DU's Golden Boy Is Big Star In Sooner Country

(above) Oklahoma's most famous hockey player graces the cover of "Edmond Life & Leisure"

From: Edmond Life & Leisure
by Justin Neely

What a start to 2010!

Last week Edmond, Oklahoma native, Matt Donovan, and U.S. junior hockey teammates brought home the first gold medal of the year and only second in history. In a sport dominated by Canada and Russia, when the words ‘U.S. hockey’ and ‘gold medal’ are associated, it has been called a “Miracle”.

The win snapped Canada’s five-year run of World Championship golds.

“Matt learned to skate and walk right around the same time, and could skate really well by the age of three,” said Matt’s father, Larry.

Matt’s mentor and father, Larry, grew up playing hockey in Boston and moved to Oklahoma in 1984 to attend East Central in Ada. He continued to carry his own passion of hockey with him working at various ice rinks and is currently the assistant coach/general manager of the University of Oklahoma Hockey team.

Matt grew up in Edmond public schools and left Edmond North his sophomore year to attend Coppell High School in Dallas and play for the Dallas Star’s AAA team. He then went on to play for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and was selected by the New York Islanders in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

In August, Donovan and 43 others were invited to Lake Placid to tryout for the U.S. junior team, which was narrowed down to 22 over the course of four months. This was the first time the U.S. went through a selection process as opposed to just picking players.

The World Junior Championship is played every year at various sites around the world. It pits the top under-20 year old hockey players in the world. This year, the U.S. and Canada were joined by Sweden, Finland, Russia, Switzerland, Latvia, Austria, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. Next year, the World Junior Championship will be played in Buffalo.

On Dec. 26, U.S. played Slovakia at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatchewan, Canada, which they won 7-3. They went on to defeat Switzerland and Latvia but would lose to defending champs, Canada on New Year’s Eve. They proceeded to the quarterfinals where they beat Finland and reached the finals after a 5-2 win against Sweden in the Semis.

The final would be Canada vs. the United States. Prior to the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championship, the U.S. junior team won their first and only gold medal in 2004 since the championship’s official inception in 1977. The Canadian team had won the five previous gold’s and a record 15 total in the championship’s history.

Together Russia and Canada had 27 out of 33 gold medals.

A familiar story much like the one-time gold medalist men’s U.S. Olympic Hockey team faced in 1980 when playing a Russian team whom had on won four previous Olympic gold medals known as the “Miracle on Ice.”

“The atmosphere was very nerve-racking playing Canada in their country with 15,000 people cheering against you,” said Donovan.

The match would go back and forth with a score of 5–5 at the end of regulation. At the end, John Carlson would score the overtime winner to give Team USA the 6-5 victory and its second ever gold medal.

So how does a group of 18 and 19-year-olds beat a Canadian team that has remained unbeaten for five years in a “tournament that Canada ranks as one of the most important events in the sporting calendar” on their own ice with 15,000 people cheering against them?

“We played Canadian hockey,” said coach Dean Blais. “We played gritty. We learned from the best.”

Both Matt and Larry admit the win still hasn’t fully sunk in but in the mean time, Matt is concentrating on helping to take the No. 1-ranked University of Denver Pioneers to an NCAA Frozen Four championship.


puck swami said...

Making the cover of 'Edmond Life and Leisure' has got to be the pinnacle of anyone's life. Might as well hang up the skates, cause it doesn't get any better...:)

Seriously, though, congrats to Matt. He's an awesome hockey player and we're proud to have him as a Pioneer and a US Gold Medal Winner.

Remember, every single US world junior gold medalist who is also a Pioneer, has also won the NCAA title in the same year as the Gold Medal. No pressure, Matt!

Anonymous said...

and they were also named Matt. And they were also defensemen. I'm booking my tic to Detroit right now! :-)

dggoddard said...

I buy Edmond Life and Leisure for the articles. There's usually some good features on Bob Stoopes' favorite cigars and the latest changes in the oil and gas industry.

Twister said...

Edmond Life and Leisure now----next stop--the front page of the Denver Post in April.