Opening Night Goal Ends Major Slump for DeBlouw

It was a textbook sophomore slump last season for Matt DeBlouw. After scoring 10 goals in his freshman season, including three in the final three games of the season, he went without a single goal in his sophomore campaign.

But with every new season comes a clean slate, a chance to start over again, and DeBlouw and other Spartans made the most of it last night as the Spartans had scoring from three of their four lines in a 5-3 win over UMass.

For DeBlouw, his goal at 3:05 of the third period was his first goal since March 17, 2013 against Miami (OH), ending a 23-game goalless drought.

“I didn’t know really what to do,” DeBlouw, a Michigan native, said. “It was good. Ryan Keller made a great back check on the previous play and then he just chipped it up to me. I just took a shot. Luckily it hit the post and went in.”

As DeBlouw carried the puck up the left wing, he kicked it into high gear at the blueline and completely stepped past the Minutemen defenseman and fired a short-side shot on goaltender Steve Mastalerz.

Part of the Spartans’ success as a team will be dependent on if they can get contributions and goals like that from players like DeBlouw, but not always contributions that will show up in the goal scoring department.

“I think what I can bring to the team on a regular basis is hitting guys and getting the crowd into it more,” he said. “I love hitting. Me and Keller are the bash brothers. Nothing wrong with that.”

DeBlouw lived up to the ‘Bash Brother’ name with an early hit in the corner on Minutemen forward Ben Gallacher.

So, what was it that was different in his play last season?

“I think last year I always ended up pressing,” DeBlouw said. “I think this year getting one early, especially with this huge win, I think that was really helpful too. The guys were all here supporting me. We got the win so it was all positive things.”

Head coach Tom Anastos was very happy to see DeBlouw finally bury one.

“I think that’s huge,” Anastos said, almost breathing a sigh of relief. “He showed some emotion after. He was very excited and I like to see that emotion from him because when he plays with emotion he can be a really good player.”

But Anastos knows what he needs to work on to help DeBlouw get back to his freshman form.

“We need to find some consistency from Matt because he’s got a lot of skill and I thought that was a very positive step forward,” Anastos said. “I think the goal is going to sprinkle the flame a little bit to keep him hungry and reward him a little bit and give him a little bit of confidence.”

There may be a pun intended there considering DeBlouw was a the Calgary Flames’ seventh round draft pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.

“We’re trying to get him to play on the attack. He sometimes gets conservative and is in more of a protective mode and falls back to defend all the time. It’s like a mentality of ‘I don’t want to get beat,’ and I want you to have the mentality to ‘go beat somebody,’” Anastos said.

“Just like on the goal. That’s what he did. Those are the kinds of things we want to see out of him and we have to get that in his DNA so it happens all the time.”

Brian Bobal is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports

Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports