Royals 3 Rebels 2 (SO)
Byron Fancy will agree that patience is a virtue.
The Red Deer Rebels rookie netminder made just his seventh start of the WHL season Saturday at the Centrium and was ultra-impressive while turning in a 34-save performance.
Unfortunately, the Rebels fell just short with their first-year stopper between the pipes, dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to the Victoria Royals in front of 4,404 fans, with the visitors prevailing 2-1 in the sideshow.
“I felt good tonight, I’ve been waiting to get in the lineup,” said Fancy. “I’ve been working hard in practice and just showing them (coaches) that I’m ready to be in the lineup.
“I’ve just been feeling really good in practices lately and when you feel like that it carries over to games. Right from the start, I was feeling really good tonight.”
Fancy was indeed sharp from the get-go, turning aside all 14 shots he faced in the opening period while protecting a 1-0 Red Deer lead.
Oleg Zaytsev provided the margin with his seventh goal of the season. Brandon Hagel wheeled into the Royals zone and while falling to the ice on a delayed-call trip, hooked a pass over to his Russian teammate, who out-waited netminder Griffen Outhouse and scored to the short side.
The visitors pulled even early in the second frame, Jameson Murray’s shot from the high slot appearing to change direction before settling behind Fancy.
Midway through the period, the Royals got a two-on-one short-handed tally from Kaid Oliver, who converted a nifty drop pass from Taren Fizer, and Brett Davis replied for the Rebels just 19 seconds into the third, his volley from the top of the circle redirecting off Fizer’s stick and past Outhouse.
Overtime solved nothing, with the Rebels wasting the best opportunity when Hagel rang a shot off the post.
“It was a hard fought game, both goalies were really good,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter. “We had chances on the power play and didn’t capitalize and gave up a short-handed goal.
“But overall I was certainly happy with our compete level and our play tonight as far as our overall game.”
Although he never saw the ice in a 5-3 loss Friday in Edmonton, Fancy, who was selected as the game’s first star, detected a major uptick in his teammates’ performance 24 hours later.
“We played much better tonight as a team and it was great to see the guys playing like that in front of me,” he stated. “Our work ethic was back and we had a lot more fun tonight than we have been, so that was good.”
To suggest the Rebels would have come away empty-handed Saturday — instead of snaring an all-important single point — due to Fancy’s play would not be an exaggeration.
The team’s first pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft made a sizzling glove stab on Carson Miller in the second period, slid over to make a terrific save on a one-timer by Dino Kambeitz later in the frame, and in the third denied Oliver on a short break.
“He played really well and we need that from our goalies,” said Sutter.
“Byron hadn’t played in a bit but he got in tonight and he was rock solid. He played big, he made some huge saves and he was active. He did a really good job.”
Outhouse, a seasoned 20-year-old veteran who’s recognized as one of the league’s premier rubber repellers, was also stellar. He finished with 32 saves, among them a terrific stop on Hagel from in tight in the second period, and was named second star.
Just as a change of pace, Sutter moved rookie Chase Leslie from the blueline to a centre position and wasn’t disappointed with the results.
“I was just telling the coaches I think we found a new forward,” Sutter joked. “But it’s because he’s quick and he has a good shot.
“When you use him in the middle he can be the low man in your own zone and help the defence. He had a lot of energy, he was jumping and he won his first faceoff clean.”
Sutter also started the game with five defencemen, again a new look.
“It was something new . . . a change and the kids got a chuckle out of it,” he said. “It loosened things up a bit and that’s what I was hoping for.”
Notable: Davis was selected as the game’s third star . . . Prior to the contest, Cam Hausinger was honoured as the Mitchell and Jewell Rebels player of the month for December . . . Red Deer’s next four games are on the road, including three next week — Wednesday vs. Swift Current, Friday against Brandon and Saturday at Regina . . . The Rebels’ next home game is Jan. 18 versus Lethbridge.