Newcomer Matt Sherman leading the way for GVSU hockey
Sherman has seven goals in his first season in a Laker uniform after coming from NAHL
GVL / Emily Frye Matt Sherman goes for the puck on Friday Oct. 7, 2016 against Rochester College.
With 17 combined freshmen and sophomores on the Grand Valley State club hockey team (Division II), there was concern that its youthful roster would experience early adversity.
But opening the season 7-3, the Lakers have already exceeded initial expectations. One major reason for their early success has been leading goal-scorer and newcomer Matt Sherman’s addition to the team.
Sherman is technically considered a freshman, but at the age of 20, standing 6-foot-5 and two years of junior hockey under his belt, he is not the traditional underclassman.
“At first glance, you notice how big he is,” said GVSU coach Mike Forbes, “Then you watch him play and see how skilled of a player and skater he really is. It made a lasting impression on the whole team and myself.”
Sherman’s story begins after graduating high school in 2014 when he was drafted into the North American Hockey League (NAHL) by the Aberdeen Wings, a junior hockey team in South Dakota.
“The reason I went to play junior hockey was in hopes of getting a Division I scholarship, and I was getting some serious looks by some schools,” Sherman said.
But after a rough start to begin his second year, Aberdeen traded him halfway through the season to the Minnesota Magicians. Sherman didn’t play for a month because of a complication with the trade, which he believes hurt his overall game and patience for a potential Division I offer.
“Although it was just a month, not playing competitively for a stretch showed in my game and I began to become sick of it all,” Sherman said.
Sherman decided to stop his run with junior hockey to attend GVSU this fall, which was his initial plan in 2014 if he wasn’t drafted into the NAHL.
Even though the team still considers him a rookie and freshman, the players and coaching staff have already set high expectations for Sherman this season.
“The team really expects a lot from me because of my experience. At the same time, I still have to do the rookie and freshman tasks that I wasn’t expecting,” Sherman said. “Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am new to this team and stay humble.”
Sherman’s breakout game was a 9-2 blowout victory over Ferris State Friday, Oct. 14, where he scored a whopping four goals.
“We’ve been working hard and I have been fortunate to have great success on my line,” Sherman said. “We’re going to be a better team moving forward and it comes down to preparation to be more ready.”
Although early success has appeared easy for Sherman, a major transitional difficulty has been adjusting his game from the physicality of junior hockey to the more laid back version of Divison II play. Sherman is second on the team with 29 penalty minutes in 10 games.
“(In junior hockey), fighting is somewhat encouraged, and when there is something in front of your net and a teammate is getting beat up, it’s known to go over and defend him,” Sherman said. “It’s definitely a different culture in this type of play because they don’t want any violence at all.”
Forbes noticed a rough start practicing with the team, but praised Sherman’s accelerated progress as not only a player but a leader.
“At first he seemed to hide his talents and wasn’t playing his best, but since he’s began to open up as a player and person ” Forbes said. “He’s already began leading skating drills and turning them into competitions to push his teammates to be even better. Our captains can only do so much to lead this young team, and he’s the type of talent that can elevate their game and set the level of play.”