Matson Leads Resurgent Gophers

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Go Gophers! Taylor Matson
Go Gophers!
Taylor Matson captained Minnesota to its first MacNaughton Cup in five years.
Go Gophers!
It is simply called the four corners, but there is nothing easy about it. It is a grueling training exercise that begins and ends at the same spot on the Mariucci Arena concourse and is one that every member of the Minnesota men's hockey team is familiar with.

In between starting and stopping, members of the team run down and up the 69 steep stairs from the concourse to the ice level four times, while completing a lap around the expansive concourse. It takes the average player around 2:45 to complete.

Taylor Matson is not your average player.

The senior captain completed the strenuous task in 2:10, breaking Kris Chucko's program record by 16 seconds.  

"It is a matter of timing and speed at the same because you want to go down and up the stairs as fast as possible and you obviously want to sprint around the concourse," said Matson. "This year, I pushed myself to the max. I was throwing up for a good half hour after. That was not a good part of it, but it was worth it after it was done."

Hard work is nothing new to the ultra-competitive Matson. Whether it is hockey, school or running up and down stairs as fast as possible, the 23-year-old gives maximum effort in everything he does.

"He has been here every day," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, who has coached 16 first team All-Americans. "He is not a guy who misses anything. He never says he is going to take a week off. Taylor's home in the summertime has been in the weight room and his conditioning. He takes it very seriously. That is why he is our captain."

Matson pushed himself so hard while running the four corners that in addition to vomiting, he also experienced limited vision.

"His heart rate registered 250 beats-per-minute," said Minnesota strength and conditioning coach Cal Dietz. "You begin to lose your vision when your heart rate gets that high. He could only see big, broad objects. That tells you how hard he works and how much pain he can withstand and keep pushing himself. I have never seen anyone withstand that much pain."
Go Gophers! Taylor Matson
Go Gophers!
Matson was voted captain by his teammates prior to this season.
Go Gophers!

It is pretty remarkable that Matson was able to set a new standard in the four corners, as he has never finished a season healthy. His freshman year ended after he suffered an ACL injury eight games into the season against Michigan. His sophomore season was cut short after 18 games after he suffered an ankle injury that would require two surgeries and the implementation of a titanium rope into his lower leg. Last year, he played in 33 games before suffering a minor injury that kept him out of the WCHA playoffs.  

"I have always been a hard worker, but I think those injuries made me appreciate the game and really made me come out and work hard every single day because you never know when it is going to be your last," said Matson, who has received the Mike Crupi Most Determined Player award each of the last two seasons. "After my ACL injury I told myself that nothing could get worse than that. I hurt my ankle and told myself that it was just another thing that I had to get through and that it would heal pretty well. After that, once I was healthy it was the strongest I had been and I was in the best shape of my life."

He is not kidding about being in the best shape of his life either. Before this season he had to undergo a body fat test three times because his levels kept coming back so low.

"I got like .9 percent the first time and they said that could not be possible and tested me again," said Matson. "I did it again and got 1 percent and did it again and got 1.1 percent. They said there is a 3-5 percent error, but that they had never seen that number before."   

Dietz said that in his 11 years at Minnesota he has rarely seen an athlete like Matson, calling him an, "Exception to the rule."

Lucia said it is Matson's mental toughness that separates him from other athletes.

"With his mental toughness, he could be a Special Forces guy in the military," said Lucia. "He is a guy who will push himself and never give up and that is the type of mentality you have to have in a situation like that. That is the way he comes to the rink every day and works on the ice. That is the way he comes every day to work in the weight room. That is how he treats his academics too. Not many people can do that in every phase of their life."

Not many people are Taylor Matson.

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