Steelheads fans will be thrilled this season if defenseman Joe Faust is able to unleash an encore performance of his Boise debut last year. Faust set a new Steelheads ECHL record last year with 14 goals, the most in a season by a Steelheads blue-liner since 2003, and he became the fourth different Steelheads defenseman to crack the 40-point mark in the ECHL era.
Joe obviously has no problem putting his best foot forward in a new setting, but over the summer he spent more time than usual in much more familiar territory.
“I lived at home this summer for the first time since I left high school,” said Faust, who has been all hockey since he was drafted in the summer of 2010 by the New Jersey Devils. “The last few years I went back to Wisconsin and trained there. This summer I came back and lived at home and really enjoyed it.”
Faust played his college hockey at the University of Wisconsin, an elite program that has produced loads of NHL talent, so it’s not surprising that many of his summers would be spent there in preparation. Following his best pro season, Faust was this time able to enjoy some more time with the family, fishing and golfing when he wasn’t on the ice.
Faust also experienced an aspect of the parent-child relationship that many his age encountered after their freshman year of college.
“It’s been seven or eight years since I lived at home. It’s a little different when you go out and someone is asking what you’re doing,” laughed Faust. “They don’t ask because they’re trying to pin me down, they’re just curious. It’s just a little weird when you’re walking out and have people asking what you’re doing all the time. You have to cut them some slack.”
Often enough, he was heading out to train. Faust teamed up with a former high school friend during the summer to rework his training routine.
“(My trainer) was a senior at my high school when I was a freshman and he was committed to play college hockey, but he hurt his shoulder and never made it. But he had a passion for strength training and was building this business. We worked together and he took a lot of feedback from me and other guys he trained with. We’d work on specific things or change our program, and he was really great to work with.”
Away from the ice, ironically, he geared a lot of his attention towards his skating. In addition to an increased regiment of plyometric work, Faust said he did some speed work he had never done before, such as sprints with a parachute attached to his back.
“The biggest thing I looked at was I wanted to be more explosive. It’s tough when you get to my age to make a huge jump, but in hockey a half-second quicker can make a huge difference,” said Faust. “That was something I spent a lot of time working on.”
Improved footspeed and more powerful strides can make a world of difference for a player like Faust, who last year proved how effective he could be jumping into the rush. However, after putting in the work for months, Faust still won’t know the outcome of his training for a couple of weeks.
“I feel great on the ice but it’s tough to say at this point because I haven’t been in a super competitive situation yet. I’m excited for our first preseason game to see how that pays off.”
On the ice, Faust tried to implement some of the work that he felt made the difference in 2016-17, when he put up more points than in his prior pro and college career combined.
“On the ice, handling pucks and shooting and doing things that I thought contributed to a strong offensive year, I tried to replicate those things. There are always things you can learn and try to improve.”
The Steelheads will happily welcome any improvements Faust has made, as he rejoins a defense corps the coaching staff knows well. Faust is one of four defenseman currently scheduled to return from last year’s squad. And while that makes Faust a known commodity for the Steelheads, it also makes Boise a known commodity for Faust. After adjusting as a newcomer last year, Faust is now heading back to a place he knows well and is eager to call home once again.
“The biggest thing I’m excited about away from hockey is to get out fishing more. I got into fly fishing last year and got a little taste of it,” said Faust. “So I’m excited to do some of that, but I have to say that hockey is the most exciting thing right now.”
That won’t be a problem. The fishing is more fun in mid-June, anyway.