BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - With 556 (.916) saves so far this season and the Gov. Livingston record holder with 2,420 career saves, senior goalie Matt Altomare is this week's TAP Highlander Athlete of the Week.
Altomare has helped lead Gov. Livingston hockey to the State Tournament for the first time since 2009 with impressive performances in both County Cup games -- recording 30 saves in the 3-2 quarterfinal victory against rival Scotch Plains-Fanwood to advance the Highlanders to the semifinal round to face the number 1 seed Cranford team.
While Altomare’s number 1 goal for the season was to win the County Cup, he can be proud of his standout performance recording 33 saves in Wednesday night’s 4-1 loss to the tough Cougar team.
Through dedication, training and performance, Altomare has not only been recognized by his coaches and school, but he recently has been recognized for the second year in a row by the County Coaches Association being named to the First Team All County.
“Alto” picked up hockey at eight years old -- starting with roller and then switching over to ice hockey. He fell into the goalie position when his team needed a goalie and he found the position suited him. “I decided to step up to the position and found out I was a lot better at goalie than forward,” said Altomare.
Since middle school, Altomare had hoped that GL would be a team that could compete at the level of Summit, Cranford and Westfield. “It’s such a great feeling to know that we can compete with them and have an opportunity to beat these teams,” he said.
“Alto has been a difference maker from day one,” said GL head coach Matt Anderson. “A very talented and positionally sound goalie capable of making saves that most other kids his age couldn't dream of making.”
Altomare, along with three fellow senior teammates - Ryan Nieves, Matt Koutsaftes and Thomas Sousa, have experienced the transformation of a program that could barely man a bench to a team that has qualified for the States and is considered a competitive threat.
“Now, being on a team that made the State playoffs and advanced to the semifinals of the County Tournament, it makes me appreciate all the hard work that we put into our program and realize that you should never lose hope,” said Altomare.
Anderson has seen Alto develop as a player over his three years as head coach. “For me, the most important development I've seen has been his ability to bounce back after a goal and continue to battle for his team,” said Anderson.
“Three years ago he got stuck in the mindset that if he gave up a goal or two, we would lose,” said Anderson. “He felt like he always had to be perfect, and once that first goal went in, sometimes, I could see him playing a little differently. He would battle and battle through 60-70 shots games, just trying his best to make as many saves as he could, but often times still knowing we were going to lose anyway.”
“This season, things have changed dramatically. He isn't battling for saves anymore, he is battling for wins. It's impossible to be perfect all the time,” Anderson said. “Hockey is a tricky game - there are defensive breakdowns and mental errors, not to mention lucky bounces. Nobody is going to save every shot that comes at their net.”
Anderson can count on Altomare to make key saves at key moments of games. “The great goalies learn how to make the saves that matter most when their teams need them to. We've won games 1-0 and 2-0 this year, but we've also won games 5-3, and he played great in all of them.”
“It's little more about quality than quantity these days, but he is still the rock in net he has always been,” said Anderson.
Below are comments from Altomare regarding his past, present and future:
What does it mean to you seeing the progression of GL Hockey from freshman year to now -- lack of bench to now GL can man a JV and Varsity team?
Altomare: I'm so grateful to be a part of the GL hockey's progression. I went from being on a team that only won 4 games or barely having enough skaters to play to now being on a team that made the state playoffs and are now advancing to the semi finals of the County Tournament. It's such a great feeling to know that we can compete with them and have an opportunity to beat these teams to win the Union County Cup.
What is your favorite hockey moment at GL?
Altomare: My favorite hockey moment at GL is definitely winning my senior night game. The quarterfinal Union County Cup 3-2 victory against Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
What message do you want to leave the underclassmen and the pipeline skaters about the GL Hockey Program?
Altomare: For the underclassmen and upcoming GL skaters I want to leave with them knowing that GL is a competitive team now. If they put everything they have into winning and training, and truly believe in themselves, GL hockey can still be a team that can compete with Summit and Cranford.
Do you plan to play in college?
Altomare: I am definitely playing hockey in college. If I get accepted into NJIT, which is my top choice, I have a guaranteed spot on their team. I am also waiting on other schools that have hockey programs.
What do you plan to study?
Altomare: I plan to study Computer Science in college.