Fast friends between the pipes

For the Fort St. John Huskies rookie goalie duo, sharing the crease is an honour, not a battle

For two goalies sharing the crease, it’s a lot like siblings battling for their parents’ attention.

Squaring off to be the one guy who defends that three-foot half circle of blue paint is about as cordial as a gunfight in a Clint Eastwood western. They may not show it, but it almost always plays out with one guy quietly rooting against the other.

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“Most goalie partners almost always hate each other because they are always competing against each other,” Fort St. John Huskies rookie goalie Matt Fawcett said after his first win this season.

It’s a competitiveness that comes with the position, but this season between the pipes in Fort St. John, the biggest goalie cheerleader is the one who doesn’t start.

For the last five years, Fawcett and goalie partner Jonny Bateman have been kindred spirits in the net, calling each other best friends which started during their minor hockey days in Calgary.

“We did a lot of summer camps together. Training with goalie camps in Calgary, with those, you are with each other every single day from seven in the morning to five at night. You’re basically never apart from each other. I could say we’re best friends, that definitely helps too,” Bateman said.

While their hockey journey took them in different directions after being let go from Nanaimo of the British Columbia Hockey League earlier this summer, a few phone calls would bring them together by the end of it. Bateman was quickly convinced to make the trip north by Huskies general manager Jeremy Clothier after he was cut in Kindersley.

When Clothier needed a second man in goal, Bateman suggested Fawcett, who had just been let go from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League; the duo was reunited.

“Never really knew anything about the league, didn’t know where Fort St. John was. Best decision to come up here, I’m happy (Jeremy) contacted me and I’m happy I chose to play here,” Bateman said.

“Just from Jonny and Jeremy... said they were a good hockey team and ever since I came up here, saw that this was good hockey. Definitely not a mistake coming,” Fawcett added.

It’s been just a short four game reunion for the duo, but so far they have impressed assistant coach Todd Alexander and could quickly be making a name for themselves in the North West Junior Hockey League.

“It’s rewarding. They work really hard. We see it every day in practice, they’re out first before we go out and they’re usually the last two on the ice. They support each other really well,” Alexander said. 

“They had a history coming from Calgary together, so there’s a good friendship there. It doesn’t matter which guy is in net, they’re both doing a good job supporting the other guy and making sure he has the best game he possibly can.”

Their growing league reputation is in part due to Bateman’s 1.50 goals against average in two games this season, which also comes with a crazy .963 save percentage.

Fawcett’s numbers are higher in two games, 3.50 GAA and .892 save percentage, but that didn’t stop him from half-jokingly proclaiming he has the edge on his long-time friend.

“We’re both at the same level. Jonny’s first few games have been incredible,” Fawcett said, quickly backing down from his half serious self-proclamation as the better goalie.

The healthy competition between the two friend appears for now, to have split the crease in a way that could lead the rookies to be one of the most dynamic goalie tandems in the NWJHL.

“We’ve grown up with the same teaching styles. We can help each other out if need be,” Bateman said, before Fawcett added, “We play the exact same style, Jonny is a lot taller than me, but the way we have grown up playing, it’s the same so whenever we can bounce some ideas off each other, we know it’s something we can use, having him here is awesome.”

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