TRURO – It may have been an intimidating situation for some.
Jacob Fancy, the Truro Bearcats 17-year-old rookie goaltender, was told the crease was all his back in early Feburary when starter Shayne Campbell went down for two weeks with whiplash.
Fancy had gotten his share of starts through the season, but now, in the late stages of the schedule, the Bearcats were in the thick of a battle for first place in the Eastlink Division with both the Yarmouth Mariners and Amherst Ramblers.
While the opposition was licking its chops, Fancy had no intentions of letting his team down.
“I knew I just had to do my best, play simple and play my game,” Fancy said.
The Lower Sackville native went to work, posting a 4-0-0-1 record down the stretch to help his club capture the division title at 37-9-0-5 and guarantee itself home-ice advantage throughout the MHL postseason.
The performance, which saw him stop 139 of the 148 shots he faced, earned him the MHL’s rookie of the month award for February, something the five-foot-11, 180-pounder said was unexpected in spite of his play.
“I was really surprised when I found out,” he said. “It’s an honour to get something like that in this league and it’s an awesome feeling. I’m really happy.”
Fancy will be in the net tonight at RECC as the Bearcats finish the regular season at 7 p.m. against the Woodstock Slammers. He holds an 11-2-2 record, .914 save percentage and 2.21 goals-against average.
Although he’s new to the junior level, playing under pressure is something Fancy knows well. A major midget league all-star who led the Halifax Titans to the Telus Cup national championship tournament in 2011, Fancy was Nova Scotia’s netminder at the 2011 Canada Games in Halifax and also patrolled the crease for Team Atlantic at last year’s World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Windsor, Ont., posting a 2.34 GAA and .935 save percentage in three appearances.
“I really learned a lot about playing in front of a big crowd,” he said. “You don’t get used to it, but you learn how to deal with the pressure of playing in a big-game situation.”
Nevertheless, Fancy said he still gets nervous before every game.
“But it’s all about how you handle yourself,” he said. “You just go out and focus on stopping the puck and if you don’t, don’t let it bother you. You just refocus and make the next save.”
Bearcats head coach and general manager Shawn Evans said that approach was evident as he watched Fancy at last year’s Atlantic midget championship in St. John’s, NL. It was a big reason why Evans selected him in the first round last June. Fancy takes a leadership role on the ice and is vocal with his defence, giving off a confident air in the net. A confident puck-stopper is a huge boost to his teammates, allowing them to focus on the task at hand without worrying about what’s happening behind them.
“We came out on top of the standings and without him, that might not have occurred,” Evans said.
Campbell, a 20-year-old who has four years of major junior experience with the Ottawa 67s and Sarnia Sting, has been the perfect mentor for Fancy, who has leaned on the veteran for advice as he adjusts to the junior level.
“He’s been awesome to me,” Fancy said. “I can’t thank him enough. It’s been great to just watch him, how he plays and handles himself. No matter what happens, he’s always positive before and after every game.”
Campbell said with someone like Fancy in the ranks, he feels the Bearcats are in good shape in the crease for years to come.
“Next year it’s going to be his ship,” he said. “I think he’s going to run with it. He works hard and he’s very focused on what he wants to do and I think he’s going to be a star in this league.”