Clippers iron out crease

Goaltender Billy Faust getting into a rhythm with consecutive starts.

Nanaimo Clippers goalie Billy Faust clears a Cowichan Valley Capitals opponent away from the crease during a pre-season game earlier this month at Frank Crane Arena.

Nanaimo Clippers goalie Billy Faust clears a Cowichan Valley Capitals opponent away from the crease during a pre-season game earlier this month at Frank Crane Arena.

It’s never the goalie’s fault.

That’s the first piece of goaltending advice Billy Faust ever heard, back when he was eight years old, playing defence for the Anaheim Mission Bulldogs roller hockey team in southern California.

It’s never the goalie’s fault. That sounded pretty good to him, and so he gave the new position a try.

Twelve years later, Faust is still manning the goal crease. He’s switched to ice hockey and moved to Canada, where he’s now a member of the Nanaimo Clippers of the B.C. Hockey League. He’s bigger, older and wiser. And he’s learned that the advice he got as a kid was dead wrong.

“There’s definitely times where it’s the goalie’s fault,” he said.

And that’s OK. He and his Nanaimo Clippers have championship aspirations in 2011-12, so they’re all willing to be accountable on the ice.

Goaltending is a strength on any successful team, says coach Mike Vandekamp, and it can be a strength in Nanaimo. Right now, Faust is the go-to guy. After a solid performance in an overtime loss to start the season, he got another start the next night, and is slated to start the home opener Friday (Sept. 30), too.

“You know he’s ready to play all the time and he’s going to be sharp,” Vandekamp said.

The coach said most of all he wants consistency from the goaltending position. Ideally he doesn’t want the Clippers to be allowing anything but shots from the perimeter anyway.

That’s the defence-first style he pitched to Faust when he convinced the veteran to report to Nanaimo after a trade with the Penticton Vees.

The 20-year-old had been caught off-guard by the trade and wasn’t sold on the Clippers – he wanted to give himself the best chance to end off his junior career with a championship, and he was worried that playing for a rebuilding team might also hurt his chances at an NCAA scholarship.

“He assured me that we’re going for a championship here…” said Faust. “He said, ‘Your job’s going to be really easy out there. We’re going to make you look as good as you can.’”

The coach didn’t make promises about playing time, but told Faust he’d get his opportunities.

“He did say when it comes down to it, if I’m playing well, I’m going to be going. If I’m not playing well I don’t expect to play, but if I am on fire and I’m ready to go, then I want to play.”

Vandekamp said Faust has been a leader on the team, showing great work ethic at practice. The vet said goalies have to be leaders.

“Your team has to be able to trust you back there, and you have to be aware of everything that’s going on on the ice,” he said. “If they see you in the back end making those saves, they decide to pick it up.”

Maybe they can pick it up all the way to championship calibre. Faust can compare the Clippers with the very good Vees team he played for last year.

“We have what it takes to be a contending team,” he said. “We have guys with heart and they work as hard as they can and they go all the way to the wall, and over.”

GAME ON … The Clippers play the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Friday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. There will be a tailgate party in the parking lot before the game. For more on the home opener, please click here … The Clips then visit the Victoria Grizzlies Saturday (Oct. 1).