In a conversation between proud fathers of Michigan hockey players just four years ago, Vince Turco shook his head and told Dick Matzka, “Have a good time, Dick, because it will be over before you know it.”
Little did Matzka realize how rapidly these emotions would run full circle, as he watched his son, Scott, play his final regular season game at Yost Ice Arena this past Friday night.
“The four years went by extremely quickly,” said the elder Matzka from the corridor of the rafters in between periods. “It was a blink of an eye.”
Ask any Michigan senior, and he”ll echo the same feelings as he remembers his fairy-tale freshman year that was capped off by a national title setting a standard for a class that would be nearly impossible to top.
“As a freshman, you kind of take it for granted and don”t realize how hard it is to get to that point,” said senior Bill Trainor.
But what many of the players” parents didn”t take for granted was the chance to come watch their sons on senior night, with many making trips from Minnesota, New Hampshire and Ontario to be there for the special night.
Whereas out-of-state parents usually listen to the games on radio or via the Internet, Friday night brought a time for this close-knit group to get together.
“There”s a real strong chemistry,” Dick Matzka said. “All the senior parents are all good friends, we all know each other and at some times we make business deals with each other. It”s disappointing that it”s almost over, but it”s bound to happen.”
More disappointing than the end was how it ended a 4-4 tie with then-last place Notre Dame. The outcome of the game seemed to put a slight damper on the evening, but the seniors will still not forget the post-game ceremony in which they took their “final lap” around the ice with a Michigan flag in hand.
“It was definitely a surreal feeling,” Trainor said. “It went by so fast. I”m not sure it”ll hit me for a few days yet.”
But the finality of the season and college careers have already entered the minds of a few seniors, who hope to take advantage of every moment they have left in Ann Arbor.
“I want to play all 12 of those games and make this as long of a season as we can make it,” said Scott Matzka, calculating the amount of possible remaining games it would take to reach the main goal that has eluded him the past two years another trip to the national title game. “Just thinking about the end of the season, it will have me trying to put my best foot forward and play the best hockey of my career.”
Senior leadership becomes even more important this late in the season. That”s especially true for the Wolverines, who must find a way to come together as a group, as Matzka put it, in order to reach the promised land.
With three regular season games remaining and the CCHA almost definitely out of reach, Michigan is focusing on a strong finish in the CCHA Tournament and a possible NCAA first -round bye.
“We tasted it our freshman year, and we know what it takes to get there,” Trainor said. “We haven”t gotten that far the past few years, so we know how hard it is. We”re striving, trying to get back to that.”