Fancy rising to occasion with Anders sidelined with injury
It hasn’t been under ideal circumstances, but the injury to No. 1 goalie Ethan Anders has given Byron Fancy an opportunity to prove himself as a WHL netminder.
Since Anders went down with a lower body injury — and is currently listed as day-to-day — Fancy has posted a break-even record in the Rebels’ last six games and shown some moxie in the process.
“This is where I want to be. I want to be playing a lot more,” the 18-year-old said Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate how it came about, but yeah, it’s good to be playing more so I can show my potential as to how I can play.”
Back-up goalies are required to turn in productive practice sessions in an attempt to stay sharp for the moment they’re called upon. But there’s no substitute for game experience.
“Playing is where you get better,” said Fancy. “First you get better in practices and by working hard and getting your compete level up, but there’s nothing that compares to game time, just the experience.”
Rebels goaltender coach Kraymer Barnstable was in complete agreement with his student.
“You can go over as many reps as you want in practice, but you never assimilate playing the actual game. You’re kind of learning on the fly as you go,” he said.
“Obviously it’s unfortunate to have Anders hurt right now, but Fancy has got a chance to see what he can do and he’s done a pretty good job of it so far.”
The Rebels didn’t own a first-round pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft and took Fancy with their first selection — 24th overall — of the second round. The Claresholm product joined the club for the 2018-19 season and got into 19 games, posting a 3.30 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.
“Last year I knew I had some work to do on some things that were noticeable,” he said. “This year I came to camp and my goal in mind was that I wanted to be a starter.
“Every practice I’ve gone out and worked as hard as I can, working with Kraymer on what he thinks I need to develop more. I’ve spent lots of time with him the last year and a half.”
Fancy is 5-6-0-1 this season with a GAA of 3.71 and save percentage of .874. The latter two stats have been inching in the right direction which has provided the six-foot-one, 190-pound stopper with added self assurance.
“The team’s been playing great in front of me so I have to give them a lot of credit,” he insisted. “But just being in games has definitely helped my confidence and I hope I can just keep building game by game.”
“With all goalies it’s really mental, but with him for sure,” said Barnstable. “When he’s feeling confident he’s a really strong goalie but when he doubts himself at all it affects his game quite a bit.
“It’s good to see that he has confidence right now and I hope that he learns how to keep it so he can roll with it moving forward.”
The Rebels are in Lethbridge Wednesday to face the Hurricanes and unless Anders is declared healthy Fancy will almost certainly get the start.
The Rebels were demolished 11-2 by the visiting ‘Canes on Nov. 23 but have played much better ever since.
“The team’s been playing great,” said Fancy. “The last few games especially have really shown the potential this group has.
“It’s a very tight group in the dressing room and it really shows on the ice. We’re really good when we play as a team and stick to our structure.”
The Rebels host the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday and will entertain the Swift Current Broncos on Toque Toss night 24 hours later.
The team will then head into the Christmas break and will return to action Dec. 27 against the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings.