When Taylor Matson laces up his left skate on Friday, heâÄôll do so over another, less common, type of lace.
Inside the juniorâÄôs ankle is a titanium âÄúropeâÄù 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.
âÄúItâÄôs been a battle of the rehab, thatâÄôs for sure,âÄù Matson said. âÄúI think IâÄôve spent more time in the training room than on the ice.âÄù
So much time, in fact, that he has yet to play this weekendâÄôs opponent, Colorado College. But now that heâÄôs 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.
âÄúI liked the way Taylor played,âÄù Lucia said Sunday after MinnesotaâÄôs 2-1 win. âÄúHeâÄôs starting to look like the player âÄî you know, heâÄôs been injured so much, so hopefully he can continue to come on.âÄù
But Matson hasnâÄôt been, and probably wonâÄôt become, a consistent goal-scorer. That said, fixating on his stat line doesnâÄôt 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 CepisâÄô 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 wasnâÄôt 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 wouldnâÄôt 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 doesnâÄôt betray it.
âÄúIâÄôve worked on not being scared out there and just being confident. I think thatâÄôs past me.âÄù
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 conferenceâÄôs Rookie of the Year and he hasnâÄôt taken long to demonstrate why.
Jaden and his older brother Rylan are the TigersâÄô 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.
âÄúHeâÄôs a talented player,âÄù 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 FridayâÄôs game. But on Saturday, the Gophers will have to be on high alert for the Schwartzes.