TRURO – Chris Festarini will be looked upon to play a big role for the Truro Bearcats during the final months of the Maritime Junior Hockey League season.
The former major junior goaltender and Montreal Canadiens prospect was acquired by the Bearcats on Thursday from the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
“He plays at the most important position and we didn’t feel we could pass up on him,” said Bearcats coach Shawn Evans.
Festarini, 20, has played parts of the past four-and-a-half seasons in the OHL with Niagara and the Erie Otters, posting a record of 50-44-7 with five shutouts.
Festarini left Niagara in mid-December after his ice time had diminished. The Bearcats obtained the Timmins, Ont., native by trading future considerations to the IceDogs.
“I just thought that Festarini helps us be a better hockey team,” Evans said. “Time will tell.”
In 20 games with the rebuilding IceDogs this season, Festarini had a 5-10-3 record, 4.20 goals against average and .865 save percentage.
The Canadiens invited Festarini to rookie camp last September. He was later assigned to Montreal’s AHL farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, before being returned to the IceDogs.
With Festarini’s arrival, Jordan Kennedy is the odd man out in Truro. The Bearcats acquired Kennedy last August from Miramichi, and he was expected to be the team’s No. 1 man in the crease. However, sophomore goalie Jacob Fancy has seen the bulk of the work this season, playing in 19 games with an impressive 16-3 record. In 12 games, Kennedy holds a 6-4-2 record, 3.05 goals against average and .900 save percentage.
Evans has until midnight on Friday to move Kennedy to another team or the 20-year-old from Reserve Mines, near Sydney, would become a free agent.
“That’s not the easy part of hockey,” Evans said of parting ways with Kennedy. “He’s a great teammate, but this is the best for 20 players, not for one.
“It’s not win at all costs here, it never has been, but I have the right to make decisions to help the team and that’s what I feel I have done.”
Festarini will back up Fancy on Friday in Kentville against the Valley Wildcats. Fancy is also expected to start Saturday's contest against the visiting Woodstock Slammers (Rath Eastlink Community Centre, 7 p.m.)
“Once he gets a week of practice under his belt next week, we expect him to be ready to roll,” Evans said of his new goaltender.