Olivier Mantha is going to Alaska — next year.
The Penticton Vees 20-year-old puckstopper has committed to the University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves for the 2014-2015 season.
Mantha came to Penticton after spending three seasons in his home province of Quebec playing at Laflèche College in Trois-Rivières. Mantha appeared in 75 games for the Dragons and was named an RSEQ league all-star in the past two seasons. The La Tuque, Que., product was second in the Quebec college hockey circuit in save-percentage this past season.
In a team statement, the Vees goaltender said he’s excited to secure a scholarship this early and looks forward to the challenges ahead.
“I’m surprised but very happy to have this happen so soon, as this is the reason I made the move to play in B.C.,” said Mantha. “My main goal now is to win as many games I can for this team and win a championship.”
What made Anchorage appealing to Mantha was the chance to make an immediate impact next fall.
“The coaching staff told me I will have an opportunity as a freshman to earn the starting job there next season and that will only help me better myself while I’m here in Penticton,” he said.
Vees general manager Fred Harbinson said the combination of Mantha’s professionalism, approach and talent caught the Seawolves’ eye.
“They need a starting goaltender for next year. He’s an older goaltender,” said Harbinson. “I think it’s a good fit for both. We’re excited for Olly.”
Harbinson added several schools have also expressed interest in goalie Hunter Miska and said he wouldn’t be surprised if the 18-year-old makes his decision soon. Harbinson also said the two likely make up the best net tandem he’s had since being in Penticton.
In other news, the Vees traded the Canadian Junior Hockey League playing rights of defenceman Brayden Park to the Surrey Eagles for future considerations on Aug. 30.
Harbinson said the decision to move Park was made at the end of camp as they needed to get down to seven defenceman.
“In our minds we had seven other guys rated ahead of him, which isn’t easy,” said Harbinson. “You talk about character and hard work and commitment, he exemplifies that.”
Harbinson had Park come into his office to discuss the situation and left it to the Lumsden, Sask., native to make a choice. He decided there were a couple of teams he had interest in going to, one of them being the Eagles. Harbinson said it’s a good move for Park.