Rebels prime prospect Fancy enjoys heavy midget AAA workload
Red Deer Rebels prize prospect Byron Fancy is remarkably calm for a netminder who could easily be a victim of shell shock.
The 15-year-old, the Rebels’ first pick — second round, 24th overall — in the 2016 WHL bantam draft, routinely faces a large amount of shots while guarding the cage for the Lethbridge midget AAA Hurricanes.
The ‘Canes sit seventh in the eight-team Chrysler (South) Division and are the lowest-scoring team in the entire Alberta Midget Hockey League. Fancy, then, could also sue for lack of support.
“We have a young team in Lethbridge and we’re not doing so good,” he said Thursday of the 6-14-2 Hurricanes. “We got off to a rough start but we’re hoping to get it going towards the end of the season.
“Actually, it’s looking better now. We had a bit of a win streak and we just have to get it going again.”
Fancy, who was summoned by the Rebels earlier this week and will back up Riley Lamb against the visiting Kelowna Rockets Friday, is clearly stress-free. In fact, he admitted that he’s fond of consistently staring down shooters in prime scoring positions.
“I feel like I’ve played really well lately. I’m getting a lot of shots, which is good for me,” he said.
Rebels assistant general manager/director of player Shaun Sutter backed Fancy’s statements and in fact described the young goaltender as being in a shooting gallery pretty much game in and game out.
“He gets shelled a lot of games,” said Sutter, “and a lot of the opportunities are of the high-quality variety, whether they be odd-man rushes or breakaways.
“The team has to defend a lot, so he’s under siege a lot. But he’s been real good. The last game they played here (versus the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs Dec. 3) he faced over 50 shots and gave up only five goals (while making 49 saves in a 5-0 loss).
“I’ve talked to other coaches in the AMHL and the feedback is often that if not for (Fancy) a lot of the (scores) would be in double digits. He makes a number of saves which should be goals, which is great for his development.”
The Claresholm product attended the Rebels prospects camp in Penhold in June, then returned home to add some bulk to his six-foot-one frame.
“I felt that I needed to work on my strength so I went to the gym in town every day for an hour and that helped a lot. I also did some dryland training,” he offered.
The 180-pound stopper made the immediate jump from the major bantam ranks to triple A midget this season and admitted it was somewhat of an eye-opener.
“It’s a big step up. You’re playing against some kids who are three years older than you,” he said.
Moving from midget AAA to the major junior ranks is an even steeper step, Fancy insisted. That’s his take based on practising with the Rebels this week.
“It’s a lot different from triple A. They practise a lot harder and faster here than we do in Lethbridge,” he said. “The speed is a lot faster, guys are way more skilled and everyone shoots hard. As a goalie, you have to be that much quicker.”
Fancy was the main man between the pipes for the Lethbridge Golden Hawks last winter, posting a 1.49 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in the regular season and numbers of 1.74 and .921 in nine playoff games as the Golden Hawks won the Alberta Major Bantam League title.
This season, he splits time with 16-year-old Aidan Kruger and has a 3-6-2 record, a 3.83 GAA and .888 save percentage.
Fancy’s season highlight was not only being selected to Team Alberta for the Western Canada Under-16 Challenge at Calgary in October, but being named the all-star goaltender in the tournament.
Fancy will stay with the Rebels through the conclusion of Saturday’s game at Medicine Hat — the team’s final contest of their pre-Christmas schedule — before returning home and then rejoining the club for a two-week stretch in late December and early January. He will be back with his midget team once Red Deer and Team Denmark netminder Lasse Petersen returns from the world junior championship.
Whether Fancy sees any playing time with the Rebels remains to be seen.
“Brent (Rebels GM/head coach Sutter) just said that I need to be ready when I come up,” he said. “He knows I can do it (play at the major junior level), I just have to be prepared.”
Either way, Fancy is confident his time in Red Deer will be beneficial.
“It will be good for my confidence,” he said.
Shaun Sutter isn’t worried about that part of Fancy’s makeup, nor is the Rebels main talent evaluator concerned with the mental side of his game regardless of the fact he faces buckets of pucks basically every time out with the Hurricanes.
“Sometimes it can be tough from the psychology standpoint, but Byron is a real strong kid mentally,” said Sutter.
Rebels vs. Kelowna Rockets; Friday, 7 p.m., Centrium
Kelowna is coming off an 8-7 loss to the host Medicine Hat Tigers Tuesday. The Rockets are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games and sit third in the B.C. Division and fifth in the Western Conference with a 19-12-2-0 slate . . . RW Kole Lind leads all Kelowna scores with 18 goals and 41 points. Rounding out the team’s top five point producers are LW Calvin Thurkoff (17-14-31), C Tomas Soustal (12-19-31), D Cal Foote (3-26-29) and LW Jake Kryski (11-15-26) . . . Thurkoff will play for Switzerland at the upcoming world junior championship in Montreal and Toronto and Soustal will suit up with the Czech Republic . . . Rockets C Dillon Dube, who has accumulated one goal and 11 points in 10 games this season, has cracked the roster of Team Canada for the world juniors. Teammate and C Nick Merkley (8-13-21 in 24 games) was cut from the national squad . . . Michael Herringer is eighth among WHL netminders with a 3.03 goals-against average. He has posted a 15-8-1 record with one shutout and a .899 save percentage.
Injuries — Kelowna: RW Jordan Bortsmayer (upper body, week-to-week), D Gordie Ballhorn (lower body, 4 weeks). Red Deer: C Jeff de Wit (lower body, day-to-day), RW Reese Johnson (upper body, indefinite), LW Grayson Pawlenchuk (upper body, indefinite), D Carson Sass (upper body, day-to-day).
Special teams — Kelowna: Power play 22.1 per cent, 10th overall; penalty kill 75.3 per cent, 18th. Red Deer: Power play 18.6 per cent, 13th overall; penalty kill 76.5 per cent, 17th.