The Province

Netminder Garteig makes his mark with Penticton Vees

- — Steve Ewen

This isn’t the first Royal Bank Cup for Penticton Vees goaltender Michael Garteig. But it is his first from somewhere other than a rinkside seat.

Garteig, one of the stars of the Vees team that goes to Humboldt, Sask., this week for the five-team national Junior A tournament, watched almost every game in the 2007 event that took place in his hometown, Prince George. Included in that was the five-overtime semifinal that the Prince George Spruce Kings won 3-2 over the Camrose Kodiaks.

The Aurora Tigers beat the Spruce Kings 3-1 in the final. One-time Vancouver Canuck defenceman Evan Oberg, who played for Camrose, was named the tournament’s top blueliner, while Toronto Maple Leaf forward prospect Joe Colborne was picked the most sportsmanl­ike player for his efforts with Camrose.

“It was good calibre hockey,” said Garteig. “At 15, I thought those guys were all pretty amazing.

“I think it’s a pretty cool experience. You’ve got teams from across the country and you get to see all the different styles.”

Garteig had thought the option of taking part in that was gone for him this season. After two stellar BCHL campaigns with the Powell River Kings, he had planned to forgo this 20-year-old junior season to start his university career with the Quinnipiac Bobcats, an NCAA team from Hamden, Connecticu­t.

In the summer, though, both Garteig and the coaches at Quinnipiac agreed that he could use one more year in the BCHL. The Kings had already committed their goaltendin­g gig to Sean Maguire, 19, so Powell River agreed to deal Garteig and asked him for a list of teams that he preferred. Among the teams he had checked off were the Vees and the Humboldt Broncos, the Saskatchew­an junior side that has the Royal Bank host berth. Eventually in what amounted to a three-way deal with the Victoria Grizzlies, Garteig ended up in Penticton. “It was a weird summer,” he said. It was largely a magnificen­t season. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Garteig was key to the Vees’ record 42-game win streak, as he had a 41-4-0 record, a 1.93 goals against average and a .927 save percentage by late February. That’s when, though he went down with a lower body injury — “I still don’t think I’m allowed to tell you what it was,” Garteig said — which shelved him until April 21, for Game 2 of the Doyle Cup, the series between the B.C. and Alberta champions that decides a Royal Bank berth.

Garteig pitched a 43-save 1-0 shutout over the Brooks Bandits, and Penticton went on to win the series in five games.

“I don’t know if people thought I was practicing all along, but I really couldn’t skate for a long time and I had only been going for about a week,” said Garteig. “I was really rusty when I first came back, but I started to get it back. When it came to the game, I’ve never been more focused.”

The tournament opens Saturday, with Penticton taking on the Soo Thunderbir­ds of the Northern Ontario league. Besides Humboldt, the tournament also features the Woodstock Slammers of the Maritime league and the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba league.

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