Alexandra Ackerman has had many years experience covering the Syracuse Crunch, and over the AHL affiliate’s lifespan one particular goaltender seems to have captured the hearts and minds of Crunch fans, and recently had the chance to return to Syracuse and coach with the Crunch in a paid role where he could . Fighting Hawks fans know this goalie and coach quite well, as he has now come back to Grand Forks as a paid assistant coach. His name of course, is Karl Goehring. I had a chance to get an insight into all that Karl is bringing back to Grand Forks with him from lead Syracuse Crunch writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning SB Nation site, and assitant editor, Ackerman herself. Check out my questions and her thoughts on all things Karl Goehring.
1.What is your favorite memory of Karl’s time in Syracuse?
“Although I’ve been following Karl since 2004, his return in 2007 was the catalyst for a lot of memorable moments that season. At the time, I was still relatively new to the heartbreak that the AHL creates, so the joy I felt with the news that he had been signed to a PTO was pretty strong. I knew the sport more at that point than I did in 2004, so I think I was able to better appreciate the talent he had and the work ethic he was bringing.
At the end of that season, the Crunch went on a run of 15 games in a row, and it all started with a shootout loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the beginning of March. It might be weird to remember Karl for a loss he took, but the point the team earned that night was largely in part to Karl’s shootout prowess, and it is still remembered as the magical start to that run that took the team to the second round of the playoffs. The Crunch had struggled that season, and no one had any real expectations of winning that game. Getting just that point out of that contest seemed to create a turning point for the Crunch, and I think it was also the night that reminded the fans of Karl’s talent, and showed everyone what he was still very much capable of.Karl went on to win Goaltender of the Month for March 2008.”
2. What is his lasting impact from his coaching role with the Crunch?
“Karl truly showed how important the role of a goalie coach is in the minor leagues (and, I’d argue, on most hockey teams). During his two years with the Crunch under the Lightning, he saw the team through quite a bit of goalie drama. He worked with whatever the organization handed him, and helped keep the Crunch’s crease shored up the entire time.
In 2017-18, Karl worked with seven goalies, all in various stages of their careers. Veterans Michael Leighton, Louis Domingue, Eddie Pasquale, and Peter Budaj all passed through Syracuse, sharing the net with youngsters Connor Ingram (a Lightning prospect [since traded to Nashville after this interview]), Olivier Mantha, and Nick Riopel. Whether Karl was helping to keep the vets sharp or assisting the young guys with the pro transition, he was the steadying hand the organization needed him to be.
This past season, Syracuse had a fair bit of goaltending drama. Ingram had an apparent falling out with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, and the rift set off a small goaltending carousel. Veteran Eddie Pasquale was looked to for the bulk of the work, while backups Martin Ouellette and Atte Tolvanen were expected to be sharp whenever Pasquale needed a break. Balancing everything that was going on, while keeping his goalies focused on the game and not on the drama, had to be challenging. Having a dedicated coach helping them was essential. ”
3.To fans worried that a goalie coach may not be a good fit for the assistant coach role what would you say to them?
“Karl has always been an extremely hard worker. Most are probably aware of the doubts he had to fight during his playing career because of his height. He’s faced adversity almost his entire career, and he’s used those experiences to learn and become a well-rounded person and coach.
Although he’s mainly been a goaltending coach due his playing position, I know UND wouldn’t have been able to find anyone who will work harder at making sure he’s accessible to all players he needs to work with. It also isn’t such a bad thing to have an assistant coach know so much about goaltending, especially at the college level, where money for an actual goaltending coach can be tough to come by (as you all know).
Finally, Karl has gathered so many various experiences during his own playing and coaching career, and he’s worked with athletes at nearly every stage of their hockey careers. He knows how to speak to them, and knows what they need to hear. Assistant coaches have to be good at interpersonal relationships, and from everything I’ve heard, Karl excels in that area. He knows how to take his own experiences and translate them for young athletes.”
4.Karl’s role is not completely defined here, that said what are some things organizationally that the Crunch improved on since he came there that would reassure any nervous UND fans?
“Although I am not really privy to the inner workings of the team, Karl’s time with the Crunch has been sprinkled with quotes from players and from Syracuse head coach Ben Groulx about how much Karl’s video work has improved the team. Players credited Karl’s scouting with knowing how to score on other goalies and knowing the weaknesses in the defense of opposing teams. Karl worked with all of the guys on the Crunch to make sure they understood their positives and their areas of concern. Karl has studied this game for so long, and has clearly worked to understand more than just goalten/ding.”
5.With Karl returning to UND do you see Tampa perhaps looking at more UND players in the future?
“I’d hope so. The Lightning don’t seem afraid to look far and wide for talent, and I don’t foresee that ending anytime soon!”
6.If UND fans would like a player in the Bolts’ system to track as a pupil of Karl’s whom would you recommend and why?
“Connor Ingram is probably the closest to a pupil we can get, although given the rift I previously stated, I am not actually sure how much longer Ingram will be in the organization.” [These words have proven true as previously stated Ingram has been traded to Nashville since this interview was conducted]
7.Could you see Karl as a head coach at some level soon?
“I absolutely think he has the drive and the hockey IQ. I am not sure if he has the temperament (and that isn’t a bad thing at all, or a knock on the “traditional” hockey head coach). Karl is just definitely not your traditional grumpy head coach, that’s for sure.”
8.What traits does Goehring have that make you think he will excel in this new role?
“His tenacity is incredible. Karl does not give up when he wants something, and he has the work ethic to back it all up. He loves the sport, and he understands how important fans are to teams.
Also, I feel the need to add that the Lightning organization does not mess around when it comes to prospect development. Yes, Karl was 100% in the right place at the right time to be able to impress Steve Yzerman enough to get himself considered for the job in Syracuse, but if the Lightning had any inkling at all that Karl was not a good fit for that job, he would not have gotten it. Having the confidence of that kind of an organization in you is a very big deal.
I also don’t think that the Lightning would have let Karl go had he not gotten an opportunity like this. Clearly the organization respected his wishes enough to let him go and interview for something like this, knowing that they would lose him if he secured the position. I think that level of respect says a lot.”
9. Add anything else to this about Karl you’d like.
“I’ve been lucky enough to see Karl come back to Syracuse three times since he first left in 2005 – once as a player and twice as an assistant coach. That’s rare in this league (rare in any league, really). Every time he returned, he came back better than ever, something else that’s pretty rare in this world. I know he’ll be happy back with UND, and I wish him nothing but the best. He’s truly one of a kind!”