Rugged Winger A Welcomed Addition

Chaka-Benjamin Ntumba-Muntu has fit in like a glove with the Fort Erie Meteors.

The 20-year-old native of Laval, Que., began this season with the Jersey Hitmen of the United States Premier Hockey League, National Collegiate Development Conference when he decided it was time to move on.

“Things weren’t working out. My relationship with the coaching staff wasn’t the best so I had to figure out somewhere to play since it’s my last junior year,” Ntumba-Muntu said.

Enter the Meteors, who snapped up with rugged winger.

“He kind of fell in our lap before Christmas,” Fort Erie general manager/coach Nik Passero said. “He’s come in and has been a great player for us. He’s hard nosed, he’s heavy on the puck and he’s a really good kid. He really drives the offence.

“He wants to play at the next level, which is exciting, and he’s already got a couple of school offers since he’s been here.”

Passero took a flyer on Ntumba-Muntu despite never having seen him play live.

“We were winning a lot at the time, too. You never want to put someone in the lineup that might stir the pot but his talent and skill level is superior to that of a lot of guys we see on film so I wasn’t too worried about it and then when he came to practice, you could tell right away,” Passero said.

Passero has used Ntumba-Muntu in a top-six role. 

“He’s playing our power play and penalty killing too. He’s really doing it all.”

Ntumba-Muntu, who has three goals and nine points in nine games with the Mets, admitted he wasn’t familiar with the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. 

“I just knew it was the best junior B league and it was the only league I could have went to in Canada. I found out which teams were good and then when Fort Erie contacted me I was happy,” he said.

Ntumba-Muntu said the transition to his new team went smoothly.

“They made it so easy,” he said. “I feel the connection between the coaches and the players is very strong. It’s like a big family. I feel like I can have a conversation with the coach and be comfortable and that’s a major thing. 

“Obviously, I was kind of nervous because it was the first time I was traded in the middle of the year so I didn’t know what to expect but the guys were very welcoming and nice. After the first day it already felt like home a bit.”

Ntumba-Muntu grew up playing hockey and at 16 entered Stanstead College boarding school in Quebec where he did very well, accumulating 21 goals and 65 points in 51 games over two years. He suited up for the Cornwall Colts of the Central Canada Hockey League last year before joining New Jersey this season.

“I have four older brothers and when they were born my parents had them play soccer, because it was big in my family,” Ntumba-Muntu said. “Then they played football and basketball and they always wanted to play hockey and when they first started, they fell in love with the sport. When I was born they just put me into hockey and just fell in love with it.”

Ntumba-Muntu is intent on continuing his education next year while still playing hockey.

The Meteors, who sit in third place just one point behind the St. Catharines Falcons for second and three behind the Caledonia Corvairs for first place, have 10 games remaining in their schedule. They play host to Pelham Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and are in Welland Sunday at 1:30 p.m. 

The Mets split a pair of games last weekend in inter-conference play.

“We have to make sure we’re all on the same page,” Passero said. “I even think this weekend we were a little off kilter. We weren’t ourselves and didn’t play great in either game so we have a lot of work to do. We have to figure it out, and figure it out fast, but I think we have the right group of guys and leadership in there to make it work.”

Goaltender Charlie Burns, who has been with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League where he won two of this three starts including a shutout over the Guelph Storm, is slated to be back with the Meteors the weekend.

“He’s doing a great job and is deserving of everything he’s got. Erie has been really good to him and he’s happy and we’re looking forward to getting him back,” Passero said. 

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