Chugiak grad dons green and gold
After three years in Canada, 2009 Chugiak High graduate Ben Matthews is playing for the home team once again.
Matthews is one of nine freshmen on the University of Alaska Anchorage hockey team.
Matthews said donning the green and gold has been a longtime goal of his.
“I always wanted to come back home and play,” he said.
After graduating, Matthews spent three seasons playing in the British Columbia Hockey League. He declined an offer from the University of Connecticut to play one more year of junior hockey.
The Seawolves took notice. Matthews said he started talking with UAA late last year.
“Everything kind of fell into place,” he said.
Playing Division I hockey has been a dream of the 6-foot-2, 216-pound defenseman since childhood.
“It’s definitely been one of my goals since I was a little kid,” Matthews said. “It feels good to be here and keep pushing forward.”
Matthews’ size is one attribute that caught the attention of Seawolves’ head coach Dave Shyiak.
“He’s a big guy with pretty good puck skills,” Shyiak said. “We’re certainly happy to have him.”
Matthews’ attitude is another plus.
“He’s a kid that wants to be here for the right reasons,” Shyiak said. “He’s got character and works hard.”
Matthews, 21, is one of six Alaskans on the roster. Two incoming freshmen, Hayden Trupp and Bobby Murphy, he knows well.
Matthews played on a Midget team with Murphy and played against Trupp in his Comp hockey days. Having a couple familiar faces on a new team makes the transition easier, Matthews said.
“It’s nice knowing some people right away,” he said.
Adjusting to the quicker pace of collegiate hockey from the BCHL takes some time, Matthews said, but he’s handling it well.
“It’s a lot faster,” he said. “You have less than half the time to make decisions.”
“He’s getting better every day,” he said. “He’s getting stronger.”
Though he enjoyed playing in British Columbia, Matthews said he’s glad to be back.
“I missed Alaska,” he said.
Living in his parents’ Peters Creek home also has its advantages.
“It’s nice to get some home cooked meals,” Matthews said.
Though Matthews didn’t dress for the Seawolves’ 3-1 exhibition win over the University of Regina — which was played at the McDonald Center on Saturday, Oct. 6 — he’s looking forward to working his way into the lineup.
“Everyone gets their chance,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s sooner than later.”
Matthews said he’d love to pursue hockey beyond college, but he wants to do well academically in case that doesn’t work out.
For now, Matthews is focused on the present.
“I’m just hoping to make the most of the opportunity,” he said.
Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or [email protected].