Like many before him, Silas Matthys accidentally found his way into goaltending.
Playing youth hockey, Matthys preferred scoring goals more than stopping pucks.
But with his team’s regular goaltender sick that particular day, Matthys was pressed into action.
“I got forced into playing goal,” admits the 22-year-old.
“Our goalie was sick and they put me in because my dad used to be a goalie. I liked playing forward, to be free (on the ice).
“Unfortunately, I did a good job (in goal).”
Matthys continued playing the position and grew to love being a goaltender.
And his play blossomed.
Matthys, who grew up in Switzerland, played junior through the ranks of local club Rapperswil-Jona Lakers, and eventually found himself playing professionally with HC Sierre, a team in the National League B, the country’s second highest hockey league. He played 21 games in his one-year with the club, earning eight player of the game awards.
When the club suddenly went bankrupt at the end of the 2012/13 season, he found himself without a team.
But a contact through Athletes in Action from when Matthys was a child had continued correspondence with his father over the years, and put the Swiss goalie in touch with Trinity Western men’s hockey coach Barret Kropf.
Kropf already had three goaltenders on his roster, but thought he would contact Matthys to gauge his interest.
“It was a bit of a gamble, but the Swiss do produce some pretty good goaltenders,” the coach admitted.
“It was a good and educated guess, but it was nonetheless a shot in the dark.”
So Matthys packed his bags and made the move to Langley, leaving Wollereau, a town of 7,000 to move to a foreign country.
“I didn’t even know (TWU) existed,” he admitted, adding that the fact he grew up in a Christian household and was now attending a Christian university was great.
The first year was an adjustment.
“To jump right into university life was pretty tough,” he said.
“The language (barrier) was probably the biggest struggle.”
Back home, Matthys primarily spoke German, although he did know some English.
On the ice was an adjustment as well, especially since Matthys was used to playing on the larger European ice surfaces.
“He definitely had to grow into learning and he just continued to play better and better with each opportunity.”
“He wrestled that No. 1 spot away last year and has been our MVP (ever since).”
And not just the Spartans most valuable player, either, as last week Matthys was named both the top goaltender and MVP by the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League. He is the first goalie to win MVP in the league.
Matthys backstopped the Spartans to an upset of SFU in the first round of last year’s playoffs, before they lost in the BCIHL finals. During the regular season, Matthys had a 4.05 goals against average and an .893 save percentage.
But in the post-season, he improved those numbers significantly to 3.20 and .921.
And his numbers were off the chart this past year. He went 14-5 with a 2.50 GAA and a .930 save percentage, which were second and first in the league, respectively.
Unfortunately, SFU returned the favour this season, eliminating Trinity Western in the semifinals with 3-2 and 6-4 victories earlier this month.
Matthys, a second-year business student, still has two years of eligibility left.
Following that, he would like to play professionally.
“He has been a real treat for our program,” Kropf said.
“He is one of those guys you wished you had another dozen lined up that could keep filling in after him.”
With his professional background, Matthys shows his teammates what it takes when it comes to nutrition and rest.
What really stands out, however, is his on-ice efforts.
“He competes. Even in practice, he hates being scored on,” Kropf said.
“He brings that same attitude into games.”
Matthys was one of several Trinity Western players honoured with year-end accolades.
PJ Buys was named rookie of the year while Kropf was named coach of the year.
Matthys and forward Cody Fidgett were both first team all-star while Buys and defenceman Jake Harcoff were second team selections.
Kropf was the co-recipient of the coach of the year award last year.
This season, he guided the Spartans to a program-best 17-5-0-2 as they finished as the top team during the BCIHL regular season.
The team led the league in both goals scored (106) and goals against (69).
Buys finished the season third among all scorers in the BCIHL with 14 goals and 38 points in 21 games.