Blackhawks prospect and current Portland Winterhawks goalie Mac Carruth has some unfinished business in the Western Hockey League playoffs. Last season, the team made the Championship round and won the opening game, only to fall in five against the Kootenay Ice. This year, after sweeping Kelowna, battling Kamloops to a dramatic seven-game series and then sweeping Tri-City, the Winterhawks again find themselves on the brink of the WHL title.
Carruth has had a good year by any standard—a league-leading 42 wins during the regular season set the stage for a long postseason, in which the Winterhawks reached the WHL Championship series for the second consecutive spring. If possible, Carruth has stepped up his game even more in the playoffs, taking on the heaviest workload among goalies and backstopping a shutout victory in Game 7 against Kamloops in the second round.
Portland lost the opening game against the Edmonton Oil Kings, but bounced back to take the second and third tilts, with Carruth making 72 stops on 76 shots in those two victories. With Carruth just two wins away from booking a ticket for the Memorial Cup tournament, the Blackhawks’ seventh-round pick in 2010 spoke with chicagoblackhawks.com to discuss his season, his influences and life in the WHL.
Portland made it to the WHL Championship series last season, but lost in five games to Kootenay. Does that experience of a deep run in the playoffs give you an extra boost this year?
Absolutely. Obviously, it ended pretty abruptly for us last year after winning the first game. A lot of the guys who were on the team last year are still on the team this year. The guys being more mature this year and having gone through the experience definitely helps.
You played in 63 regular-season games, which was just one away from tying the WHL lead. How difficult was it to adjust to the heavier workload?
Our training staff did a great job this year keeping me healthy—Rich Campbell in Portland and the trainers in Chicago who helped me out during the summer. Being healthy was a big part of why I could take a big workload physically, and keeping my nutrition levels up.
Which guys did you look up to growing up or try to emulate?
Growing up when Patrick Roy was in his prime, I obviously looked up to him. I look at myself as a butterfly goalie—I try to be technically sound and I’m athletic when I need to be. Right now I just like to watch all of the good goalies and be a student of the game.
Tell us more about your nickname, “The Truth.” What’s the backstory on that?
It was my 17-year-old season—I was splitting time with our other goalie [Ian Curtis], who was 19 at the time, and our goalie coach was in town that week. I used to get pretty into it at practice, making big saves and stuff, and I made a save on a two-on-one. Curtis came up to me when I was talking to Kyle, our goalie coach, and he said, “I looked down there and everybody was celebrating and all I see is Mac rolling around on the ground, and that’s when I thought, ‘You know what, that’s the truth,’” and it kind of stuck.
Being healthy was a big part of why I could take a big workload physically, and keeping my nutrition levels up. - Mac Carruth
There are a lot of highly-touted NHL prospects on the Portland roster, such as St. Louis' Ty Rattie, Calgary's Sven Bartschi and Pittsburgh's Joe Morrow. Do you talk to each other about working to get up to the pro game?
Making it to the NHL is everyone’s goal in the WHL. With our team, we definitely have a couple guys who are closer, so I’ve been talking to those guys about what they’ve been through, signing, how they deal with stuff like that. Having that bond on our team really helps us out.
Does it affect the team when you play in professional buildings like your home arena, Portland's Rose Garden, and Rexall Place, where the Oil Kings are hosting their games?
It’s pretty exciting. Our young guys haven’t played in buildings like that as much as our older guys have. Having that experience going into the next level is key. There isn’t major media attention in Portland, but they’re getting behind us a little bit, so having to deal with that is a good experience, and I’m looking forward to using that next year.
Playing in a Canadian league but for a team based in Portland, do you notice any America vs. Canada rivalries in the WHL?
Most teams [that come into our building] are Canadian teams. With Edmonton, there’s a bit more motivation to beat the U.S. team [in the Championship series]. We’re not the most humble team, either; we let people know we’re here and we like to let people know when we win, too. That adds to the hate factor, I guess, when we’re playing against Edmonton.
We heard that you often watch movies with your teammates while staying on the road. What's the best movie you've seen recently?
'Goon' is definitely the best movie we’ve seen as a team. It’s funny, with good one-liners, and the boys talked about it for awhile... I haven’t had a chance to look at movies coming up, but there’s a horror flick coming out [at the end of the month] that the guys are pumped about. We’ll probably see that together if we make it to the Memorial Cup.