MASSENA - Only a few years after learning how to walk, Matt Hatch was taking on the challenge of ice skating at the age of 4, while also taking the preliminary steps in his hockey journey that has a chance of reaching new heights next weekend in Philadelphia, Pa.
The 2008 Massena Central High School graduate will be joining the rest of his Union College Dutchmen teammates in the semi-final round of the NCAA Division 1 Mens Ice Hockey Tournament, the Frozen Four.
From the makeshift ice rink his father, Brian, constructed every winter outside their Ober Street home to the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Florida during the teams 2012 playoff run, the Union College senior has scored many goals at many different venues.
He started playing hockey at the age of 4. He had older cousins and his older cousins played. My husband would build an ice rink in the backyard and thats how Matt learned how to skate, Matts mother, Tina Hatch, recalled. His brother played for varsity at Massena Central and played at a prep school for one year as well.
The whole backyard was probably 45 by 60 feet and every winter I did that. His brother was a little older, and we did that every year, Brian said. Windows and sidings had to be replaced many times and there were plenty of pucks in neighbors yards.
Matt added that family members and coaches were the main contributors to his involvement with the sport that he is so passionate about.
My brother and my older cousins had a lot of influence on me. My dad also built an ice rink outside our house and my mom always had to drag us in at night to come in the house, he said. My big brother, also named Brian, is five years older and I looked up to him and liked competing with him.
Ms. Hatch is a lab employee at Massena Memorial Hospital and his father is retired from his work as a heavy equipment operator at Reynolds Metal Company.
The Economics major was a tri-captain of the 2008 MCS state championship squad and joined Union in 2010 after a stint in junior hockey in British Columbia.
Starting right when he got out of Massena Central, he drove to Ottawa every day back and forth to work out with Lorne Goldenberg, who is a well-known trainer. That year he did that every day and each way was an hour and a half, Mr. Hatch said. Its very nice to see how he has progressed through the years and keeps progressing. There comes a point where kids level off and seeing him improve has come from a lot of hard work.
Its been amazing to watch him. Hes an incredibly hard worker, and hes always made goals and tried to attain those goals. Im just incredibly proud of him, his mother added. He has always been kind of a standout in everything hes done. I think he is a natural athlete.
Fellow 23-year-old Zach Bogosian, who is currently a member of the NHLs Winnipeg Jets, grew up in Massena and played alongside Matt growing up. Mr. Bogosian left Massena before high school though and ultimately was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers.
Brian does not think that the NHLers success has provided any extra motivation for his son though.
Matt has gone to prep school and off to college so (Zachs success) didnt really didnt influence him. They would go together to the trainer all the time, but the last year that Matt went, Zach had left already, Brian said. They were good friends and still are good friends. We were going to go to a different trainer in Ottawa, and we found out that Zachs trainer was a little bit better.
Success has always seemed to follow Matt in his hockey ventures, whether it be in high school, college or anywhere in between.
Its interesting that he won the states in 2008 at Massena and then the next year their program at the prep school, Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, made it to the finals. He went there as a post-graduate. They went to the finals and that was the first time in a while that they had made it that far, Ms. Hatch said. Its almost surreal. Almost every team hes been on has been very successful.
I think every playoff run youre in is awesome. We won some huge games down the stretch in Massena leading to that title and the same is going on here. There are a lot of similarities and theyre both pretty special to me, Matt said.
Looking back now, I think (the success) is attributed to the great coaches we had. At high school we had so many great players and then going on to prep school we had some great players as well who went on to play college hockey. I attribute (the success) to all the players Ive played with and the coaches as well. Ive tried to go to places where hard work was a staple. That was the case at Massena, at prep school and now at Union. Thats something Ive always looked for when going to a team.
Matt specifically noted coach Dave Cappione as well as his fathers work ethic as strong influences on his performance.
During their 2012 run to the Frozen Four, Union ended up falling to Ferris St. 3-1.
In this years playoffs, the Dutchmen skated past Vermont 5-2 and then defeated Providence 3-1, leading to next weekends semifinals.
Third seeded Union will take on number two Boston College at 5 p.m. on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center. The winner of that game, which can be seen on ESPN2, will play the winner of Minnesota and North Dakota at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday for the crown.
The emotions of the last year of college hockey are definitely setting in. Ive been spending a lot of the last month thinking about that. Up until high school I was at every single one of his hockey games. So its been an experience of a lifetime to see this all so far and to the end, Mr. Hatch said. He definitely wants to make a career out of this. Whatever happens with his future in hockey, we all know that he has a top notch education to fall back on.
Matt acknowledged there were questions for the Union hockey team entering the season. We lost a lot of key players last year so no one really knew what this season was going to be. In the locker room though we knew we had a lot of talent and could go this far. The goal to win a championship has been our goal since day one, Matt said.
Something that Ive always wanted to do is play hockey professionally. So I want to see where I can take it. Whatever opportunity comes about, well see what happens. Its something that I want to do for as long as I can.