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College goalie turns backup for Canucks

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- Roberto Luongo was a surprise starter for the Vancouver Canucks against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday night.

But Luongo starting wasn't as big a surprise as who backed him up.

With projected starter Cory Schneider ill, the Canucks signed University of Calgary Dinos goaltender Dustin Butler to serve as Luongo's partner. Butler, who practiced with the Flames during the work stoppage, never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would suit up against Calgary.

"Our coaches ran lots of skates for the Flames guys and the other pro guys in the area," Butler said. "I got out five, maybe 10 times out with them. They only had one pro goalie there. It was pretty neat.

"I definitely didn't expect anything like that to happen."

But Butler didn't take the call as a practical joke when his phone rang around noon.

"I was in the same situation a couple years ago but couldn't go because I was hurt at the time," he said. "I know it happens the odd time with farm teams being so far away."

Instead, the prank came in warm-ups.

Sent out on the ice first, Vancouver stopped in the tunnel to watch their new teammate take a spin around the Canucks' zone by his lonesome.

"I didn't know that was the plan," Butler said. "I [saw] Calgary going and they made me go first and I thought that was nice of them -- and then I looked back and there was nobody there. I was kind of puzzled."

The 6-foot-2 goaltender came a lot closer than a spin around the ice in warm-ups to getting into the game.

With a 4-1 lead in the dying minute of the game, players on the Vancouver bench were lobbying coach Alain Vigneault to put the 25-year-old between the pipes to close out the game.

"I was feeling a lot of pressure from my bench because everybody was after me to put him in," Vigneault said. "I think it says a lot about the group. They wanted the young man to get a little taste of the NHL but we didn't get a whistle and I'm not sure if we would have [gotten] one what I would've done, to tell the truth."

Butler isn't fretting about not getting to play.

"After they scored [the 4-1 goal], they all started yelling at the coach to put me in, but it was all right by me to just sit and watch," he said.

Butler has been watching hockey since late February, when his Dinos were bounced from the Canada West semifinal by the University of Alberta. Butler wrapped up his five-year varsity career with the Dinos by posting a 9-7-0 record with a 2.44 goals against average and .903 save percentage.

He leaves with a school record for lowest goals-against average in a season -- 2.12 set in 2010-11.

Prior to attending the U of C, Butler spent five seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Portland Winterhawks, Kamloops Blazers and Prince Albert Raiders.

Wednesday's game allowed him to cross paths with a former junior mate.

"It was nice to come in somewhere where I knew somebody," Butler said. "I played with Jannik [Hansen] for a year down in Portland back in junior many years ago now. It was nice to see a familiar face.

"He's a pretty mellow, easy going guy so it was a pretty nice adjustment just to come in and see a familiar face."

The Canucks might've felt like Butler himself was a familiar face, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the ill Schneider.

"I think there was a few comments going on about another redhead goalie coming in," Butler joked.

Which, to no surprise, made him feel like part of the team.

"The guys here treated me really well, made me feel a part of things," Butler said. "It was definitely a lot of fun."

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