WPIAL Alum Q&A – Matt Skoff
Tuesday, December 29, 2015 | 1:21 AM
More than six years ago, the Montour hockey team made an unlikely run to the PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup Championship Game. Undoubtedly, the play of goaltender Matt Skoff was the biggest reason for the Spartans reaching the title game.
Monday night, Skoff returned to his hometown, as a member of the Penn State hockey team. Skoff and the Nittany Lions will compete in the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center both Monday and Tuesday.
His journey to this point has included many highlights, dating back to his high school career. While at Montour, Skoff cemented himself as arguably the best goaltender in the league. As a senior in 2008-09, Skoff helped guide the sixth-seeded Spartans to the championship, although they ultimately came up short against Greater Latrobe.
He also played for the Pittsburgh Hornets, and the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League.
Following those experiences, Skoff joined the Penn State hockey team for the 2012-13 season, which was the first year that the Nittany Lions competed as an NCAA team, as opposed to a club team.
As a freshman, Skoff sported a record of 9-8, with a goals-against average of 2.48, and a stellar .921 save percentage. The following campaign, Skoff played in 23 games, and was named the team’s MVP for the season. As a junior, Skoff played fewer minutes due to the influx of talent between the pipes, but he again posted a winning mark, and for the second-consecutive year, was named an Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
His play caught the attention of professional scouts, which earned Skoff the opportunity to attend the Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospect camp over the summer.
Now in his senior season at Penn State, Skoff has continued his strong play in net, while the Nittany Lions are emerging as a national powerhouse. After compiling a mark of 26-41-6 during their first two years in the Big Ten Conference, the Lions boast a mark of 11-2-3 so far in 2015-16, and are ranked No. 15 nationally.
Matt took time over his holiday break to give a glimpse of his life both on and off the ice.
Q: Penn State hockey has developed very quickly in the past few seasons into a top-notch program. What has it been like to be a part of the transition?
A: It’s been awesome! We’ve put so much work in as group these last four years and to see it paying off feels great. Being a part of this team from the beginning has been a blast!
Q: How would you compare Pegula Arena to other venues you have played in your career, and what is the coolest aspect of playing there?
A: I personally feel that Pegula Ice Arena is the best venue in college hockey. It has everything you need as a Division I athlete to put yourself in a position to succeed as a student athlete. The coolest part playing at Pegula is definitely the Roar Zone. They make the atmosphere what it is and it is so much fun playing in front of them every home game.
Q: Penn State has distributed playing time among goalies fairly evenly over the past few seasons. Have you been able to adjust to that?
A: Yes I have. Whenever my name is called to play, I just try to give my team the best possible chance to win the game.
Q: What were the team goals and your individual goals for this 2015-16 campaign?
A: As a team, winning the Big Ten championship has been a goal of ours since we joined the Big Ten. Being able to compete in the NCAA tournament is another goal of ours.
Q: Do you closely follow any of the other sports at Penn State?
A: Yes, at Penn State all the student athletes do a pretty good job of supporting each other at all sporting events.
Q: You are coming back to Pittsburgh to play in a pair of games at the Consol Energy Center. What will that feel like to take the ice there as part of the Nittany Lions?
A: Well, this will be my fourth year of being able to play at Consol Energy Center and each time I get excited to play in front of family and friends. This will be my last year playing in the Three Rivers Classic and hopefully we can pull out two victories because we’ve never won the whole thing before.
Q: You had an impressive career at Montour. What was your favorite moment as a player for the Spartans?
A: My favorite moment playing for Montour was my senior year where we clinched our spot to play in Mellon Arena. When the game was over our student section begin to throw actual watermelons onto the ice because we were headed to “Mellon” Arena.
Q: Do you still keep in touch with any of your former teammates or coaches from Montour?
A: Yes, I keep in touch with multiple teammates and coaches from all three teams that I played with during my time playing high school hockey. I try to make it to their practices usually every holiday break as well.
Q: In which areas have you most improved from your time in the PIHL to now?
A: I think the biggest area that I improved since high school is my mental game.
Q: Do you have any pre-game rituals?
A: I just try to stay loose. I try to visualize different scenarios that I might face during the game.
Q: Who is your favorite goalie currently or all time?
A: My favorite goalie currently is Braden Holtby. But my favorite goalie growing up was Dominick Hasek.
Q: Where is your favorite place to eat in State College?
A: My favorite place to eat in State College has to be Chipotle or Primanti Brothers
Q: What is your favorite college class?
A: I took a golf class one summer. I would have to go with that.
Q: If you had to pick one, would you prefer smaller goalie equipment or larger nets?
A: That’s such a tough question. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, but I would have to go with bigger nets.