Local product helps Giants defeat Ice 6-3

Goaltender Payton Lee has a bright future with the Vancouver Giants

Vancouver Giants goaltender Payton Lee listens to the national anthem before a game against the Kootenay Ice on Saturday night at Western Financial Place.

Payton Lee grew up in Cranbrook watching the Kootenay Ice, dreaming of a chance to play high-level hockey.

The young 16-year-old netminder got the opportunity to suit up and man the crease against the franchise he grew up cheering for, as the Cranbrook native rolled into Western Financial Place with the rest of the Vancouver Giants on Saturday night.

“It was a pretty neat experience for sure,” said Lee. “I haven’t been back since the summer and to come back and get a chance to play in front of a team I watched my whole life was pretty neat and extra special to get the win.”

Lee, a goaltending prospect who was picked in the second round of the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, was heavily favoured to make the Giants roster this year, however another goalie, Tyler Fuhr, threw a wrench into those plans.

The Giants expected Liam Liston, 19, to be the starter, while Lee, Fuhr (no relation to former NHL stopper Grant Fuhr) and Jackson Whistle battled for back up honours in training camp. Fuhr won, Whistle was traded to Kelowna, and Lee was sent down to play with the Richmond Sockeyes of the PIJHL.

Releasing him to the Sockeyes was more about giving him a chance to flourish and gain some confidence, according to Giants head coach Don Hay.

“I think it was the best thing for him, help him gain some confidence,” said Hay. “He was the best goaltender in Jr. B, got to play and practice. He got to practice with us and that helped him gain a lot of confidence so I think that was a really good decision.”

However, things changed when the Giants opened the season with eight losses in 10 games.

Liston and Fuhr both struggled in net, which made the decision to call Lee up to the WHL easy for Hay.

He earned his first start in a tight 3-2 home loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings on Oct. 26. Two nights later, he got his first win of the season in a 4-1 shellacking of the Victoria Royals.

The Giants sent Lee back down to the Sockeyes after that, but he was called up again, as the Giants have recently been on the road, arriving in Cranbrook in time to earn a spot in the crease against the Ice.

Hay said Lee will join the team for good this time around for the rest of the season, adding that he’ll need to make a decision regarding the immediate future of Liston and Fuhr.

“Payton’s the goalie of the future and the future might be right now for us,” said Hay. “We feel that we’re going to continue to play Payton and give him valuable development time so when we start fresh next year, he’s not going to be a rookie, he’s going to be a veteran player who’s played in competitive games.”

Lee went through the minor hockey system in Cranbrook, before moving to Kelowna to attend the Pursuit of Excellence hockey school, where he played second-year bantam and first-year midget hockey.

Even at a young age and competing in the WHL, Hay likes what he sees and knows Lee will only develop stronger as he gets more action under his belt.

“He really attacks the position as a professional,” said Hay. “He trains hard, he practices hard, he does all the right things off-ice. We think he really is going to be a good quality goaltender and we like his approach and we like his mental strength.”

Just Posted

COTR Avalanche season begins with two wins for women, two losses for men

The College of the Rockies Avalanche volleyball season opened this weekend with… Continue reading

CP Holiday Train to stop in Cranbrook

Terri Clark will be the feature performer on Wed., Dec. 11 at the CP Station in Cranbrook

RCMP search for Sparwood man wanted on numerous warrants

Twenty-nine-year-old John Garszczal is wanted by police

RCMP searching for stolen trailer and off-road vehicle

Police are investigating a report of a stolen off-road vehicle and trailer… Continue reading

Second young woman dies after rollover crash near Williams Lake

‘Someone’s going to get her heart, which is awesome, because she has the best heart in the world’

Google searches for ‘how to vote’ surge on Election Day

Interest spikes despite social media campaign by Elections Canada

Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island

It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.

B.C. mayor apologizes for removal of Queen’s portrait from council chambers

‘I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history’

Alcohol a possible factor in crash that killed 17-year-old girl near Williams Lake

A pickup truck left the road and rolled over on Highway 20 on the weekend

Rare bird spotted in Victoria draws enthusiasts from across the continent

It’s the first time a yellow-browed warbler has been reported on the mainland of North America

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

Most Read