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Auston Matthews Hoping to Cap Dream Season With World Title

By Becky Olsen, 04/15/15, 2:15PM EDT


Matthews Brings Firepower & Plenty of International Experience to U18 Worlds.

Photo by Tom Sorensen.

It has been a whirlwind 12 months for Auston Matthews.

In that time, the U.S. National Under-18 Team forward won a gold medal at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 World Championship, played on the 2015 U.S. National Junior Team and has cruised to 102 points so far this season with the U18s, tying the National Team Development Program’s single-season record.

By the way, he doesn’t turn 18 until Sept. 17, 2015.

Before Matthews hangs up his NTDP sweater, though, he has one last goal: to finish his NTDP career with another U18 world championship, this time with the guys in his age group. Team USA opens the tournament against Russia on Thursday in Switzerland.

“When the U18s won last year, it was a really memorable,” the Scottsdale, Arizona, native recalled. “You saw the two years of hard work that they dedicated themselves to get to that point, and it was cool to be a part of. Hopefully, we can do that again this year.”

Matthews and his U18 teammates have been almost perfect in international play heading into the final tournament. The squad’s lone loss was to Russia in the Five Nations Tournament this past February. The U.S. players are using that loss as extra motivation heading into the world championships opener this week against Russia.

“We need to take a step back and realize we are not untouchable,” Matthews said. “That loss against Russia in a lot of ways was a good thing. It definitely put some stuff into perspective, and we realize that going into the U18s every game is going to be a hard game.

“We need to do what our coaches tell us to do and stick to our systems. We want to wear down teams.”

Matthews knows that he will be counted on for leadership, both on and off the ice, when the team arrives in Switzerland.

On the ice, the 6-foot-2, 194-pound Matthews has been on fire all season. He’s scored 47 goals and recorded 55 assists through 53 games so far this season, for 102 points. He needs just one more point to pass Patrick Kane's record set in 2005-06.

Meanwhile, Matthews also goes into the U18 World Championship with experience not only at this tournament but also at the World Junior Championship.

Matthews believes his experience will help him know what to expect.

“I think it will help a lot,” said Matthews, who tallied five goals in seven games at last year’s U18 Worlds. “I was fortunate to go there last year, and we won. Hopefully, I can bring those experiences to our team and help us win also.”

While Matthews and the U.S. team fell short at the World Junior Championship, he also considers that experience to be invaluable.

“It was awesome. I was able to play against some of the top under-20 players in the world,” he said. “Scoring my first goal against Germany was a cool moment. In that big of a tournament, it definitely doesn’t happen too often. It’s something I’ll remember.”

That was especially true since Matthews was the youngest player on the U.S. roster.

“They are older, faster and stronger, so you have to elevate and learn how to read the plays faster,” he said. “It definitely helps when you play against your own age group.”

As Matthews nears the end of his time with the NTDP in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he reflected on how much he has grown in just two years.

“I think I have grown mentally the most,” he said. “You are under a lot of stressful situations here, whether it’s in international play, or a college game or in practice. You need to go through visualizations, go through daily routines and stay focused on the right things.”

If he and his teammates can do just that in their final tournament together, they could re-live the moment Matthews experienced with last year’s NTDP class, standing on the blue line singing the national anthem as world champions.

“It’s such a cool experience to win the gold medal,” he said, “and singing the national anthem with your teammates is incredible.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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#19 Auston Matthews (Photo by Dave Reginek)

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Home-Cooked Meal
Chicken Tortilla Soup