Prep girls hockey: Matushak named Gannett Central Wisconsin Media POY

Prep girls hockey: Matushak named Gannett Central Wisconsin Media POY

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Prep girls hockey: Matushak named Gannett Central Wisconsin Media POY

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WAUSAU

Marissa Matushak doesn’t consider herself a spotlight player.

That’s why surprise was her initial reaction to hearing that she was one of five finalists for the Molly Engstrom Award this year — an honor given to the top prep girls hockey defenseman in the state.

“I honestly didn’t think that people really noticed me, because my stats were kind of low,” the Central Wisconsin Storm senior said. “I haven’t really ever been noticed for hockey or anything. For the coaches (in the state) to know that I’m a pretty good player and a pretty good defenseman meant the world to me.”

It’s wasn’t hard to notice Matushak on the ice. The four-year veteran was considered the anchor for the Storm’s defense — a group that put the clamps on opponents throughout the season. The Storm allowed 21 goals in 24 games this season, and didn’t allow a postseason goal until a WIAA state semifinal matchup loss to Bay Area.

For her efforts, Matushak, who finished with two goals and 17 points, has been named Gannett Central Wisconsin Media’s girls hockey player of the year.

“I was just fortunate to have such a good year, and so many great people around me,” Matushak said.

The Storm’s Jana Wimmer, who led her team to the state tournament is the coach of the year. Central Wisconsin finished the season ranked third in the state, and posted a 22-5-1 record in a challenging independent schedule.

The Storm went 10-3-1 against teams that finished the season ranked in the state’s top-10, and two of the losses came to eventual state champion Bay Area.

Matushak is one of four Storm players to make the first team, joined by goalie Lisa Fowle and forwards Kelly Knetter and Katelynn Schilling. Tomahawk defenseman Erika Vallier and Point/Rapids forward Rachel Metz round out the first team.

With 15 assists this season, Matushak more than doubled the amount she had the previous three seasons combined (seven).

“I’m definitely not the type to have really big stats. My main position is defense and I focus on that,” Matushak said. “I was lucky to get a few more assists and even more goals. It just comes down to hard work I guess.”

Matushak’s main focus was to shut down the opponent’s attack, something she has excelled at since joining the Storm’s blue line as a freshman. In four seasons with the Storm, Matushak was part of a team that posted a 96-12-3 mark, and reached the state tournament four times, winning the title in 2012.

“She is solid in all areas of the game,” Wimmer said at the start of the season. “She plays really well one-on-one (defensively), and you know she isn’t going to get beat. She makes good decisions with the puck and moves the puck quickly and finds our open person. She doesn’t score a lot of goals, but a lot of our offensive rushes start because of what she does back there.”

She was a captain this year for the Storm, and also served as a leader and mentor of sorts for a relatively youthful Storm defensive corps. Alex Guenther was the only other senior defenseman for the Storm.

“It definitely was different. You have to come out and play hard every game because you want to be a role model for the younger girls,” Matushak said. “You want to be able to teach them valuable lessons that they’re going to hang on to even when you’re gone.

“I had that when I was younger. I had people teaching me what was right and what was wrong. “I definitely became a better player because of it. I just hope what I did this year, helps the younger girls become better players.”

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