Michael Matyas was so unknown -- he did not play a second last season, his first with the UAA hockey team -- that school officials Thursday afternoon double-checked how to correctly say the goaltender's name.
It's pronounced MY-kull.
OK, phonetics humor aside, his last name is pronounced MATTY-us. It's Hungarian, Matyas said.
After Matyas' 24-save performance Friday night, which backstopped UAA's 2-1 exhibition victory over the University of British Columbia, his veil of anonymity began to lift -- and a pronunciation primer proved necessary.
Matyas, 21, had not played a game in at least 18 months, dating back to his last season with his hometown Calgary Canucks in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. But first-year Seawolves coach Matt Thomas decided Matyas merited an opportunity.
Thus, knowing all day Friday he was going to start the exhibition over seniors Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal, who split duties the last three seasons under previous coach Dave Shyiak, Matyas' jitters were understandable.
"I was extremely nervous before the game, but it was kind of an excited nervousness,'' Matyas said.
More than seven minutes elapsed before Matyas faced a shot at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex on campus. Still, he got his left shoulder on the wrister Nick Bounassisi launched from the bottom of the left circle. By then, UAA owned a 1-0 lead on defenseman Austin Coldwell's power-play drive.
Matyas later in the period flashed his left pad to rebuff Bounassisi's point-blank bid and denied Anthony Bardaro in tight.
Five minutes into the second period, he pushed left to right to snuff an odd-man rush.
And arguably his best, most critical save came on Brad Bohan's power-play wrister from the high slot about six minutes into the third period, when UAA led 2-0 courtesy of freshman Dylan Hubbs' power-play one-timer from the left circle in the second period. Hubbs' goal came off a splendid cross-ice feed from fellow rookie Zack Rassel.
With the Thunderbirds enjoying one of their five power plays in the third period, Bohan gathered the puck between the circles and at least twice faked as if to shoot. Each time, Matyas twitched, then reset. When Bohan finally unloaded a wrister, Matyas snatched it with his glove for a whistle.
"That's his strength -- he's a patient goaltender,'' Thomas said of the 6-foot-3 masked man. "He can give his team that feeling that, 'Hey, things are going to be OK.' ''
The only goal Matyas surrendered came at even strength, when Greg Fraser nudged the puck between his pads halfway through the third period.
Yet Matyas and the Seawolves twice survived two-man disadvantages, killed all nine Thunderbird power plays and escaped their opponents' extra-attacker advantage in the last 46 seconds. Sixteen of the 25 shots Matyas faced came during British Columbia power plays.
"I think he learned a lot of lessons in a 60-minute game,'' Thomas said. "He faced a lot of situations.''
Matyas' effort Friday likely pegs him as UAA's starter next week when it opens the season for real in its Kendall Hockey Classic.
"It was a big step in the right direction,'' Matyas said. "Then again, it was only an exhibition. I just hope to translate this into good things.''
Freshman winger Hudson Friesen led UAA with five shots on goal and senior defenseman Quinn Sproule checked in with three, as did senior forward Brett Cameron.
Also furnishing assists for the Seawolves were junior defenseman Derek Docken, sophomore winger Bobby Murphy and sophomore defenseman Blake Leask.
Cameron played wing exclusively in his first three seasons at UAA, but Thomas used him at center.
When UAA faced a two-man disadvantage for 72 seconds in the second period, Thomas sent out two centers (senior Matt Bailey and Cameron) and one defenseman (Docken). That situation usually brings out two D-men and a forward. Thomas said he wanted two centers out for the defensive-zone face-off, plus he likes the experience, grit and penalty-killing experience of Bailey and Cameron.
UAA sophomore forward Hayden Trupp and sophomore defenseman Chris Williams both sat out with minor injuries that shouldn't keep them from opening the season next week.
Thunderbirds goalie Matt Hewitt was sharp, making 26 stops.
Official attendance was 621 and the stands were nearly full.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.