MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Gopher men’s hockey team is in an enviable position on college hockey right now: Play well and they will win the WCHA.

There are a number of reasons for the turnaround, and the team’s coaching staff points to one player as a shining example.

You can call him a bit of a grinder, but what Taylor Matson has really done for this team is lead. He is more than a captain, he is the one they follow.

“I’m encouraging, I’m always positive. I want to give positive feedback to guy on and off the ice, in the weight room as well. For me it’s just about motivating guys and having them compete day in and day out,” Matson said.

That’s one reason this team has changed for the better: The young man who can coach on the ice.

“He has been a heart and soul player. He’s been a player who competes so hard and sets the bar high for everybody to try and get over that bar in order to continue to compete,” said Gophers coach Don Lucia.

So the goal is simple, at least right now. That is to win the WCHA regular season. For Matson, there’s one more: Stay healthy enough this season that he can remain with them for the duration.

Injuries are about the only thing that has held back his career with the Gophers a bit. But he’s been on the ice this entire season, and he influences his teammates off the ice because of it.

“Absolutely the last three seasons have been kind of a struggle for me injury wise,” Matson said. “This season I feel great. I’ve never been stronger or more fit. I just hope to finish these eight games and go throughout the playoffs too.”

The Gophers travel to Denver for a two-game series starting Friday night.


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