When the Portland Winterhawks face off against the Calgary Hitmen on Nov. 22, Chestermere’s own Matthew Quigley will be lacing up his skates for his first junior hockey game in Calgary.
“I’m just excited to come home and play in that rink that I’ve been watching the Hitmen and the Flames in my whole childhood,” said Matthew Quigley.
Quigley is in his second season playing defense for the Winterhawks.
The Winterhawks and the Hitmen only face each other once per Western Hockey League (WHL) season. Last year they played each other in Portland.
“When the Hitmen came here last year, I think we beat them like 7-3,” said Quigley.
“There might be some tension over that game,” he said.
Quigley said that he is definitely more excited for this game than most other regular season games.
He said that he remembers going to Hitmen games as a kid and thinking those players were so good.
“To be actually able to play in that league and in that rink, is going to be really a cool experience,” said Quigley.
Even though the Hitmen were his team growing up, Quigley is excited to play, and to win in Calgary.
The Hitmen have a record of six wins, 12 losses and three overtime losses compared to the Winterhawks’ 14 and four record.
Despite the disparity in their records this season, Quigley doesn’t plan to take the Hitmen lightly.
“In this league…you can’t really take a game off, every team has a lot of good players,” said Quigley.
“Any night anyone can beat anyone,” he said.
That said, Quigley and the Winterhawks goal is make an impression on their trip to Alberta.
“Hopefully we come out and have some wins and we’ll have a happy trip,” he said.
Quigley hopes to be able to be an important part of his team’s hoped-for success on their Alberta trip.
This being his second year with the Winterhawks, Quigley said that it has been a little easier for him now that he knows what to expect playing in the WHL.
“This year has been a lot more of…just playing my game and not as much trying to get comfortable in the league,” he said.
With his newfound comfort, Quigley has been focusing on skills such as puck handling, passing and shooting.
“I think my shot’s improved over the summer, I’ve worked a lot on that,” he said.
He said that his puck handling and play making have shown the most improvement from last year.
“I think I’m making more offensive plays,” he said.
His new focus on his game is paying off. After 18 regular season games this year he has two goals and eight assists. In the 2016/2017 season he had no goals and only three assists.
Quigley described his first season in Portland as, “a big learning year.”
“It was a huge step up from midget,” he said.
His increased comfort in the league is probably a good thing, Quigley is under enough pressure playing in Calgary without having to still adjust to the WHL.
Since this is his first homecoming game, Quigley knows there’ll be a big cheering section for him come game day.
“My mom was saying that she bought almost a whole section out,” he said.
Quigley’s mom, Penny, confirmed that she does have about 60 people coming to cheer her son on.
“We’re really excited to have Matt back home playing,” she said.
Penny will be following the Winterhawks on their tour through Alberta.
“I’ll be at each of the games,” she said, “Cheering him on and cheering on Portland.”
Knowing that there’ll be such a large group of friends and family there is ratcheting up his pre-game nerves a little.
“There’s a bit of nerves, wanting to do good and succeed in front of people that are close to me,” he said.
Quigley said there’s more excitement to get to play in front of them than nerves though.