Steamboat Springs High School graduate chases hockey dream |

Steamboat Springs High School graduate chases hockey dream

Matt Dawes, a 2010 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, works to strengthen his hip at Forever Fit with physical therapist Erin Rosso. Dawes is hoping to earn a spot as a goalkeeper with the University of Denver hockey team next season.
John F. Russell

— Matt Dawes did squat after squat Thursday at Forever Fit.

He’s a regular these days. The little beads of sweat slowly trickling off his upper forehead and down the side of his face might as well have been little BBs of trepidation.

It’s obvious that Dawes, a 2010 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, doesn’t fully trust his surgically repaired left hip. But at every session with physical therapist Erin Rosso, Dawes gets more comfortable.

He’s relearning to use his hip and his body, in the process of chasing the same dream of playing Division I hockey.

Dawes, an All-Colorado goaltender at Steamboat Springs High School his junior year, will attend the University of Denver this fall. Should things go right, and Dawes thinks they will, he plans to try to make the Pioneers hockey team.

But all of that can wait right now.

Dawes is more interested in getting better. Talking about the April 5 surgery he had on his left hip to fix a torn labrum, his head dips a little.

But Wednesday was a good day. It was a big sign in his recovery. He skated for the first time since the surgery.

“I’ve had to relearn to walk,” Dawes said. “I was playing injured for a year and a half, and my body developed tendencies and compensations. The hip is fixed; I just have to retrain my body to do everything right. The hardest part has just been pushing through.”

Dawes was about as dominant a goaltender as Steamboat has seen. His junior year, the 2008-09 season, he led the state in just about every major goaltending category.

His senior year he played for the Denver Thunderbirds, one of the top Midget Major U18 AAA teams in the country.

There, Dawes played well and earned several tryouts with Junior Hockey League teams.

He caught on with the Boston Bulldogs of the Atlantic Junior Hockey League last year. He didn’t disappoint. The only blemish on his record was an overtime shootout loss, and he posted a 1.74 goals-against average.

Dawes had one more year of eligibility in junior hockey when he came to a crossroads. He had an academic scholarship to DU that he would have had to give up if he played another year.

Plus, the left hip that had been acting up for more than a year wasn’t getting much better. He had an MRI on the hip before playing with Boston last season and realized he had torn his labrum.

“What the doctor told me is I’d run the

risk of tearing up my hip even more,” Dawes said. “But with my dream of playing college hockey, I didn’t think I could afford to heal up.”

Dawes decided to have the surgery after the season. He weighed playing junior hockey again, but knew he wouldn’t be 100 percent by the time training camp opens.

So Dawes opted for surgery at the Steadman Clinic in Vail with Dr. Marc Philippon, one of the foremost surgeons on hip injuries.

Dawes spent four days after the surgery in the clinic. From there it was into an intense physical therapy regimen. He does physical therapy five days a week for at least two hours a day. It was even more at the beginning.

“He’s been excellent,” Rosso said. “He’s very goal-oriented. He’s right on schedule with his strength and conditioning. This is really a hard rehab and especially in the beginning. It’s an eight-hour-a-day job. He’s done everything to a T. He’s gone to the umpteenth degree.”

Dawes hopes to be healthy enough to play by early August. He has had several conversations with coaches at Denver and said they are interested in him being a third goalie.

But Dawes said he doesn’t want to rush it. If he has to sit out this year, he’s fine with that.

Besides, a dream he has chased this long isn’t about to go anywhere.

“If it doesn’t happen this year, I’m OK with that,” he said. “If that is the way it is, I’ll play a year of club hockey, train and get everything back to normal. Then I’ll try it next year.

“I think it’s just time to go to college. I’m very happy I chose DU. I’ve had an incredible time playing hockey. Hopefully everything goes well.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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