The story of how Brian Matte landed in the Western Hockey League a year ago is worth retelling.
In short, he was hoping to play for an NCAA program after two seasons in the lower-tier British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). When that didn’t work out he tried out for the Prince George (B.C.) Cougars, a WHL squad in his home town, who were able to add him to their roster only because they had room for another 20-year-old (junior-league teams are allowed to carry just three).
Lo and behold, Matte made the roster. The Cougars’ coach had to go somewhat out of his way to convince everyone it wasn’t a publicity stunt, signing a hometown kid to one of his last roster spots.
Then Matte held up his end of the bargain by scoring 17 goals and 30 points in 48 regular-season games. Six goals came on the power play and two came short-handed, which tied for the WHL lead among rookies.
Matte, who recently signed with the Reign, also reports no lingering pain from a broken collarbone that required surgery and cost him 24 games at midseason.
“I just got hit funny, in a bad position,” he said. “Everything’s back to normal, strong. I’m good to go.”
Of course, the 6-1, 195-pound left wing would not be coming to Ontario unless he could play some defense. He was the Cougars’ leader in plus-minus among forwards last season, and his self-description fits that of a prototypical Karl Taylor player: “I’m powerful in the corners; I can get the puck in front of the net; I’m strong in front of the net, fast; I can hit; not scared to drop the mitts once in a while; and I can score some goals.”
Here is another feature on Matte from Prince George.