At first glance nothing seems unusual about the notion that two Wheat King-drafted netminders were at Pacific Coliseum on Wednesday night when Brandon visited the Vancouver Giants for a Western Hockey League game. The odd part is that both play for Vancouver.
The Giants have entrusted their goaltending duties this season to a pair of products from the Wheat Kings’ system in 19-year-old veteran Liam Liston and 17-year-old rookie Tyler Fuhr.
In all, three of Brandon’s bantam draft picks are occupying WHL creases this season, none of them with the Wheat Kings. Brandon starter Corbin Boes was originally drafted by Portland, later released by the Winterhawks and listed by the Wheat Kings, while backup Curtis Honey was an undrafted, listed player.
The third member of the Brandon alumni is Lethbridge Hurricane Ty Rimmer, 20, who faced the Wheat Kings earlier on this trip. Just in case you’re not confused yet, it was Rimmer’s arrival in Lethbridge after a standout season with the Tri-City Americans that paved the way for Liston to be traded from the Hurricanes to the Giants during the off-season.
"It’s kind of funny actually," said Liston, a 2008 third-round bantam draft pick who played with the Wheat Kings as a rookie in 2010-11 before being traded to the Hurricanes early last season. "Obviously, (the Wheat Kings) do a pretty good job of developing players at all positions and there’s not too many places you can go now without seeing your old buddies and it’s good that way. It brings the league a little closer and it’s nice to see guys you played with in the past."
While Liston has an established history with the Wheat Kings, Fuhr’s connection to the club is more tenuous. He was chosen by Brandon in the fourth round of the 2010 bantam draft and, although he came to training camps in the Wheat City, he never saw any game action with the club. With a glut of goaltending prospects, the Wheat Kings dropped Fuhr from their protected list during the off-season and the free agent answered the Giants’ invitation, surprising onlookers by playing his way onto the team.
Fuhr is from Sherwood Park, Alta., while Liston hails from nearby St. Albert, and although they went to the same goaltending school, Fuhr said they didn’t really know each other before becoming teammates in Vancouver.
"(Liston) was always that guy that was the instructor and the kid that we always looked up to because of how good he was and where he was playing," Fuhr said. "I knew who he was. We didn’t really talk or anything, but I had a lot of respect for him."
In addition to sharing a common background, Liston and Fuhr have had the misfortune of sharing a large dose of criticism’s for Vancouver’s 2-8-0-0 record going into Wednesday’s game, which was still underway as of press time. Fuhr had a 3.37 goals-against average and an .846 save percentage, while Liston had a 4.68 GAA and an .802 pct. In fact, in one final twist to the plot, neither got the start against Brandon, with the club instead turning to 16-year-old call-up Payton Lee.
Liston isn’t ready to give up his optimism, however.
"I liken it to my 17-year-old year in Brandon where we started off actually really similar and we all know how that year ended (with the Wheat Kings rallying down the stretch to make the playoffs)," he said. "So I think that luckily enough I can bring some of that experience here and help the guys understand that as important as two points are every night right now, we still have to focus on the process as much as the result and things are going to end up taking care of themselves, just like the second half of that year."
The Wheat Kings entered Wednesday’s game with a 6-5-2-0 record after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Victoria Royals late Tuesday night. Alex Gogolev scored twice, including the winner on a power play 1:58 into overtime, while Ben Walker also had two goals for the Royals. Alessio Bertaggia, on a penalty shot, Eric Roy and Tim McGauley replied for the Wheat Kings, who blew a 2-0 second-period lead.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 25, 2012