Owen Sound draft pick Carter George will gain valuable experience in St. Marys this season
By Pat Payton
The first thing that jumps out when you talk to Matteo Lalama is how composed he is.
And that’s the focused mindset the former Ontario Hockey League goaltender takes to the ice every game.
St. Marys Lincolns’ biggest prize this summer was the acquisition of Lalama, 20, who was a member of the OHL’s Barrie Colts the past two seasons. He suited up for the Collingwood Colts’ OJHL squad as a 17-year-old prior to that.
“I’m super excited to play in St. Marys,” Lalama told the Independent in a recent interview. “I’ve heard a lot of good things from guys like Eric Lalonde who played on the team last year. A couple of my other friends I played Junior ‘A’ with in Collingwood also came down to play in St. Marys. They all told me the community is great, the rink is great, and there’s always a lot of fans in the building.”
The St. Catharines native is a first-year student at Western University in London. He talked to both the Lincs and rival London Nationals this summer, and chose St. Marys. “Matteo’s a pretty significant addition to our team,” says Greg Smale, Lincolns’ Director of Hockey Operations/GM. “It was something that was in the works for seven weeks. We’re very excited to have him.”
In his short time with the Lincolns, Lalama sees a strong team emerging.
“I think we’re going to go on a good run for sure, and I feel we have the potential to do it,” he said. “We’ve only been together for a few weeks, and it’s just a matter of getting the chemistry going. We have some big pieces in place and good depth on this team.”
Lalama, who is 6 ft., 1 inch and 180 lbs., appeared in 32 games for Barrie last season – posting an 11-13-4 won-loss-tied record, with a 3.70 goals-against average and one shutout.
‘Super energetic’ netminder
“I’m a super energetic goalie,” Lalama replied when asked to describe his on-ice style. “I think I’m like a Marc-Andre Fleury (currently with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild). “I’m athletic and I can get around the net pretty quickly. I like to use my speed to my advantage.”
What did he learn playing Major Jr. ‘A’ hockey in Barrie that he can bring to the Lincs and their younger players?
“I think the biggest thing I learned in Barrie is to keep your game consistent and adapt to the pressure of playing in front of big crowds and in big moments. You have to keep level-headed and keep your game consistent . . . whether it’s Game 1 or Game 7 of a playoff series. I think that’s the No. 1 thing I learned playing at that higher level of hockey.”
Third-round pick of the OHL Attack
Lincolns have also signed 16-year-old rookie netminder Carter George. The Thunder Bay resident was a third-round draft pick of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack this year. George attended the U17 Canada camp in Calgary this summer.
“When I talked to five OHL teams, they had him ranked No. 1 or 2 in the (Major Jr. ‘A’) draft,” GM Smale noted. “He ended up being the second goalie drafted overall.”
George is listed at 5 ft., 11 inches and 170 lbs. Last season with the U16 Thunder Bay Kings ‘AAA’ team, he had a 7-14-3 record with a 3.42 G.A.A. in 24 games.
Head coach impressed with pair
Lalama and George have certainly impressed head coach Jeff Bradley in their relatively short time in St. Marys.
“Matteo, skill-wise, is an outstanding goaltender,” Bradley said during the pre-season. “To bring in a player who has played at that (OHL) level is a great example to have in our dressing room. In order to play in the OHL, you not only have to have skill but also desire, a work ethic and discipline. To be able to bring in a person of that character is a huge benefit to our organization.
“To me, Matteo has the capabilities to be one of the best players on our team and also provide a leadership role. The kid is the total package, so we’re extremely thrilled to have him as part of our group.”
George, meanwhile, will get valuable Junior experience in St. Marys this season, the coach says.
“I didn’t know Carter before we committed to him,” Bradley said. “But goalie coaches who I talked to, everyone spoke glowingly about him. We know getting a 16-year-old goaltender that there’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve. We know that we’re going to have to be patient with him as the pace of the game is going to be a little higher in Junior than it is at Minor Midget.
“But the thing that will shorten that learning curve is competitiveness. You can tell that Carter is extremely athletic and competitive. He reads the game extremely well, and he’s confident and composed. We’re obviously very happy with both of our goaltenders.”
–Lalama is studying media in the MIT program at Western. He hopes to be accepted into the Ivey business program by his third year.
Lalama also has his sights on joining the Mustangs varsity hockey team full-time next season.
–George got credit for a couple of pre-season wins while at Owen Sound’s OHL training camp.
“Carter is a very athletic and a hard-working goalie,” GM Dale DeGray said on the Attack website.