Sun Sep 29 09:31am EDT
When Zach Fucale wore an unpainted mask during Montreal Canadiens training camp earlier this month, it was because he was getting a new paint job for the season, not because he was trying to resemble a 1986-vintage Patrick Roy.
Hyperbolic comparison, sure, but it fits when talking about a highly touted goalie from Rosemère, Que., who faces the added pressure of being a Canadiens prospect from La Belle Province. It goes double when he has performances such as Saturday's. The Halifax Mooseheads, with a big chunk of the star power from their Memorial Cup-winning juggernaut now gone, are trying to forge a new identity from Fucale's crease outward. Saturday, in a fight-filled championship series rematch with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Fucale did a lot of work toward that end by stifling 10 shootout attempts in a row to nail down a 2-1 win. The roll call of stymied shooters included Los Angeles Kings high second-round pick Valentin Zykov.
Fucale said afterward he was "pretty zoned in." So much for any struggle to adjust back to facing his teenaged peers instead of pros.
"When you come back [to] junior, you have to start over," Fucale told the Halifax Chronicle-Herald (2:45 into video). "It's a different timing ... whatever happened this summer, I'm really happy and proud, and I'll just take that and move forward."
That adaptability, along with Fucale's assured mien in goal, is more grist for the debate over who will deserve to be Team Canada's No. 1 goalie at the world junior championship in Malmo, Sweden in three months. Recent Detroit Red Wings signing Jake Paterson, a 19-year-old with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit, was with the team as a third-stringer last year, but Fucale is the 18-year-old best poised to push.
Typically, the presumption with a team coming off a Memorial Cup triumph is that it will go through a bit of malaise. Important cogs move on and those left behind have to try to recapture that emotional peak. Fucale's performance helped Halifax, which is just .500 through six games "[grow] as a family." Halifax could run out of gas by playoff time in the spring, but it's not giving up the ghost of its championship spring easily.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (video: John Moore, Halifax Mooseheads.