Red Deer Rebels goalie Byron Fancy finds comfort in first WHL appearance

Byron Hackett

Red Deer Advocate

When the goals started piling up Wednesday at Rogers Place against the Edmonton Oil Kings, one fresh-faced Red Deer Rebel thought his time might be coming.

Fifteen-year-old goalie Byron Fancy was summoned from the end of the Red Deer bench.

He was tasked to stop the bleeding after his team fell behind 4-0 at 7:31 of the second period.

The rookie netminder skated nervously into the visitors net for his first WHL appearance. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, the Clarseholm, Alta. native, entered the crease in front of 13,000 screaming Oil King’s fans, the biggest crowd Red Deer has played in front of this season.

“I was ready for it,” Fancy recalled Thursday. “After a few goals, I was kind of expecting it. When I went out there, it was pretty cool. I was a little nervous, a lot of people. Big building.”

From the bench, Rebels goalie coach Taylor Dakers quietly applauded the performance of his netminder.

“He was nervous for sure. It’s a big jump for a kid to go to play at this level. It’s not usual to play in front of 13,000 like that. It was cool for him,” Dakers said.

“Nice to get it out of the way. In a game where you’re not starting, and you don’t have a lot of time to think about it, he did a good job. He didn’t look nervous. I was surprised when I asked him between periods. He handled it really well.”

Fancy stopped 15 of 18 shots he faced Wednesday. They’ll be plenty of them for the young goalie according to Dakers, who liked Fancy’s development over the last two seasons.

“He’s got a very steep learning curve. At 14 in bantam, from the beginning of that season all the way to the end, he improved a ton. That’s why we picked him in the second round. He was showing a lot of progress. From that point to camp this year, was even more astounding,” Dakers said.

“He’s playing on a midget team where he’s playing a lot of games and facing a lot of shots and he’s handled it really well. Then he’s coming to practice with us here and he’s picking everything up quickly – speed, releases and how to beat passes, how to stay square. He’s never ever looked out of place, no matter where he’s been.”

Red Deer’s second round pick, 24th overall in the 2016 bantam draft, the six-foot-one, 170-pound goalie has risen in the ranks to his unexpected appearance this week. Before Lasse Petersen headed off for the World Juniors in Toronto, Fancy spent most of the season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League.

“We had a slow start to the season, I had lots of shots every game. We’re starting to go in the right direction,” he said. “I feel like this year it’s good to get a lot of shots because I’m young in the league.”

His midget team has only scored 2.32 goals a game this year, so Fancy didn’t have much offence in front of him when he was there. He faced an average of 31 shots a game with Lethbridge, a high number for a firs-year midget player, especially coming from a highly successful bantam AAA team that won their league title.

“It’s a lot faster than midget hockey. Big step up, all the guys shoot better and way more skill in this league, they can move the puck way faster,” Fancy said. “Speed. Just have to be that much quicker. Gotta be ready all the time.”

His goalie career started modestly. After a few seasons of atom on defence, Fancy decided he wanted to be the last line of defense. Since then, he’s taken to the position like a duck to water, including carrying Team Alberta to U16 gold at the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup in October.

“I was goalie of the tournament,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”

While the hockey memories are coming at Fancy just as fast as players in the WHL, he seems to be deflecting them away calmly, like he does in the crease. Wednesday’s first was just the latest puck to stop, until he needs to make another big save.

“By far the best memory so far,” he said. “hard to beat that.”

byron.hackett@bprda.wpengine.com

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