Jan 10, 2016 11:04 PM
MANCHESTER - Many New Hampshire natives have memories of playing pond hockey, but for the Monarch's Matt Leitner, his hockey career began in a very different way.
"I used to play ball hockey back in California, you know? Under the sun, outside playing with my brother," said Monarch's rookie forward Leitner.
Born in Los Alamitos, California, Matt and his brother Rich played many sports, but hockey was Matt's forte. The last four years he played at Univeristy of Minnesota-Mankato where he holds the school record for assists. He's the only player in the history of the program to lead the team in scoring for four consecutive seasons.
"His ability to see guys and make plays, pass the puck, he's a great play maker," said Monarch's head coach, Richard Seeley. "I think one of his major attributes is he makes his linemates better...[Matt has] some of the better skills I've seen in a while."
Transitioning to a professional league is not easy - it's faster and more physical.
"The guys are a lot bigger; you're playing against some 30-year-old men here," said Leitner.
The schedule and travel is usually the toughest. There are more games than college and travels by planes, trains and the bus. It's not the most glamorous.
"You've got to go to Florida sometimes; you've got to fly to Illinois, fly to Chicago; sometimes you've got to sleep on the bus. So it's a grind."
Leitner has pushed through many of the normal growing pains for a rookie. Impressing his coach and teammates with how well he prepares mentally and physically for that grind. He has 8 goals, 33 points in just the first 37 games of the season and is currently top-10 in scoring for the entire ECHL.
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