by Brian Bileski
February 15, 2006(TORONTO) --
Just because the Olympics are here and the Leafs aren't skating on any rink in North America doesn't mean that Leafs TV won't bring you some awesome hockey in the meantime.
This Friday night Leafs TV brings you a monumental CCHA showdown between two of the NCAA's top hockey programs. Number 10 Michigan State Spartans host number two Miami of Ohio at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing Michigan.
|Matt Christie is playing well in his junior season. |
The showdown features numerous Toronto hockey stars including Redhawk junior and Ajax native Matt Christie. Brian Bileski spoke with the Anaheim draft pick about life on campus and Matt's chance to lead his team into the NCAA Frozen Four this March.
Brian: Hey Matt, it looks like you guys are headed for a huge game this weekend at MSU. What's it like playing against the Spartans?
Matt: I really enjoy it. I've played there three times and in the playoffs last year. I like the atmosphere there and the rink set up. We've played some great games against them. Hopefully we'll wrap up the CCHA with a win against Ohio State (Tuesday February 14) (Miami won 6-3 to claim the CCHA regular season crown) and we can just focus on beating the Spartans on their ice.
Brian: Why doesn't Miami get the respect it deserves. I mean, Ohio State started the season as the CCHA favourites and you guys weren't expected to have your way like you have had all season long.
Matt: Every year it's the same. It doesn't matter where we finish the year before we still always get ranked fifth or sixth before the season starts. My freshman year we had a great year. The next year we faced a lot of injuries and adversity. This year we set a goal, if we stay healthy we'll reach our goals. Ohio State always gets more respect and we always have to earn ours.
Brian: Being from Ajax how the heck did you find your way to Miami?
Matt: When I was 15 years-old I had a great year with the Pickering Panthers and won the rookie of the year. Recruiters saw that and it all started there. Before the OHL draft I wanted to visit some schools to compare the differences between going to the NCAA or playing in the OHL. When I announced that I wasn't going to play junior NCAA schools started recruiting me heavily.
Brian: Well what was it about Miami that made you decide it was the right school for you?
Matt: The campus is unbelievable. It's the closest thing to an elite Ivey League school campus. Our campus atmosphere is top-notch. It's small even though it does have sixteen or seventeen thousand students. The school is built on a three to four mile box and it's easy to walk anywhere you need to go. For my senior year we'll have a brand new rink built right on campus.
Brian: So I guess during your freshman season you had a chance to watch Ben Roethlisberger roam the gridiron?
Matt: I went to a few games. I know a few guys who had classes with him because he had the same major as them. When he was here there was a lot of excitement at the school. They only lost one game all year and by the nend of the season they were ranked tenth overall. You knew he was going to do well in the NFL, maybe not as well as he's done though.
Brian: It might not be too long before you end up playing in the big leagues after all Anaheim drafted you in 2004, what was that like?
Matt: I didn't go to the draft. I was at home in Ajax working at a golf course. I was helping some of the maintenance guys when I got the call that I was drafted. It was pretty exciting. I couldn't be happier with being picked by them. They are the best organization and everybody I've talked to has been amazing to me.
Brian: Too bad the Leafs didn't snap you up. You must be a Leafs fan but besides the club, family and friends what do you miss most about Toronto?
Matt: Swiss Chalet and Tim Horton's. Some of those things you get accustomed to like that. Fortunately I have family in Cincinatti who come to every home game. My mom's sister lives there with her two kids and they're only 45 minutes away. It's nice to have some support at home games.
Brian: It must be nice to have a coach that's from Toronto. Of course many people don't know coach (Enrico) Blasi is a former Wexford Raider himself. Is he still a Torontonian or has he become a local down in Ohio?
Matt: He's definitely a Torontonian in his heart. He goes back whenever he can. There are four or five of us from the area and we talk all the time even back home. He's been great with us. The bunch of us go golfing together in the summer.
Brian: Well he's put together one heck of a team this year. What are the chances we may see you guys in the Frozen Four?
Matt: It's more than realistic. We can win the whole thing. Once you're in NCAA's you're only two wins away from the Frozen Four. Really once you're in the NCAA's anything can happen.
Brian: Best of luck with that. With so much focus on your league games I guess you don't get to watch the Leafs as much as you'd like?
Matt: It's hard down here. We get the Tuesday and Wednesday night games on OLN but other than that one of the guys has the Centre Ice package for all the games. I watched a game a while ago on it. I get all kinds of details from my dad. I'm glad to see the young guys like (Kyle) Wellwood and (Matt) Stajan getting minutes. The Leafs have always been big on veteran players. We had some good years with CUJO (Curtis Joseph) and even (Ed) Belfour.
Brian: Take it easy and best of luck.
Matt: Alright thanks a lot!