Taylor Matson is two years older than Nate Condon and is set to graduate in May, but the two do everything together.
Off the ice, they are roommates and spend just about every day with each other. On the ice, Condon and Matson couldnâÄôt escape one another if they tried.
They play together on the third line, the power play and the penalty kill âÄî the latter has become their specialty this season, and they seem to be hitting their stride at the right time.
âÄúItâÄôs crazy,âÄù Matson said. âÄúI think we have more chances on the penalty kill than five-on-five or [on the] power play.âÄù
âÄúItâÄôs something we take to heart when weâÄôre out there, and we just work really hard in practice together throughout the week,âÄù he said.
MinnesotaâÄôs penalty kill unit has been its saving grace this season, as the power play has struggled lately.
The Gophers have the second-best penalty kill unit in the WCHA, which has killed off 75 of 89 opponentsâÄô power play chances this season.
Minnesota boasts an 84.3 percent penalty-kill percentage this year, but simply keeping the other team from scoring when down a man is not enough for Condon and Matson.
Their collective mentality is to force a turnover and get up the ice quickly against often-unsuspecting opponents.
âÄúThere are a lot of times where [the other team will] just have one guy at the blue line or sometimes theyâÄôll just be out of the play completely,âÄù Condon said. âÄúWe want to get out of the zone, get going and then thereâÄôs always a chance that we can hit someone for a breakaway.âÄù
Matson and Condon played together last season, but this year, theyâÄôve taken another step forward.
Both have already surpassed their point totals from last season and have added shorthanded strikes to their repertoires.
Condon leads the WCHA with five shorthanded points this season (four goals and an assist).
Matson is tied for third with three shorthanded points (one goal, two assists).
âÄúThey have great anticipation, they have great speed [and] they pounce on a loose puck to generate that shorthanded scoring opportunity,âÄù head coach Don Lucia said. âÄúTheyâÄôve done a really good job penalty killing for us.
âÄúWe have a lot of confidence in them, and if theyâÄôre fresh, theyâÄôre the two that [are] going to start the penalty kill for us.âÄù
Matson said the two take pride in their defense on the penalty kill, but itâÄôs their speed that produces scoring chances.
âÄúWe know when one of us gets the puck, the other is going hard for the breakaway,âÄù Matson said. âÄúWe have great speed. ThatâÄôs one of our advantages out there, so it becomes huge on the penalty kill.âÄù
Despite the camaraderie, the sophomore didnâÄôt mind taking a jab at his senior captain.
âÄúI think that straight up I could probably beat him in a footrace,âÄù Condon said. âÄúBut if it came to anything endurance-wise, heâÄôd crush me because I know heâÄôd never stop.âÄù