PORTLAND — When this hockey season started, Mac Carruth wasn’t thinking about putting his name into the Portland Winterhawks record book.
The goalie was focused on making the jump to professional hockey, hoping his days in the Western Hockey League were behind him.
But on Wednesday, when the Winterhawks celebrated their 35th win of the season, Carruth was more than happy to make his mark. The 3-0 win over Prince George at Memorial Coliseum moved Carruth to the top of the franchise record books with 106 victories.
He moved ahead of Darrell May, Sr., who won 105 games for Portland between 1978 and 1982. Making Wednesday even sweeter, Carruth posted his eighth career regular-season shutout, tying Kurtis Mucha and Lanny Ramage for the franchise record.
In goalie fashion, Carruth deflected credit for his accomplishment.
“Obviously it is more of a team thing,” Carruth said. “To be part of great teams here is a real privilege.”
Of course, returning to Portland this season meant delaying the start of Carruth’s professional career. In October, he signed an entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks and went to training camp with the Rockford IceHogs, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Blackhawks.
The National Hockey League lockout meant added competition for spots on the IceHogs roster, and Carruth — in part because he was eligible to return to the WHL — was the odd goalie out.
“Any athlete’s going to be disappointed when they hear news like that,” Carruth said. “But they told me it wasn’t because of my performance.”
The Blackhawks also challenged Carruth to make his mark in Portland.
“When we watch you play, we want to know that you’re the best goalie in the league whether you win the game, lose the game, let in six goals or get a shutout,” Carruth said, repeating what Blackhawks’ officials told him before he returned to Portland.
Carruth, a native of Shorewood, Minn., who played parts of two seasons with the Wenatchee Wild of the North American Hockey League before joining the Winterhawks, took that challenge seriously.
In 21 starts this season, he leads the WHL in both save percentage (.940) and goals-against average (1.68). He has four shutouts this season, and he has twice been recognized as goalie of the week by the WHL and the Canadian Hockey Leagues.
Backstopping a team that has won 35 of its 41 games, Carruth is hardly a one-man show in Portland. But, in his fourth year in the league, he is a more mature player.
“They wanted me to treat this season like it’s a pro season,” Carruth said, noting that the Blackhawks asked him to back off from stick interplay and banter with opposing players.
May, whose 105 wins sat atop the Winterhawks’ record book for more than three decades, was at Wednesday’s game in his job as an amateur scout for the Chicago Blackhawks.
“He just told me he was honored that it’s another Blackhawk who’s broken the record,” Carruth said. “That’s a neat thing.”