If there”s one thing Alvaro Montoya fresh off his 17th birthday should work on before he sports the maize and blue sweater next fall, it”s controlling his emotions.
Montoya, a goaltender for the U.S. National Development Program Under-17 team, is currently serving a two-game suspension for fighting during one of Team USA”s games last week.
“He”s a competitive young man,” Team USA coach Moe Mantha said. “He competes day in and day out and wants to win badly. He takes it pretty seriously.”
If things go as planned, Montoya will fast-track through his last two years at Ann Arbor Huron High School and suit up for the Wolverines next fall.
He”ll be filling the shoes of senior netminder Josh Blackburn, who along with fellow senior Kevin O”Malley will graduate and force Michigan to have two freshman goaltenders on its roster in 2002. It will be the fourth consecutive time that a Michigan goaltender started as a freshman, as Steve Shields, Marty Turco and Blackburn all did the same.
Montoya is currently balancing a heavy work schedule with classes and two or three games per week with Team USA. The Illinois native is taking classes through the mail to make sure he finishes his requirements on time.
“It”s tough, but I”m getting there,” Montoya said. “Some nights I just have to tell my friends that I can”t go out.”
Because of his limited experience and young age, Montoya knows that there will be plenty of doubters in his first season taking the ice at Yost Ice Arena.
“Let them doubt,” Montoya said. “I just have to go prove myself and play like I play and show them what I can do.”
Montoya has been in this position before. When he played for the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League, most members of the Tornado were 19 or 20 years old, but Montoya joined when he was just 15.
“He”s tremendously talented for his age,” said Michigan defenseman Nick Martens, who played with Montoya in Texas. “He was able to compete with 18 19 and 20 year olds. You could tell in practice that he has unbelievable potential, and I”m pretty excited that he”s coming here.”
Mantha admitted that his current goaltender has some maturing to do before he”s fully ready for Division I hockey and said that Montoya will be shocked at first by the speed of shots he”ll face from 21 and 22 year olds. He has been impressed with Montoya”s preparation before games and his communication with his teammates, among other things.
“He loves to challenge the shooter and is not afraid of the shot,” Mantha said. “He loves to play the puck.”
Said Martens: “I used to have one-on-one battles with him, and he”ll do anything to keep the puck out of his net. He hates to get scored on. That”s a huge personality trait for any goalie.”