MEN's HOCKEY: Even As A Freshman, Matheson Making An Impact On The Blue Line
By Chris Marino
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Upon its victory in last season’s national championship, the Boston College men’s hockey team suffered some tough losses. Three core members, Tommy Cross, Edwin Shea, and Brian Dumoulin left the Eagles for professional careers, and, while the defensive unit was left in the reliable hands of Patrick Wey, Patch Alber, and Isaac MacLeod, the Eagles lost a lot of experience. Fortunately, head coach Jerry York has brought in some reliable freshmen to fill the gap, and Michael Matheson has proved himself to be one of those players.
Through his team’s first 10 games, Matheson has scored one goal and had five assists to help lead his team to a 9-1-0 record. For Matheson, the transition to college hockey has been made easy by the resources offered by the University and his team.
“I think when you’re coming into a place like this, where there are so many resources on the school side, it makes that transition really easy,” he said. “On the hockey side, with the coaching staff here and the veteran players who welcomed us so well, it makes it a lot easier for freshmen to feel like they’re part of the group.”
In particular, the Pointe-Claire, Quebec native credits York for energizing his team every day and creating the winning mentality that has become the status quo at Kelley Rink.
“He’s always the most excited for practice every single day, so he makes it easy to get excited yourself, and go out there, work hard and make sure that you’re not getting complacent in any way or accepting that we’ve gotten a couple of wins,” Matheson said. “It’s every single week—we’re concentrating on the next game, and not using any type of past win as motivation. It’s strictly motivation to win the next game.”
While it would seem common for a freshman to struggle in his first season playing in the Hockey East, Matheson has shown no early signs of growing pains, due in large part to past seasons in leagues like the USHL. In the 2011-12 season, he earned USHL All-Rookie Team honors, while lacing up for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. In this campaign, he led the league’s defensemen with 27 points on 11 goals and 16 assists.
“Being able to play in that competitive league, where there was a rigorous schedule with a long season and long playoffs, helped me a lot,” he said. “The other big thing was that the competition was so great between all the teams. It’s not like there’s some really good teams and some less so. It’s a very strong league in that sense. Every night you’re playing a very strong team that could beat you.”
Matheson’s offensive capabilities give York an extremely versatile tool on the ice, and the defenseman continues to make strides in becoming a stronger player on both ends.
“I’d say that I’m more of an offensive defenseman, but I’ve really been trying to focus on my defensive game,” Matheson said. “I’m trying to make sure that I’m not any type of liability on the defensive side, and making sure that I can be the guy that my teammates and coaches trust to have on the ice. I’m making sure to work on my defensive game, and also improving on my offensive game as well, because every aspect of my game needs improvement. I’m just trying to help my team as best as I can.”
While he started the year as more of an offensive weapon, Matheson feels confident that he is gaining the trust of his coaching staff and teammates on both offense and defense. His main goal for the season is becoming as complete a player as he can be.
“I’ve been playing a bit on the power play, so more on the offensive side, but I think that, as the weeks have gone through, I’ve gained more trust,” he said. “I’ve shown everyone that I can be more defensive, as well. I’d like to become more of a player that people can rely on as a two-way guy, not just an offensive guy. I think you see some defensemen that are really offensive, and some that are really defensive. I’m trying to be a two-way guy.”
While Matheson has shown great maturity during his freshman season, he credits his development to the veteran players who have helped him on and off the ice.
“We’ve been paired that way, where there’s one older guy with one younger guy,” he said. “I’ve been with Patch for the most part, and they’ve all been really good at welcoming us. They’ve showed us different areas where they’ve learned through their two or three years here. It helps being told certain things that they had to learn through two years of playing.”
What impresses Matheson the most, however, is the older players’ openness to their new teammates, especially as the Eagles are coming off a paramount season of success.
“Even off the ice, it’s not often that you join a team that has won a championship the year before, but they and the rest of the team have become really close, because you become closest through winning a championship,” he said. “That’s really special when that happens. It wasn’t any sort of thing like, ‘We’re really close, and you guys are just outsiders.’ Instead it was, ‘Let’s go. We’re doing this again, and we need you guys.’”
As the years progress, Matheson and his fellow freshman defensemen, Colin Sullivan, Travis Jeke, and Teddy Doherty, understand that they will become the leaders of the team, and are doing everything for their part to pay close attention to how their older teammates act.
“We have four freshmen back there, so it’s going to be really interesting to go through our years here together,” Matheson said. “We started together and we’ll become the core of the team down the road. All of us are just looking at what the seniors do, because we know that pretty soon that’s going to be us. We’re making sure that we are all being really attentive to what they do, and make sure we do the same thing for the younger guys coming after us.”
Such leadership leaves Matheson in company with some past BC defensemen, who have left their marks not only on the ice but also in the program’s vast history. Players like Cross and Brian Dumoulin are preparing to make their names known in the NHL, and Matheson’s path appears to be heading in the same direction.
In the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Matheson was selected with the 23rd overall pick by the Florida Panthers. While it was an exciting experience and Matheson had always dreamed of playing in the NHL, his focus has not strayed away from the current task.
“If you want to reach that level [of the NHL], you have to forget about it,” he said. “You have to concentrate on what’s now, which is BC hockey. You concentrate on winning and being a good teammate. You make sure you’re doing everything you can, not to get to the next level, but to win here. With the great guys that we have on this team, they help me to get to where I want to be. It’s not really concentrating on getting there, but focusing on now.”
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