Monday, February 27, 2012

Bama Hockey defender brimming with confidence ahead of title tournament


Matthew Talton is an experienced and talented defenseman for Alabama Hockey and he doesn’t lack confidence in what lies ahead.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Alabama Frozen Tide hockey team defeated Florida 7-2, completing a three game sweep of the Southeastern College Hockey Conference Tournament and setting the stage for a run at the National Championship. Yes, you read that right—an Alabama sports team is poised for a run at yet another national title.

[RELATED: Exclusive interview with Head Coach Mike Quenneville]

BAMSRadio’s BlipAngel caught up with the senior defender to get his thoughts on the Tide’s season and the national championship tournament ahead.

How has the combination of experienced upper classmen and talented under classmen combined for the Frozen Tide this season?  Talk about the chemistry of the team, if you would.

“Each year at training camp, General Manager Buddy DamarĂ© tells each of the returning players that the freshmen at the camp are there to take a spot on the team away from the returners and that we must fight to keep our position.  That was definitely true this year as the group of freshmen we have brought in made a difference, beginning when we stepped onto the ice against Georgia Tech.  The talent of the freshmen combined with the experience of the veterans has made the Frozen Tide a force to be reckoned with in ACHA Division III. This team has come together like no other that I have been a part of.  We have weathered storms on and off the ice and come out on the other side stronger and unified.”

Looking ahead to the Nationals, what challenges do you see and what do you think the team’s chances are?

“When you look at the lineup of teams in the tournament and especially those in our grouping, you see a lot of history with former National Champions and Runners-up; however, you cannot count any team out when they are wearing a crimson "A" on their chest.  We have already played two of the teams in our grouping: a loss to Hope College (North #1) and a win over CSU-Northridge (Pacific #4).  Statistics only take you so far, though. We have outplayed and beaten the #1 seed out of our region, FGCU.  We have hung with and beaten the type of competition we will see in Vineland, so we definitely have a legitimate shot at bringing the University of Alabama its first National Championship in ice hockey.”

Talk about the SECHC Tournament and what it meant for the team to make history there.

“I remember showing up at training camp my freshman year and hearing the returning players talk about their loss to Richmond at the regional tournament the season before.  This organization has come a long way since that time and the tables were turned this year.  Assistant Coach Ian Hebert told us at practice last week to carry a bit of "swagger" to South Carolina and we did just that, going in there and taking care of business for the first time in Frozen Tide history.  

“The Blue Ridge Hockey Conference always puts competitive teams on the ice at Regionals so we knew that we would be up against tough competition.  One major highlight of the weekend was being able to put away Christopher Newport University on Friday night for our first win at the regional tournament in the team's history.  It was definitely nice to get that monkey off our back.  As for the game against Richmond, a high point for our team was the discipline and dedication to the process that we showed in Saturday's game.  One thing that hurt us at last year's regional tournament was that we lacked that discipline and seeing this team overcome that and reach our goal was priceless.”

How do you think the team will prepare mentally and physically for the Nationals?

I imagine that our preparation will be similar to the football team's preparation for their National Championship.  The break will give us some time to heal some injuries and get our bodies ready to play on the big stage, but the preparation will not change much from the rest of the year.  We have played every weekend of the season for a chance to play in this tournament so this is just another part of the process we have been completing step by step all season.  We have been playing National Championship caliber teams all year so our preparation will not change.  We know our systems, our plays, our plans; the season has been a collection of rehearsals leading up to New Jersey when we have an opportunity to showcase Bama Hockey with the whole nation watching.

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