Motte Hopeful of Leading Ferris Again
by Taylor Lewis/CHN Reporter
At the beginning of this season, fresh off a national championship game appearance last April, Bob Daniels did not hesitate in voicing his concerns.
With four of his eight defensemen in their first year in Big Rapids, the Ferris State coach acknowledged that “defense and goaltending” were “where the question marks arise.” But the play of C.J. Motte, the Bulldogs’ goaltender who served as an understudy last year as a freshman, has allowed the young blueliners to develop.
Says Daniels, “It allowed us to get our younger defenseman experience in game action while we still tasted some levels of success. And most of that’s due to C.J. and his performance.”
After losing last year’s graduating senior netminder Taylor Nelson, who helped carry the team to the Frozen Four, Motte was expected to take the reins in net. The Michigan native says last year’s experience behind Nelson was paramount in the growth of his confidence.
“When I didn’t get the chance to play, [I was] just sitting back and watching how Taylor prepared his games,” said Motte, whose save percentage of .927 this season is comparable to Nelson’s .924 last year. “Just watching how the game was played really helped me mature.”
That mental aspect was Daniels’ main concern coming into the season: whether or not the sophomore would have the capability to play consistently over a college schedule. After a decent 2-2-2 October record, Motte proved he could handle the pressure with four wins of his six games in November. He has now helped backstop the Bulldogs to a top-four position in the current CCHA standings, with just four games remaining in the regular season.
Though Ferris State‘s offense has remained a force for the team – they rank third in the CCHA – their own goaltender is not the only one having a good year. Six of the NCAA’s top-20 goalies – in terms of goals-against average – come from the conference, with Motte rounding out the list. It’s not something that he brushes off, either.
Said Motte, “I know every goalie in the CCHA is having a good year this year, so that just makes me want to bring my A-game no matter what – thinking that I have to outplay that guy to win the game.”
After a four-game skid in December, Motte and the Bulldogs rebounded, going 5-2 in January. With only four games left before the start of the post-season, the 21-year-old continues to keep it simple.
“I can’t really look too far into the future,” said Motte, whose three shutouts this year have come against Miami, Michigan, and Michigan State. “I just take the next weekend or the next game we have coming up and get prepared for that. And then hopefully, just for myself, be ready for that game [and] do what I need to do to help my team win and give them a chance to win.”