Saturday, December 03, 2022

Sports Person of the Week

Morgan Becomes a Force for the Hornets


Matt Morgan earned All-Conference accolades while leading the Branford ice hockey team as a junior captain this year. Photo courtesy of Matt Morgan

Matt Morgan earned All-Conference accolades while leading the Branford ice hockey team as a junior captain this year. (Photo courtesy of Matt Morgan)

Matt Morgan started as a forward on Branford’s second line during his freshman season and helped the Hornets claim a conference title. After making an immediate impact, Matt’s role with the Branford boys’ ice hockey squad has grown alongside his skills over the years, leading Matt to a spot on the All-Conference First Team as a junior this winter.

Matt was introduced to hockey when he was five by his father Mike, an avid hockey fan who grew up playing the sport. Mike would take Matt and his older son Conner to developmental programs, and two brothers also played roller hockey in the backyard. With hockey being so important in the Morgan family, Matt was invested in the sport right from the get-go.

“My dad played hockey when he was younger. He loves the game. He got me and my brother involved at a young age,” says Matt. “He brought us to learn-to-skate programs. I played in the backyard with my brother, shooting pucks and Rollerblading.”

After starting his career with the Greater New Haven Warriors, Matt played in West Haven through bantams. By playing so much hockey, Matt was able to meet numerous people, both teammates and opponents. Matt says that it’s always great playing against his former teammates and seeing how far they’ve come as hockey players.

Matt suits up as a forward and has been playing that position for his entire career. When he gets the puck in the offensive zone, Matt has a watchful eye and tries to get the best possession that he can for the Hornets.

“When I get the puck on my stick, I always try to make plays and make stuff happen,” Matt says. “I want to get the puck to my teammates or try to find the open lane for myself.”

Matt joined the Branford ice hockey program as a freshman and was immediately thrown into the fray by starting on the second line alongside seniors Blake Kustra and Zach Jones. While it was daunting for Matt to move up to the high school level, the presence of his veteran teammates made him feel more comfortable on the ice during his freshman campaign.

“Playing at the varsity level in high school was definitely different. I was going against kids that were way stronger, way faster, and bigger than me,” Matt says. “But I was playing between two seniors, which helped. There was a lot of bonding with the older guys.”

In Matt’s freshman year, Branford faced North Haven in the championship game of the SCC/SWC Division II Tournament at Bennett Rink and claimed a 1-0 victory. Matt says that winning a conference title with the Hornets was a moment that he will never forget.

“It was a big game against a big rival in North Haven. Their locker room is right across from ours at Northford. You see those guys every day,” says Matt. “We won by a goal. It was electric in Bennett.”

While he saw significant playing time as a freshman, Matt continued to work hard to improve his game. Matt was more content with being a role player in his freshman season, but by his junior year, he wanted to take on more responsibility and become an offensive force for the Hornets. Matt accomplished his goal and finished his junior season as an All-SCC/SWC Division II First Team honoree.

“Freshman year, I was more of a pass-first player. I just let those guys do their thing while I was supporting them. But this year, I had a bigger role on the team,” Matt says. “I got the puck a lot. I played a lot of minutes. I double shifted a lot. I just really worked harder this year.”

As he was producing points, Matt also served as Branford’s lone team captain during the 2022 season. After looking up the seniors around him as a freshman, Matt wanted to provide this year’s underclassmen with that same type of leadership.

“It was definitely a big role, I had big shoes to fill,” says Matt. “My freshman year, I really looked up to the captains. I wanted the freshman to look up to me. There were a lot of motivational speeches before the games and after the games. I wanted to show it on the ice and give it my all.”

For all of Matt’s offensive flair and locker-room leadership, Head Coach Jim DiNapoli notes that one of the junior captain’s best traits is his passion for the game. DiNapoli says that Matt brings his very best to the Hornets on a daily basis, setting a strong example for everyone on the squad.

“Matt’s passion for our game is a pleasure to be around every day,” DiNapoli says. “His love of competition is top-notch, and he sets an excellent example for his teammates to emulate.”

In addition to hockey, Matt joined the Branford boys’ golf team as a sophomore. Matt is looking forward to his spring season with the Hornets, who begin their 2022 campaign this week.

After honing his skills for three seasons, Matt wants to help the Branford hockey squad win a state championship during his senior year. Whether he’s on the ice or in the hallways of the high school, Matt always feels proud to represent his hometown.

“Calling myself a hockey player is one of the best things in life. There’s nobody like them,” says Matt. “Playing for Branford is great. It’s great playing for my town and representing Branford on our jerseys and walking around with the merch in school. Everybody knows.”

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