There are few athletes who know the pain of waiting like a backup goalie.
Tom Petty once sang that waiting is the hardest part and while that jam might long before his time, Byron Fancy understands the words well.
Fancy, 18, has started just eight games this year and each of his first three came nearly one month apart. So far, since the calendar year has switched to 2019, he’s started three games, two of which were back-to-back.
“I’ve been feeling good lately, I like getting more starts. I want to play,” said Fancy, who sports a 4-4 record along with a 3.07 goals against average and 0.900 save percentage.
“I’ve gotta be consistent and keep playing well. Every game I play I have to give the team a chance to win.”
One man who understands what Fancy is going through is Rebels rookie goalie coach Kraymer Barnstable. He started sparingly in his 17-year-old WHL season with the Vancouver Giants, unsure from game-to-game when he would play. It’s a difficult challenge, one he and Fancy have spent a lot of time navigating this season.
“I ended up only having 10 starts in my first year so I know exactly what it’s like. It can really hurt the confidence,” said Barnstable.
“The main thing that it’s bad on is your mind. You have so much time to think and your mind can go to dangerous places. The good thing with him, is there were stretches were he did question– we were able to chat about it and remind him, if he keeps doing things right in practice, it will come.”
One change in 2019 for Fancy has been his practice habits. Making a stronger commitment day in and day out to improving his game has helped earn the respect of the coaching staff. From there, playing well when the spotlight and pressure is on, also makes a difference.
That happened on Jan. 5 against the Victoria Royals, where Fancy turned aside 34 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss. Battling one of the top teams in the WHL, while dueling a veteran puckstopper like Griffen Outhouse on the other end, was big for his confidence.
“When you go in and take a team like Victoria to a shootout and give your team a chance to win, that’s something that will give you a lot of confidence, knowing you can play with the best in this league and do well,” Barnstable added.
Fancy’s last start will test his resolve, as he allowed four goals on 28 shots, but ultimately helped the Rebels pick up a 9-4 win over the Regina Pats on the road.
“Wasn’t one of my best games, probably want a couple of those goals back. Have to bounce back and keep playing the way I can,” he said.
Bouncing back, not know when your next chance will be is one of the difficulties of the position Fancy finds himself in this season.
There’s no guarantee Fancy will earn more time in the net down the stretch, but with a lengthy road trip for the Rebels in the latter half of February, he will likely be relied on at some point.
As a team that is in a heated battle for first in the central division, when the Rebels need him, Fancy has to be ready. If he does get the call this weekend against the high-flying offence of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, he’ll need to bring his best.
“We’ll have to work really hard. They’re a good team and we’ve played well against them,” Fancy said.
“They’re strong offensively, so whoever is playing, we’ll need good goaltending.”
The Rebels will be in Lethbridge Friday to battle the Hurricanes, then return home Saturday to finish off the home-and-home. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Centrium.