A desire to be near the sports hub of Boston factored into Nelson Leaf Matt Byrne signing to play with the Anna Maria College Athletic Team Sports (AMCATS) in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III.
“Ever since I first talked to the coaches, they were awesome to me,” says Byrne, a Penticton, B.C. native. “I always wanted to play near Boston.”
Anna Maria College is located in Paxton, Massachusetts, which is a one hour drive west of Boston. Another factor that made the AMCATS attractive to Byrne is that the Anna Maria men’s hockey program is new, having just completed its third season. In their first season in 2018-19, competing in an Independent Conference, the AMCATS was 4-16-4. In 2019-20, they had a winning record of 12-8-5 and this past season they were 1-6-0.
“It’s great to get on with a new program, kind of be the foundation,” says Byrne, who had a couple other options, but felt Anna Maria was the best for him.
The AMCATS like the way he plays, especially his speed and quick shot. Leafs assistant coach and assistant general manager Adam DiBella says Byrne is a high-end player and he believes that Byrne will be a top player and score at a high rate.
“Matthew’s confidence really blossomed in Nelson and you could see he was having fun playing,” says DiBella.
Byrne says the Leafs coaches Mario DiBella and Adam taught him new things. With the Leafs Byrne became a faster skater and his shot got better with work.
“All my teammates I had, it was probably the best year of hockey I’ve had,” says Byrne. “It was a super fun year. I can’t thank my coaches and teammates enough for this year.”
Byrne comes to Anna Maria with lots of junior experience, having played 95 regular season and playoffs in the B.C. Hockey League and Alberta Junior Hockey League, along with 27 regular and playoff season games combined with the Summerland Steam and Leafs in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
“The KIJHL was awesome for me because it’s almost like I got my love for hockey back,” says Byrne, who will study business administration. “It was just a great experience all around. It’s a good and fun league to play in. It probably brought my confidence up a little bit.”
Byrne is excited about his next chapter as he gains life experiences from going away and being in college. He looks to become a better person and player.