Byrnes off to Merrimack Hard work, patience pays off

Byrnes off to Merrimack
Hard work, patience pays off

Matt Byrnes FRAMINGHAM, MA-Matt Byrnes is a Rhode Island State Champion many times over. But, that all seems like ancient history now. After two seasons with the Junior Bruins after leading Mt. St. Charles to consecutive State Championships, the forward finally has worked his way to the top and has accepted a scholarship offer from Merrimack College in Hockey East. He is the fifth Junior Bruin thus far this season to commit to a Division I school.

After Matt finished beating up on LaSalle, Hendricken, and Toll Gate over and over again, the 5’9, 180-pound forward knew he needed to put in some time and work at a much higher level if he was ever going to be taken seriously by Divison I programs. So, after looking into the USHL, Matt decided that the Junior Bruins would be the best fit for his hockey development, even though the New England Sports Center is 45 minutes from his home in Lincoln, RI.
“When Matt first came to us, he knew very little about how to play in his own zone and we got on him quite a bit, ” says Bruins coach Peter Masters. “He eventually figured it out and had a good season, but was not scoring enough goals to earn a scholarship.”

Matt could have had his pick of Divsion III schools after last season and perhaps could have walked on at some DI’s and given it a shot. But, for Byrnes, that just wasn’t good enough. “I told Matt, that he had to come back from the Summer with blisters on his hands and leathery skin from shooting so many pucks,” added Masters. ” I also told him that he had to be in top condition and stronger than ever before.”

So Byrnes dug in and shot those pucks, worked and worked, and played and played in the Summer and focused on getting shots off quickly and being a factor in every game he played and came back showing off those new blisters he now had.

It didn’t take long for Matt, whose family is originally from Colorado, to show that he was a different player in his second year of juniors than he was a year ago. Last season, in 61 games, Byrnes scored 15 goals and added 46 assists for a solid 61 points and was named to the EJHL All-Star Game. To show you what a difference a year can make, this season, after being named an assistant captain, Matt already has an amazing 37 goals and 45 assists for 82 points and is a +46 with six game-winners. He was selected to the EJHL Top Prospects Team that competed in Detroit this Fall, to another EJHL All-Star Game, and is currently is in the top five in league scoring.

So what does Matt Byrnes make of all of this? ” I’ve learned that there is no hurry in life. I just let myself mature and gain experience while putting in some work and it helped me reach my goal.” That goal being to play Division I hockey and to settle for nothing less than earning a scholarship.

“The Junior Bruins coaches have taught me the defensive aspect of the game as well as how to be more effective and efficient offensively on a more consistent basis. I have come a long way, but know I have a ways to go yet, ” added Byrnes.

The well spoken, amicable Byrnes continued, ” Juniors gave me more games and ice time to work with against better players. There was no comparison between that and the prep route. There is no way I could be as prepared for college as I am now if I had gone to prep school. I definitely made the right choice in choosing the Bruins.”

Merrimack was among a handful of schools vying for the services of Byrnes in the end. Other schools in the mix were RPI, Clarkson, and Colorado College. Byrnes is excited about headed to North Andover. “I’m excited to be headed to play for Coach Serino. They are a program heading in the right direction and I’m glad that I’m going to be a part of it. Hockey East is the best league in the country and I’m looking forward to it. But there is unfinished business here first.”

Ahhh yes, the unfinished business he speaks of is the EJHL Championship coming up this March where Matt’s Bruins are one of the favorites. You can bet in his final days as a Junior Bruin, Matt will be looking to go out on top, the competitor that he is.

So, with Josh Notini and Adam Stanieich heading to UMass-Lowell, Bob Gates headed to Quinnipiac, and Jake Pence headed to Army, Byrnes joins the ranks of the college bound Bruins. There will be more commitments in the near future for players such as Tyler, McNulty, and Curtis. So stay tuned to for the latest.

But, in Byrnes’ case, things didn’t come all that easily and he simply could have just gone to college after his first season. But, Matt knew what he wanted and aimed for the stars. He landed at the Volpe Complex in North Andover after a lot of hard work and serves as an inspiration to those who follow him in the Bruins organization as an example that dreams really can come true.