A switch to a better team has meant a change to a new role for Thunder first-year goalie Torrie Jung.
A starter in the past with teams that were marginal at best, Jung came to Wichita this season, where he was expected to be an important piece to a CHL championship team.
Just not the most important piece.
For the first time in his three-year career, Jung is a backup. It’s done wonders for his statistics, as has playing for a first-place team, but he’s still working on making the mental adjustment. A pair of games last week against Fort Worth showed that the physical adjustment might be complete.
Jung relieved starter Kevin Regan Wednesday night on the road in a 5-1 loss, saving all eight shots he faced. Two nights later in Wichita, Jung recorded his sixth career shutout as the Thunder avenged the defeat.
Regan is by far the league’s most-used goalie, but performances like those from Jung could allow the Thunder to rest Regan more often while keeping the level of play at the position high.
“Even if I’m not playing and the team is winning and we’re having success, that’s really what we want,” Jung said. “As much as I do want to play.”
Jung played in Laredo the past two seasons with teams that failed to make the playoffs, but Thunder coach Kevin McClelland has spoken frequently about being impressed with Jung’s performance in less than optimal circumstances.
The only thing keeping Jung from being a starter this year is Regan — Jung’s numbers line up with those of several first-string goalies but lag just behind those of Regan. Jung is sixth in the league with a 2.69 goals-against average and, at 7-2, his winning percentage is unmatched.
Regan has lost his last two starts, giving up eight goals in the process, but he remains one of the league’s most indispensable at the position. He has an experience edge on Jung, having played in the Triple-A American Hockey League and overseas.
Jung recognizes Regan’s importance and that he can help preserve it by spelling Regan more frequently with dominant showings like he had last week. Those would also allow him into the lineup more often, where a friendly competition with the starter could ensue.
“Any time you have two goalies on a team, they’re going to compete for minutes and compete for ice (time),” Jung said. “There’s no grudges or anything. It’s not anything except from the competition, and (Regan) is playing great. He’s winning a lot of games and playing extremely well. Right now I’m just here for support and … I’m learning a lot from Regan, so it’s benefiting me.”