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Pursuit: Mateo Beites keeps his eyes on the prize

The 16-year-old goaltender who’s suiting up for U16 AAA Barrie Colts of the OMHA this is motivated to grow his game, particularly when it comes to mental toughness
Talented young goaltender Mateo Beites of Sudbury is suiting up for the U16 AAA Barrie Colts this season.

Local goaltending prospect Mateo Beites had already began to emphasize the importance of training his mental toughness as the time of his OHL draft year drew nearer a few years ago.

Losing his father, Miguel, this past summer at the heartbreakingly young age of 40 after a three-year battle with cancer only served to strengthen the resolve of the 15-year-old. He is set to don jersey No. 71 this year in net for the Barrie U16 AAA Colts, a tribute to his dad’s time as a member of the powerhouse Rayside-Balfour Canadians teams of some two decades ago.

“For me, 75 per cent of my game is mental,” said Mateo. Attending Grade 10 at ESC Nouvelle-Alliance in Barrie, his team is ranked second in the province as we begin to near the midway point of the season. “When I first started training, it was just regular (physical) workouts. When I got older, I realized that I also had to get my mental game down.

“It’s a key component for a goaltender.”

A 6-0 netminder who moves well, Beites is among those with Sudbury connections who are looked at as solid OHL draft selections, joined by the likes of Manitoulin forward Kohyn Eshkawkogan (North York Rangers) and possibly defencemen Ryker Young (Barrie Colts) and Dylan Rousselle (Grey-Bruce Highlanders), as well as a player or two perhaps off the roster of the Sudbury U16 AAA Wolves (based on discussions with a handful of local OHL scouts).

“Mental training is different for everyone; everyone has their own thing that they try and do,” said Mateo. “I know goalies that do different things than I do for their mental game. For me, it’s really about staying focused, not letting little things distract me, working on that.”

It’s been an interesting journey for the eldest of three very athletic children in the family, one of those goalies who did not immediately don the pads upon learning to skate. 

“We moved to Azilda when I was seven or eight years old,” Mateo said. “I don’t even know why I asked to be a goalie, but I’ve loved it ever since.” 

By the time he was in Grade 6, the youngster towered over most of his teammates, reaching a height of 5-10 to 5-11 while not yet a teenager. 

“I wasn’t very mobile,” Mateo laughed. “I was more of a blocking goalie.”

Not yet fully committed, at that time, to pursuing hockey at a truly elite level, the insightful young man found the support that he needed very close by, as he and so many others navigated their way through a global pandemic at what would normally be very important stages of their development as young athletes.

“I found it very challenging, but my dad was always there to help me,” he said. “He would find me ice somewhere or make sure I was doing something to train while everything was still closed.”

Mateo would spend the 2022-2023 season as an underager with the Sudbury U16 AAA Wolves, the team sporting a record of 11-16-0-1 in Great North Midget League play as their goalies faced a fairly steady stream of rubber in most games, not a bad thing at all for a young puckstopper looking to improve.

“Last year, I was getting 40, 45 shots a game, so I have that side of the mental game, always having to be ready with that many shots,” Mateo said. “Now I come to this team, a very good team, and I’m getting maybe 10-15 shots in a regular game. That’s a whole other mental challenge, staying ready for a shot after not seeing a puck for two or three minutes.”

Not to mention the fact that the long-time SMHA product is also acclimatizing himself to a completely new set of faces as part of the Barrie defense corps. 

“That didn’t take very long; the defense on my team are very, very smart,” he said. “They know what they’re doing. It took a little bit of practice, but we got that down.

“Communication is key and now we’re rolling, so that’s a good thing.”

Rolling they are, the Colts sport an overall record of 30-3-0 and topping the Ontario Minor Hockey Association East Division standings with an unblemished mark of 13-0-0, having surrendered just 14 goals against in their 13 games to date.

Clearly, Mateo has a very solid goaltending skill-set to accentuate all of his work on the mental part of the game. 

“I like my calmness and my quickness and my ability to read plays,” he said. “If you can stay calm and be fast at the same time, quick and mobile, it makes for a perfect goalie.”

And as for the stress that comes with being watched non-stop by scouts representing all 20 OHL teams, well, he sounds more than ready for that.

“I’ve worked on that a lot in the past few years, playing under pressure with people watching,” he said. “At this point, when I go on the ice, I see nothing but the puck. I don’t look at anything else. If a puck goes in, I shake it off and keep going, because that’s all I can do.” 

Words to live by, both in life, and in net.

Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.


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