Olivier Mantha, the reliable and dedicated Seawolves goaltender, will not be returning next year.
Mantha served as the goalie for the past four years, contributing to the majority of successes that the Seawolves had seen. Even in his freshman year, Mantha served as goalie for almost the entire season, in a total of 29 games.
Over the course of his four years, Mantha accumulated countless records, awards and praises. Most recently, a Western Collegiate Hockey Association goalie of the week award, in addition to his already claimed Dresser Cup Award, WCHA All-Academic Team, Craig Homan Most Valuable Player, Leon Thompson Fan Favorite and countless others.
“Obviously for us, the most challenging thing was not having as much success as we would have wanted and sometimes it was hard to keep a good attitude and stay motivated, but at the same time, it was a good learning experience that will help me in the future,” Mantha said.
Mantha enjoyed many components of his collegiate career despite the loses his team accumulated.
“I would say the best aspects [of collegiate hockey] are the friendships you make and the people you meet, but also the game in general,” Mantha said. “Playing college hockey is a lot of fun.”
Mantha signed a one-year contract with the Syracuse Crunch, an American Hockey League team, and has been loaned to the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL.
As Mantha continues his career, it will be up to freshman Brody Claeys to take over the responsibilities at the net.
“Brody definitely improved a lot this year and showed that he’s good enough to play in this league,” Mantha said, “I would tell him to work hard, but he already works so hard.”
Claeys joined the UAA hockey team in the fall of 2017. He spent the last season primarily observing the remainder of Mantha’s season, but found ice time in a few games, most recently against Bowling Green on Feb. 15.
The game provided Claeys a glimpse into what his future seasons may look like at UAA.
“I want to continue providing our young team with [the qualities Mantha has shown] in the net, I want to give us a chance to win every night,” Claeys said.
Claeys played the entire game as goaltender, ending the night with 25 saves. Although he didn’t see much time on the ice this season, he came in with an impressive 0.908 save percentage from playing in the Manitoba Junior Hockey league the year prior.
Claeys’ 25 saves weren’t anything that Mantha wouldn’t have done himself. Of the 31 games that Mantha played in during the 2017-18 season, he made a total of 946 saves, averaging 30.5 per game with an overall .903 save percentage for the season.
Despite that, the Seawolves ended their season with a 4-26 win-loss ratio, a component of the season that Claeys hopes to help alter next year.
“We were a young team this year so the experience will definitely help [in the future], but I don’t think that we were far off,” Claeys said. “We need a killer instinct and an attitude that refuses to lose. We had lots of close games, and that attitude change could definitely [have made a difference].”
His season of observing Mantha has taught him a lot of valuable lessons.
“I learned a lot this year from working with him… I learned the level of competitiveness and consistency [that is needed] every night to be successful,” Claeys said.
Since the hockey season is over for the year, the team will continue their off-season training until they pick back up in fall 2018. In addition to the departure of Mantha and six other senior players, head coach Matt Thomas’ contract was not renewed, and he was released from his position. A nationwide search has begun for a replacement hockey coach for next season.