Billy Clarke envisions of a life of extinguishing fires, but there’s no doubt about his job when it comes to handling the heat with the Stephenville Jets.
The 24-year-old native of Bridgewater, N.S., is the No. 1 puckstopper for the West Coast Senior Hockey League.
Clarke was a goaltender for Portage College in Alberta last winter on a scholarship, but when he got a chance to attend firefighting school at the Marine Institute campus in Stephenville this year he decided to make the move to Stephenville.
He played for the Clarenville Caribous of the Central West Senior Hockey League during the 2015-2016 season and was drafted by the Gander Flyers of the same league this season, but he didn’t want to spend his weekends travelling the highway because firefighting school placed a lot of demand on his time.
He’s happy to be able to continue playing the game while having no worries about it affecting his efforts in the classroom.
“Fire school is pretty demanding with a lot of studying throughout the week so it’s good to get out there on the ice and not worry about anything, and do what I’m used to doing,” Clarke said earlier this week.
Jets coach Stefan Young says he believes his team was fortunate to have a quality goaltender basically fall into their lap.
Clarke has been sharp facing a lot of rubber, stopped pucks with his noggin from time to time, to give the Jets a chance to win on any given night.
“He’s an amazing goaltender. He’s one of the better goalies I’ve seen play around here for a while,” Young said.
In a league where local players are getting a chance to play in front of familiar faces, coach Young has been impressed with how Clarke has been a great fit with the guys.
Clarke is having a blast with his new teammates and he finds it refreshing to be playing in a league where everybody competes for the love of the game and there has been parity among the four community-based teams.
“Everyone’s got their small towns to pick from, and anyone can beat anyone on any given night really,” he said. “So that’s the good part that I like about the league. It’s competitive within all of the teams so that’s really good.”
The Jets sit in the cellar with a 3-7-2 record, four points behind the Port aux Basques Mariners, but coach Young is quick to point out the team’s place in the standings is no reflection on the quality goaltending Clarke has provided the team.
“The games that the score didn’t look in his favour, it wasn’t because of him it was because we just weren’t prepared as a team,” Young said.
Clarke will be between the pipes for the Jets when they clash with the Deer Lake Red Wings tonight 8 p.m. at the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex in Deer Lake.