A local goalie is the latest hockey player to pass through the Airdrie-Drumheller pipeline, as the Drumheller Dragons junior A squad welcomes goaltender Garrett Fuller to their ranks from the CFR Chemical Bisons AAA U18 program.
“It’s a lot of years of hard work paying off,” said Fuller, who was the Bisons’ assistant captain in his final year of minor hockey. “Obviously, we didn’t have the team success in the past years, but it’s nice knowing it’s not all about that and that teams will look at your character and who you are. You can still be rewarded.”
The 18-year-old netminder is the third recent Bisons graduate to move to Drumheller to play for the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) team, following in the footsteps of Travis Bohnet and Nick De Beurs in 2019.
“For me at least, they have a history of winning and finishing top in the south division, so that was a factor,” Fuller said, adding Drumheller also reminds him of his hometown of Beiseker.
In joining the Dragons, Fuller said he is most looking forward to playing “in front of passionate fans who are there to support the team every game” and “to be competitive and have a chance to go far in playoffs.”
Fuller was a member of the Bisons for two seasons and was named the team’s MVP in his second year. With the team struggling at the bottom of the Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League (AMHL) standings in 2019-20, Fuller made a league-high 709 saves in 18 games, posting a .909 save percentage.
Dustin Taylor, head coach of the Bisons, said he felt Fuller was the best goaltender in the AMHL last season.
“If you go stats-to-stats among different goalies in the league, it doesn’t show that, but you have to think of the team Fuller had in front of him,” he said. “We had an outstanding team in terms of work ethic, but they were young and inexperienced. Every game for us was a very serious battle and he had to face a lot of rubber.
“He did so with a lot of excitement. He knew going into games that he would have to save 40 shots for us to have a chance to win, and he would do that.”
According to Kenton Levesque, the Dragons’ assistant coach, Fuller impressed the team’s scouts when they watched him play in the AMHL last season.
“His hard work is what comes to mind,” said Levesque, who previously coached Fuller when he played for the Airdrie-Cochrane Avalanche AAA U16 team. “He works continuously in the gym and on his craft, whether it’s in training sessions or even when he’s helping out kids in Airdrie – I know he coaches young goalies in Airdrie as well.”
Fuller’s first exposure to junior A hockey came in January when the Dragons called him up as an affiliate for an AJHL game against the Calgary Canucks. Playing the full 60 minutes, Fuller posted a .955 save percentage and helped his team to a 5-1 win.
He said he enjoyed the experience and looks forward to many more nights suiting up in front of Drumheller’s fans.
“It’s definitely a change of speed, but they do a good job making you feel welcome and calm,” he said.
Unfortunately, Fuller’s next outing for the Dragons will have to wait. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AJHL will only be offering a “development season” until further notice. As of Aug. 31, teams were allowed to hold practices and workouts, with players working together in established cohorts.
Fuller added his long-term goal in hockey is to continue developing and hopefully earn a scholarship from an NCAA school in the United States.