1-On-1 with Matthew Villalta

We caught up with Tucson Roadrunners Goalie Matthew Villalta on this week’s Roadrunners Insider Podcast as he’s returned to his home in Kingston, Ontario for the offseason. Download this week’s podcast below to hear about Villalta’s newest family puppy and how she’s become his own personal alarm clock.

Listen to “Mossing with Matty V” on Spreaker.

Your Instagram name “Mossman” where and when did you get that nickname?

That Started in Ontario (California); it was a word when I first turned pro that I said a lot. My friends and my brother would say that we’re “mossing” which means that we’re hanging out and chilling. I feel that it’s a very versatile word where if you see a nice car you can say “oh that’s a mossy car,” or if it’s a very nice day out you can say “oh it’s a mossy day.” I guess it’s a word that you can say it for a lot of things; but moss is we’re chilling and hanging out and that’s who I am. It just stuck from there and now everyone calls me moss or the Mossman and here we are.

At what point did you settle in that you were going to be the goalie and Wyatt your brother was going to be the defenseman?

From a young age I wanted to be a goalie; it was watching Eddie Belfour on the Toronto Maple Leafs. His nickname was Eddie The Eagle and I remember he had that big Eagle on his mask. Just watching the Leafs growing up and seeing him; I fell in love with the mask and style. By the age of three or four, we started skating out on the lake in the winter and local rink. My dad said, “If you want to be a good goalie you have to be the best skater on the team,” so I had to play forward when I was real young for two years. Eventually my dad gave me the green light to play goalie and 20 years later here we are.

Speaking of designs, this season in Tucson you had the saguaro pads and helmet with the cartoon characters: Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. What was the whole process like?

Starting off with the pads, glove and blocker; the guys at Vaughn Custom Sports reached out and wanted to come up with a design graphic for this year. I really didn’t know what I was going to do at the start; so they made up a bunch of design graphics and sent them over; but I just thought there has to be something more and sure enough they sent the saguaro cactus pads. I told them those were it and I knew they were going to be unbelievable. I think they’re my favorite pads that I have ever worn and they turned out great. Going to the mask, like you said; since I turned pro it’s always been cartoons. Growing up I watched a lot of cartoons and told myself each year I am going to do a cartoon character I’ve watched as a kid. I figured the Arizona Coyotes and Tucson Roadrunners would be the perfect mask to make something cool here. It was one of my most favorite setups I’ve ever had.

You have worn the number 31 throughout your career in the OHL, Ontario and now Tucson. Why that number?

My favorite goalie was Mike Smith growing up and he’s from the next small town over from me in Verona. Obviously, he played for the Coyotes for quite a while and was someone I looked up to; someone who came from the same area in the Country that I’m from. For that reason, I thought if he made it from here why can’t I? This year, when I came to Arizona and Tucson I asked if 41is available and it was already taken so I stuck with 31; but in Junior I asked for 41 too and they didn’t have it either and they said they had 31. The 31 is just something I’ve worn; I certainly like the number and everywhere I go it has always been 31. We’ll see down the road if 41 is available and we can get that done.

You and Forward Hunter Drew have been really close friends for years. How did you two meet and where has the friendship blossomed after playing on the same team this season?

It was a long time ago; it must have been when we were playing lacrosse for the Kingston Crossfire and that had to be before high school. Growing up, he was always on the team one year above me and I would see him around the rink. Through Lacrosse we became friends and ended up going to high school together with our lockers just down the hall from each other. I remember by that point we were pretty close. Throughout juniors we always stayed in touch through group chats and mutual friends and hangout in the summers when we’d come home. Eventually we turned pro and the years went on but sure enough this year we both came to Tucson. It was pretty cool that we both came to a new organization; together we could rely on each other for support; while having the comfort of someone close that you know and you’re lucky to call a great friend.

You were drafted by the Kings and Drew was drafted by the Ducks; one of the fiercest rivalries in both the NHL and AHL. In the AHL you had the Ontario Reign and San Diego Gulls. How was it for you two to play in that setting for years and now be on the same team?

That was awesome; the rivalry there is pretty big and every pregame we’d play against each other; we’d always meet at the red line for a quick stretch and chop it up for a bit. Those were cool times and it never crossed my mind that I would’ve been playing with him this year. To put on the same jersey as him and spend every day with him was awesome and gave lots of great memories we have from the year. I am very thankful for it.