When Taylor Matson laces up his left skate on Friday, he’ll do so over another, less common, type of lace.
Inside the junior’s ankle is a titanium “rope” holding together the tibia and fibula.
Nineteen games into last season, Matson tore his syndesmosis, a wide sheet of ligament that connects the lower leg bones. Though often referred to as a high ankle sprain, a syndesmosis injury is significantly more serious because it destabilizes the ankle.
So Matson found himself on the operating table for the second time in just more than a year. Thirteen games into his freshman season he tore his ACL and underwent reconstructive surgery.
“It’s been a battle of the rehab, that’s for sure,” Matson said. “I think I’ve spent more time in the training room than on the ice.”
So much time, in fact, that he has yet to play this weekend’s opponent, Colorado College. But now that he’s healthy, the Tigers might want to look out for the man with the bionic left leg.
Matson has flown around the ice early this season, jumping from center to wing and back again and vacillating between the third and fourth lines. Last weekend against St. Cloud State, he scored his first goal of the season and tallied his first assist.
“I liked the way Taylor played,” Lucia said Sunday after Minnesota’s 2-1 win. “He’s starting to look like the player — you know, he’s been injured so much, so hopefully he can continue to come on.”
But Matson hasn’t been, and probably won’t become, a consistent goal-scorer. That said, fixating on his stat line doesn’t do justice to his presence on the ice.
Take Sunday, for example. Matson centered the third line with diminutive but speedy Jacob Cepis to his left and 6-foot-3-inch, 221-pound Zach Budish to his right. The combination was effective; Matson and Budish assisted Cepis’ goal less than a minute after St. Cloud State took a 1-0 lead.
More importantly, though, Matson won pucks on the boards and in open ice on both sides of the rink. If he wasn’t first to a puck, he sent the guy who beat him there into the boards. Though not quite as fast as Cepis or big as Budish, he was like an effective combination of the two, quick enough and strong enough to pester the Huskies whenever he was on the ice.
You wouldn’t blame a guy with a titanium-infused ankle and a rebuilt knee for being a bit cautious in his first games back, but if Matson is thinking about either injury at all, he doesn’t betray it.
“I’ve worked on not being scared out there and just being confident. I think that’s past me.”
CC led by brothers
Colorado College freshman Jaden Schwartz was projected by both the media and Western Collegiate Hockey Association coaches in the preseason to be the conference’s Rookie of the Year and he hasn’t taken long to demonstrate why.
Jaden and his older brother Rylan are the Tigers’ leading scorers with six points each, six games into the season. They also play on the same line.
Jaden Schwartz, a native of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, won the USHL scoring title and Forward of the Year a year ago with the Tri-City Storm. He scored 33 goals and tallied 50 assists, which was the highest point total in the USHL since Thomas Vanek, now a forward for the Buffalo Sabres, who scored 91 points in 2001-02.
“He’s a talented player,” Lucia said, adding that Jaden and Rylan are a dangerous duo.
But the duo will only be half on display this weekend. Rylan received a game misconduct penalty on Saturday and by rule has to miss Friday’s game. But on Saturday, the Gophers will have to be on high alert for the Schwartzes.