ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

UND HOCKEY: Tomek ready for second chance

Matej Tomek went to the North Dakota Department of Transportation this fall. The UND sophomore goaltender took a written test to obtain a driver's license for the first time in his life. He didn't pass. Tomek, a Slovakian who is well versed in th...

2871827+IMG_20150627_114855155.jpg
Matej Tomek at the NHL draft. (Photo by Brad E. Schlossman)
We are part of The Trust Project.

Matej Tomek went to the North Dakota Department of Transportation this fall.

The UND sophomore goaltender took a written test to obtain a driver's license for the first time in his life.

He didn't pass.

Tomek, a Slovakian who is well versed in the metric system, had trouble with some conversions of distances.

On his second attempt, the 19-year-old succeeded.

ADVERTISEMENT

Perhaps it was a fitting way for Tomek to return to Grand Forks this fall, because he will now get his second chance on the ice for UND, too.

Tomek's freshman season was virtually wiped out because of offseason hip surgery that nagged him until January. By the time he felt normal again, goaltenders Cam Johnson and Matt Hrynkiw were on a roll. Tomek never played in a regular-season game.

While Johnson enters this season as the unquestionable starter after leading UND to the NCAA championship a year ago, Tomek is hoping to work his way into the mix this season.

"I feel I had a really good summer," Tomek said. "I feel prepared to compete. I'm taking it more day in and day out, improving my game and trying to work on it as much as I can, so when the opportunity comes, I will be ready."

Tomek came to UND last fall as an intriguing prospect. With a size of 6-foot-3, 183 pounds, and excellent athleticism, the Philadelphia Flyers took Tomek in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft.
He was expected to challenge Johnson for the No. 1 job, but hip surgery kept him out of the lineup until it was too late. Johnson and Hrynkiw both excelled, anchoring the goalie position.

"Dealing with the recovery and rehab day in and day out (was the toughest part)," Tomek said. "And keeping a positive attitude, like thinking it will go my way and there's a light at the end of the path."

Tomek said by January, he felt good. He saw limited action in an exhibition game against the U.S. Under-18 team.

"As time went by, I felt better and better every day," he said. "Now I feel completely normal. It's like I didn't even have surgery."

ADVERTISEMENT

Part of the rehab involved working with UND goalie coach Karl Goehring on his simple movements. He also fully participated in practices, helping him get up to speed on the college game.

Tomek played 21 minutes, 31 seconds during Saturday's 5-1 exhibition win over Manitoba-his longest stretch of action in a year and a half.

"I would say it's more of a mental thing," Tomek said of the challenges of stepping in without playing in so long. "Obviously, with our practice tempo being really high, it gives me a lot of opportunity to practice and prepare for a game really well. I'm sure Rinks (Hrynkiw) would say the same thing. He hadn't played in a while, but jumped in last year and did really well. I think it says a lot about our practice tempo."

Even though he didn't play last season, Tomek said he relished the journey.
"Being on the team that won the national championship is big," he said. "I'm really thankful to have been on that team and been a part of it. It's a cool experience to have."

But now, he's ready to turn the page and get another chance to compete with Johnson and Hrynkiw for playing time.

He's also enjoying having a driver's license.

"It's nice to finally be independent," he said.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
What To Read Next
Featuring area men's and women's basketball results, college hockey scores, local college tennis results and much more!
Featuring boys wrestling results, prep hockey scores, area college basketball results and much more!
Girls basketball
Thompson is now 16-1, while Rugby falls to 15-2.