Steamboat Springs hockey star earns recognition for talent |

Steamboat Springs hockey star earns recognition for talent

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs High School goalie Matt Dawes blocks a shot during a January game against Battle Mountain. Dawes just returned from the Chicago Showcase where he played with Team Colorado in the toughest division.

— Matt Dawes is the best high school hockey goalie in the state.

There isn’t much debate. He steals games, makes saves he shouldn’t and always had the Steamboat Springs High School hockey team in a position to win.

The numbers don’t lie. He led the state in wins, was second in shutout and his goals-against average was second among goalies with more than 15 starts.

Other coaches and media outlets recognized Dawes’ work, naming him to the Colorado High School Activities Association and The Denver Post first team All-State teams.

“That Dawes kid is outstanding,” said Lewis-Palmer coach Steve Fillo, whose team lost in the state championship game. “He’s something special. He could steal a game for you at any time.”

But if you look beyond the obvious, more than the numbers and high marks from coaches show just how special Dawes really is. The junior is a sponge for information, might be the most prepared athlete in the state and has worked endlessly for everything he has received.

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“He gives you the opportunity to win every game for sure,” Steamboat coach Jeff Ruff said. “As long as we have offense and the ability to get points, he’s a game-stealer. He’s the make-or-break guy that did keep us in games, especially early in (the) season.”

Dawes split time in goal with his brother, Jeff, during Matt’s sophomore year. With Jeff departing, Matt turned all of his attention to his junior year.

After attending several camps, including an event in Buffalo, N.Y., for top prospects, Dawes said he found the key for his big breakthrough.

Two weeks before the start of the high school season, Dawes connected with a mental toughness coach.

It’s there where Dawes found the biggest aid to his game.

“I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” he said. “But hockey is 90 percent mental. I feel so mature and was able to look at the game and take situations of stuff I’d been working on and apply it.”

For instance, Dawes struggled in the middle of the past season with giving up first period goals. But with his mental preparation, he does a lot of journaling, so to get over his first period struggles, Dawes made a checklist of 20 things to get done in each game’s first frame.

They were little games Dawes could win and little things he could concentrate on to reach an end result.

“It opened a whole new door with hockey and about being a goalie,” he said. “You can be in the best physical shape, but if you don’t have a mental game, you won’t be the best goalie.”

Dawes should have a lot of opportunities to play elsewhere in the near future. Along with attending camps across the nation, Dawes just returned from the Chicago Showcase where he played with Team Colorado in the showcase’s toughest division.

Hundreds of scouts are at every camp he attends.

But where some elite athletes might take a chance with junior hockey next year, Dawes said he’s not done in Steamboat. He said he’s “almost 100 percent sure” he’s staying to play for the Sailors.

“I want to be spending time with my family,” he said. “I’ll be happy to know I stayed in Steamboat with my friends and family.”

But after he graduates, he plans to take two years to play junior hockey. From there, he will hope to catch on at a Division I or Division III hockey team.

Until then, though, opposing coaches will cringe. Dawes said he’s not satisfied. He’s going to continue to journal, work out and undoubtedly prepare himself for an even better season as a senior.

“It was an awesome year, but it’s not over yet,” he said. “I’m going to work even harder. Hard work is what gets you rewarded. I’m going to step up my mental game and get in better physical shape. I want to make the playoffs again, win that second playoff game and do a lot better.”