Ill., who has yet to make a college commitment, is 32:01 from passing the NHL modern-era shutout streak set by Brian Boucher. The Lancers play again Thursday night at Waterloo.
That this scoreless streak has become a team thing makes both Bruns and Omaha coach Brian Kaufman smile.
“We knew he was going to be good right away because of the way he played last year and has worked so hard since then,” Kaufman said. “But he knows it’s team defense that has helped, as well. Forwards, defensemen, they’ve all been solid.”
There also have been a few close calls — a shot that clanked off the crossbar and out of play in Sioux Falls last week, a handful of 2-on-1 breakaways that Bruns has handled. The most pleasing part to both player and coach is that the streak means the Lancers are 5-0.
Bruns was a few minutes late for an interview about the franchise- and USHL-record streak because he was serving as a judge in the Lancers’ kangaroo court.
Team first, everything else second.
“We’re a really tight group,” Bruns said. “This is a cool thing, but I’m keeping a level head. That’s what’s good about this team — we’re going to go to work, and if we get a shutout, we get a shutout.”
Two of the five games have been against the Sioux Falls Stampede, one of the USHL’s best offensive teams. Despite being blanked twice, the Stampede are third in the league in scoring with a veteran roster that lit the lamp early and often last season.
As for how this piece of history is handled in the locker room, none of the other Lancers are avoiding Bruns the way baseball players ignore a pitcher who is throwing a no-hitter.
Kaufman said the streak has been addressed with the team and it isn’t a focus in game preparations. Beginning with the game at Waterloo, Omaha will play three road games in three nights — at Chicago on Friday, then in Indiana against the Ice on Saturday.
“We’ve chosen to address it,” Kaufman said. “We don’t talk about it very much. We’re not playing for a streak, but people are starting to ask questions. It’s great for him. He deserves it.”