Phoenix’s Fitzpatrick aims for the next level
It is often said in hockey, the first ingredient to building a competitive team is a quality goaltender. If the Sherbrooke Phoenix has had tough times with young goalies in the last few years – namely Jack Flinn and Gabriel Parent – the youngest QMJHL franchise can finally say that they found their man in Evan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick, a six-foot-four, 16 year-old native of St. John’s, N.L., shows encouraging signs in his first season in the QMJHL. With an 8-5-0-2 record, the Phoenix rookie is pleased with the results so far and has consistently been improving, forcing head coach Judes Vallée to give him more starts. Still, he does not intend to stop there.
“I’m satisfied with what I’ve accomplished in the first months of the season, but it’s in the past and I’m not going to be happy with just that,” said Fitzpatrick. “When I step on the ice now, all I want is to win. Defeat is not acceptable, and I’m only happy with the two points. I want to continue to get better with every game to get more and more ice time.”
For him to obtain more starts, the playing time of veteran Alex Bureau would be reduced. However, this is not a source of conflict between the two goalies.
“Alex and I have a great relationship. He is very easy to talk to and we like each other. The competition between us is healthy and we like to push each other during practice. Off the ice, we’re also good friends. We simply prefer not to see the other as a rival, but as a teammate who also wants to take our team far and help it reach its full potential.”
Fitpatrick’s role-model is Carey Price. In addition to sharing certain traits such as size and style, he likes many aspects of his game and uses him as inspiration to build his own game.
“I love the style of Carey Price. He is very calm in front of his net and this is something I admire. Nothing seems too big or too small for him. He is always in control and doesn’t get distracted by anything. It seems like it works out when you see the honors he won, including Olympic gold and the World Juniors,” he said.
Having grown thousands of miles from his new home, the Newfoundlander discovered Sherbrooke and learned to appreciate the city, despite the challenges that were required when leaving the family home. He is also very happy in his new family and appreciates all his billet parents do for him. His adoptive parents are very warm and take care of him as if he were family.
“I love Sherbrooke! It’s a little colder and there are a little more hills than back home, but I can live with that. I found places that I like, such as downtown and King Street especially at night. I also have an amazing billet family that I love and which helped me to adapt myself at first, when I came here and left my friends and family behind, which was quite difficult. One of my billet brothers, Alex D’Orio, is also a goalie and plays for the Magog Cantonniers at the Midget AAA level, so we get along well naturally. The youngest is twelve years old and I like to bully him for fun. As for my billet parents, they treat me like one of their own children. They call or text me and ask for news every day when I’m on the road. They also respect my privacy when sometimes I want to be alone after a difficult day.”
Off the ice, Fitzpatrick hangs out with Chase Harwell a lot. Since both go to the same school, a great chemistry soon developped between them.
“I spend a lot of time with Chase. After school, we like to spend time together, either by going out to eat, going to the mall, or hanging out with other friends. We like to make fun of each other and it’s a healthy relationship,” he laughs.
Since arriving in Sherbrooke, Evan has lived several memorable moments, both on and off the ice. When asked to pick the few best, a smile appears on his face.
“On the ice, the two best times are probably my first win against the Drakkar and my first shutout against the Voltigeurs. I remember that I was particularly proud after these two games. Off the ice, meeting Dustin Tokarski and especially Carey Price after a Canadiens practice was definitely a big highlight of my season. I also have very good memories with my teammates and I made good friends with whom I intend to keep long-term contact,” he recalls.
There are about twenty games left for each team before the start of the playoffs. While the Phoenix aims to catch the Armada and maybe win the first division title in its history, Fitzpatrick has very specific objectives by the end of the regular season.
“I want to improve my record before the end of the regular season and get the start in the playoffs. For this, I have to deliver and demonstrate consistency. It also requires that I continue to work hard and always keep these goals in mind, and I will not be satisfied until I have reached them.”