Monument native, T-Birds alum Mantaro decides on D-I Air Force
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Keegan Mantaro is coming home.
After plying his trade as a youth with the Colorado Thunderbirds and Jr. Tigers and then making the jump to the United States Hockey League (USHL) the last three seasons, the 18-year-old Monument product will come home soon to play NCAA Division I hockey at Air Force (Atlantic Hockey).
It will be a homecoming in more ways than one for Mantaro, currently playing for the Sioux City Musketeers.
“I have attended the Air Force Hockey Camp for the past four years, allowing the coaches to understand my strengths and abilities as a player,” said Mantaro. “This built a relationship that evolved into the opportunity for me to play for the Academy. I know Air Force is the school for me because not only will it offer me a world-class education, but the chance to fulfill my goal of playing D-I hockey.”
Military life also runs in the family, Mantaro explained.
“My father (Jason) graduated from the Air Force Academy and played hockey during those four years (1988-92),” he said. “Both my grandfathers (John Mantaro, Jim Rick) were in the Navy and I currently have a sister (Elysia) in the Army.”
His youth days in Colorado were when Mantaro started to realize he had the potential to have a future in hockey.
“My Jr. Tigers Squirt coach, Bob Nolette, showed me how to be a smart defenseman,” said Mantaro. “I began playing for the Thunderbirds as a Pee Wee. During my two years playing with the 16U Thunderbirds, I was coached by Angelo Ricci and Adam Foote. They made me into the player I am today. They taught me all the little details of hockey and how to be a leader. I owe most of my success to them.”
The Musketeers atop the USHL standings, Mantaro has aspirations to hoist the Clark Cup at the end of the season. Further down the road, he has plans to serve his country.
“Ultimately, I would love to be a pilot for the Air Force,” Mantaro said.
— Matt Mackinder