MALMO, SWEDEN – While sitting in the stands at the Malmo Isstadion on Boxing Day serving the second game of a four-game suspension, Griffin Reinhart was surprised to hear the voice of Zach Fucale. Team Canada's backup goalie at the time was on the bench and, per usual, running his mouth.
What was he saying?
"I don't even know," said Reinhart, the big Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman, "just kind of gibberish."
"Maybe he just didn't understand me," said Fucale with a grin.
The Halifax Mooseheads goalie talks a good game. Literally.
"I like to just keep a little play-by-play of the game by myself," said the 18-year-old Montreal Canadiens prospect. "I talk a lot and encourage everyone as well."
He's been doing it so long he can't remember when he started. It may seem strange, but it seems to be working. Fucale's trophy case already includes a Memorial Cup championship won in May and an Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament title in 2012. In short tournaments like those, being vocal goes a long way in terms of helping defencemen adjust to playing in front of a new goalie as well as with a new partner.
"We don't play with each other all year long so it's important we talk a lot and communicate as much as we can," Fucale notes. "There's not a detail you can really miss in this type of tournament so if we talk a lot we'll be on the same page."
Fucale started the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship as Jake Paterson's understudy, but parlayed a steady 19-save performance against Slovakia on Monday into another start the next night against the Americans. With first place on the line, Fucale held the fort during another slow start by his teammates, turning aside all 13 first-period shots faced. He stoned Connor Carrick on a breakaway late in the third to preserve what ended up as a 3-2 victory. During the third period and also post-game the thousands of fans in attendance chanted Fucale's name.
When his teammates and even head coach Brent Sutter talk about Fucale the word "swagger" comes up quite a bit.
"He's always cocky," said forward Charles Hudon. "Not cocky like he wants to show-up everyone, but cocky for himself. I played with him in peewee and bantam (in Boisbriand, Que.) and he had the same swagger."
"He's all about confidence and that's what you need," said Val-d'Or forward Anthony Mantha, who is tied for the tournament lead with 10 points.
Goalies will often be in their own world and keep to themselves in the dressing room. Fucale, though, bucks the trend.
"He's a confident guy and a loud guy," said Team Canada captain Scott Laughton. "I've never seen a goalie so loud in the room. He's been very good for us staying positive when he wasn't playing. In the room, he's one of the more vocal guys. I've never seen that before from a goalie. Usually they're pretty quiet, but it's just like he's one of the guys."
"Around the room, you see a lot of goalies are pretty weird and they have certain routines," said forward Connor McDavid, "You can't talk to them [at certain times], but, honestly, Zach's really relaxed and he does have that swagger."
Fucale, for his part, wasn't sure how to respond when asked if he had a lot of swagger.
"I don't know," he said. "I try to just stay low key and do my job. Maybe I talk a lot in the room, but I don't know about that."
What he does know is that the win over the United States won't mean anything unless his team plays well in the knockout rounds starting on Thursday against Switzerland.
"The round robin doesn't really count," said Fucale. "It's Game 7 now."