Freshman Goaltender Olivier Mantha has made a huge impact in the backfield for the UAA Hockey team this winter. Against rival UAF he saved 80 of 83 shots in two games, helping UAA sweep Fairbanks while playing in Fairbanks.
TNL: How long have you been playing goalie?
Mantha: “I’ve been playing goalie since I was six. I started playing hockey when I was five and I was a defenseman for a year. Then at the end of that year I tried goalie for fun and since then I haven’t stopped playing goalie.”
What hockey player growing up did you idolize?
“It was Patrick Roy, I was a big fan of him and I thought he was so passionate, he was a bit cocky at times but his career speaks for itself. I think he was one of the best goalies ever.”
What were your first impressions of Anchorage when you arrived?
“I love the city, I think it’s a beautiful place, there’s only a few places in the United States where you can look up and see all those big mountains, its gorgeous. I love the school too, it’s a great organization, I love my teammates and coaches. School-wise I love my teachers, they’ve been really nice to me with our schedule which is really tough when we leave for two weeks, its been a lot of fun here so far.”
What goals did you set for yourself before the season?
“My goal for the season was, first of all, get used to the pace of the game. Then my goal was to be the starting goalie by the end of the year. I didn’t expect it to happen that quick.”
Does having three goalies on the team promote competition for the starting spot in matches?
“Yeah, sure. I think it’s really good, it pushes you to bring your a-game every day, even in practice. You can have an off day, those guys are good, they all can play. So every day I think that it’s a battle to bring your a-game and show the coaches that you can play.”
Who or what do you credit for your strong presence in the net this season?
“I have to give credit to my teammates of course, they play good in front of me and make my job a lot easier. Also the coaches who can get the best of you every day and especially our goalie coach. We worked a lot this year on crease movements, we share the same philosophy for goalies, the best thing is your feet, the way you move. If you move well you can be square to the puck and it’s easier for you to make the saves. We worked a lot on quickness for feet and our recovery, being more controlled so that you don’t sprawl everywhere. I think it has helped me make second and third saves.”
What was the feeling like in the locker room last Saturday after sweeping UAF in the weekend series?
“Oh it was awesome. Especially since we were having a tough time, we lost both games on the road before Christmas and we saw that the standings were getting a little tighter. We needed some wins, especially against Fairbanks, our biggest rival – in their building. I thought it was huge for us to win the games on the road. It was awesome, the energy was nice and the guys enjoyed the victories.”
Mantha returns to the ice with the UAA hockey team to face Michigan Tech at the Sullivan Arena on February 13 & 14. Both games start at 7:07pm.