Former Powell River King and Penticton Vees goalie Michael Garteig makes a save during the annual Vancouver Canucks prospects training camp in Shawnigan Lake last year. Garteig resigned a one-year contract with the AHL Utica Comets and will be in Penticton for the Canucks Young Stars Classic. Rick Collins/Vancouver Canucks

Good start for Garteig begins at Young Stars

Former Penticton Vee Michael Garteig motivated to prove himself starting at Young Stars Classic

Michael Garteig is hoping his return to the Canucks Young Stars Classic Sept. 8 to 11 will be the kick off to a great year.

“It’s a good experience. It’s going to be good to meet the new coaching staff in Utica, work with them and the goalie coaches, make sure to make a good impression,” said Garteig, who played for the B.C. Hockey League Powell River Kings and helped the Penticton Vees win the 2012 RBC Cup.

Garteig’s first professional season was up and down with many challenges. The Prince George product started in the ECHL for six weeks with the Alaska Aces. In 22 games with the Aces, he won 11. He spent nearly three months in the American Hockey League with the Utica Comets seeing action in eight games, recording four losses and a tie. With Alaska, he played a lot.

“That was an adjustment period for me, sitting on the bench a lot more than I’m used to,” said Garteig, who signed a one-year deal with the Comets on Aug. 24. “There is a lot of valuable experience too. Just being around the pro environment and learning the ropes, the culture. It can be tough at times, but you have to believe in yourself. Just keep moving forward and try to get better everyday. When the time comes you can show yourself.”

Garteig was happy to sign the contract he did, but is disappointed to not be re-signed by Vancouver. Still, Garteig said its good to stay in the Canucks organization with their AHL affiliate.

“It’s another opportunity for me to show what I can do and hopefully have a big year here,” he said.

Garteig has been training in the eastern U.S. Following camp he will report to the Kalamazoo Wings, the ECHL affiliate of the Comets, in Michigan. Garteig said the ECHL level is lower than the AHL, but there are a lot of good players. The play is different structurally compared to the AHL.

“As a goalie you are stopping pucks,” he said. “A puck is a puck no matter who is shooting it. You’ve just got to stop it.”

After taking a break during the off-season, and recently spending a week in Oliver, Osoyoos, Kamloops, Kelowna and Vernon to play golf with friends, Garteig has focused on getting better. He worked on moving quicker, getting stronger and leaner. He has skated with goalie coaches and fine-tuned his skills.

“I’m going to make it a good year regardless of where I am,” said Garteig, who played four years of National Collegiate Athletic Association Div. 1 hockey at Quinnipiac. “I’m going to have a good year and make the best of it.”

Comets general manager Ryan Johnson said Garteig performed very well in Alaska. They wanted him to spend the whole season in the ECHL, where he would play and develop, but injuries forced the Canucks to send him to Utica. He was there at a crucial time when the team was trying to make the playoffs.

“He performed well. For him coming back in another year, it’s another opportunity for him to work Dan Cloutier and Curtis Sanford, who we have added,” said Johnson, also the Canucks’ director of player development. “For him to come back to this tournament and back to us as an organization is another opportunity for him to take another step forward.”

Tickets are available online at ValleyFirstTix.com, by phone at 1-877-763-2849 or in person at the South Okanagan Events Centre Valley First Box Office. For complete package details please visit SOEC.ca.

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