Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Trip to Memorial Cup caps off stellar season for Matt Fraser
By Mark Stepneski
When the season began Dallas Stars prospect Matt Fraser’s status with the Kootenay Ice was kind of up in the air. He was one of four overage players on the roster and Western Hockey League rules allow teams to carry only three.
Fraser was one of the three who ended up staying around and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
The 6-2, 218 pound left wing co-led the team in goal scoring in the regular season and was the top goal scorer in the WHL playoffs as the Ice won the WHL’s Ed Chynoweth Cup and punched a ticket to the Memorial Cup, where they will battle teams from the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for supremacy.
“Words really can’t describe knowing that you’re the WHL champion and that you’re going to play the best teams in Canada,” Fraser said in a phone interview. “To be playing hockey in late May is something really special, for sure.”
The Ice will play the Owen Sound Attack (OHL), St. John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) and the OHL’s Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, the host team, for the Canadian Hockey League championship.
The trip to the Memorial Cup will cap off an impressive final year of junior hockey for Fraser, who played four seasons for Kootenay. He had 74 points (36 goals, 38 assists) in 68 regular season games and co-led the Ice in goal scoring.
“As a 20-year-old, a little more is expected of you both on and off the ice, as a leader,” he said. “From a points standpoint, I thought I had a good season and worked well with my linemates. A lot of credit goes to my linemates, Max Reinhart and Joe Antilla and Jesse Ismond and Drew Czerwonka were in there a little bit. It’s one of those things that when you are having fun playing hockey, everything else takes care of itself.”
His playoff numbers were superb. He led the WHL playoffs in goal scoring with 17 in 19 games and was tied for second with 27 points. He scored the overtime winner in Game 4 of the WHL championship series against Portland and then in the series clinching fifth game, he scored two goals, including the game-winner.
“You want to do what you can to help your team succeed, whether it’s blocking shots or getting points or scoring goals,” said Fraser. “There are so many guys on the team that played so well in the playoffs. If they weren’t scoring the goal then they were taking the hit to make the play, blocking the shot or something like that. There was a new hero for us every night and that was the motto for us in the playoffs.”
Fraser, who turns 21 on Friday, has a habit of talking more about the team and his teammates than himself. That focus on team is one of several attributes the Stars like.
“Matt’s had a real good season. He’s a real honest kid, he’s big, he’s got some good two-way attributes and he’s got a nice scoring touch,” said Les Jackson, the Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development. “His team play is awesome, his attitude and his bottom line criteria for team play is awesome. He just comes to play.”
The Stars signed Fraser, an undrafted free agent, to a three-year entry-level contract in November. Fraser was a grabbing a bite to eat when he got the news that the Stars were interested.
“I was sitting in Quiznos and I got a call from my agent and he said Dallas is trying to get something done here for you,” Fraser said. “I’ll never forget that phone call that day. … Any time a team wants to invest time in you and wants you to be a part of them, you really can’t go wrong.”
Fraser will turn pro next season and is expected to start in the AHL, where he already has some experience. He played two games with the Peoria Rivermen at the end of the 2009-10 season after signing an amateur tryout contract. This time around it would be the Texas Stars.
“I have a buddy that plays in Austin – Colton Sceviour – and he said it’s a fantastic organization and a fantastic place,” Fraser said. “It’s a great place to be.”
But for right now the focus is on the trip to Mississauga and the Memorial Cup.
“It’s the Stanley Cup of the Canadian Hockey League,” said Fraser.