When it comes to hockey venues, there aren't many parallels between Madison Square Garden and the outdoor rink in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
But when Boston Bruins rookie goaltender Zane McIntyre made his first NHL start against the New York Rangers on Wednesday, when he made 26 saves in a 5-2 loss, his longtime goaltending coach Dave Rogalski couldn't help but think back to their outdoor training sessions in Fergus Falls.
During the high school season, Rogalski would drive almost three hours northwest from his home in Minneapolis to meet McIntyre, who would drive 2 ½ hours south. The drive got shorter for McIntyre while he was playing in the USHL in Fargo, North Dakota, but they still worked outside to save money on ice time.
"Some days the amount of snow that was on that ice was ridiculous and then we'd have to use our sticks and shovels to make room," Rogalski said. "Pucks would be flying out of the rink so we ran out of pucks a couple of times. This whole adventure has been pretty insane."
They had another adventure when Rogalski and Karl Goehring, who played a key role in McIntyre's development as his goalie coach during his three seasons at the University of North Dakota, flew to New York on a moment's notice for the game. There was never any doubt Rogalski would be there.
"He's not just a client," Rogalski said. "He's a son. He's a brother to my kids."
Video: BOS@NYR: McIntyre robs Miller with great glove save
"It was really special to share this with him," McIntyre said after the game Wednesday. "He's somewhat of a father figure. We put in a lot of hours together."
After McIntyre came on in relief of Malcom Subban in the Bruins' 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, Rogalski and Goehring knew there was a good chance he would start in New York on Wednesday.
Goehring got in his car in Grand Forks, North Dakota, at 3 a.m., drove to the airport and took a flight to Minneapolis, where he met Rogalski. They flew to New York and arrived around 10 a.m. with nowhere to stay. They found a $300-a-night hotel that, according to Rogalski, "looked like an Army barracks," and were in their seats in Section 202, Row 4 at 7:20 p.m. when McIntyre led the Bruins onto the ice for pregame warmups.
As the scene unfolded, Rogalski, taking video with his mobile phone, said, "This is amazing."
McIntyre held the Rangers scoreless in the first period, making nine saves, including a sparkling glove stop on a J.T. Miller breakaway. But with the Bruins ahead 2-0, McIntyre allowed five straight goals: three in the second period by Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and Brandon Pirri, and two in the third by Pirri and Jimmy Vesey.
Rogalski said the game was "fun, exciting, and nerve-wracking."
"I want to tell you, I'm as cool as ice right now, but I'm pretty wired into this game," Rogalski said after the first period. "I think the fans around me are going to get annoyed very quickly."
McIntyre lived with Rogalski and his family during summer training in Minneapolis, but picked Fergus Falls as an in-between meeting spot during the season, and the outdoor rink to cut costs for Kelly McIntyre, a single mom working as many as three jobs to support Zane and his sister.
It wasn't a regular trip, but it meant enough that they chose the outdoor rink in Fergus Falls to meet for some work during the American Hockey League All-Star break last season.
"We went old school," Rogalski said. "Just to get back to being comfortable."
Rogalski, who has worked with goalies at Impact Hockey in Minneapolis for the past 11 years, doesn't have any doubts McIntyre will be an NHL regular at some point, even if few could have predicted the injuries to Boston's No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask and backup Anton Khudobin that led to this opportunity in his second pro season.
In addition to the physical tools that led the Bruins to pick the 6-foot-2 goaltender in the sixth round (No. 165) of the 2010 NHL Draft, McIntyre has the work ethic and determination to be successful, Rogalski said. Whether it's seeking out specialists like Josh Tucker of True Focus Vision to get ahead of the curve with his eye training, breaking down video while he was in junior high school to figure out how he could help his team's breakout, mowing the lawn or doing the dishes, McIntyre never hesitates to put in the extra work.
The work ethic comes from his mother and "Grandma Susie," who drove a young McIntyre all over Minnesota, North Dakota and even up to Winnipeg to play hockey. Not long after his grandmother died on July 4, 2011, Zane changed his last name from Gothberg, his father's name, to McIntyre to honor his mom and Grandma Susie, who has also been featured on his goalie masks ever since, including the back of his current Bruins mask.
"This kid is lights out as a human being too," said Rogalski, who was also the goalie coach at St. Cloud State for five years until leaving this summer. "He was raised the right way."
All of which has Rogalski, who also got to witness long-time student Charlie Lindgren make his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens late last season, confident that McIntyre will be in the League for a long time, regardless of how his first taste as an emergency recall went.
"This kid is going to make it," he said. "I know his talent and he is going to play in the National Hockey League. I strongly believe that. It's just a matter of time."