Photo: David McGregor
Defenseman Matt Duffy was assigned by AHL Bridgeport to the Gwinnett Gladiators a month ago and has been a stabilizing force on the blue line as the team makes its push for the playoffs.
In his second year as a pro, defenseman Matt Duffy is under contract with Bridgeport of the AHL and was assigned to the Gwinnett Gladiators a month ago. He played 24 games for Kalamazoo before coming to Gwinnett and 52 games for division rival Florida last season as a rookie.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old started for four years at the University of Maine and helped his home state Black Bears to consecutive trips to the Frozen Four.
Duffy was also selected by the Florida Panthers in the fourth round of the 2005 draft and has played 20 games in the AHL so far.
In this installment of “Getting to Know ...,” Duffy talks to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including a return trip to Florida as the opposition this weekend, playing college hockey for his home state Maine Black Bears and not missing “Jersey Shore.”
CT: You guys are headed down to Florida, where you played most of last season, for a pair of games this weekend. What are the important things to remember against the Everblades?
MD: They’re a really skilled team. They get pucks in and look for the defense to make mistakes and try to capitalize on it.
The power play is working pretty well right now so we just need to limit our penalties and do the smart thing.
CT: How much of a sense of urgency is there with 21 games left in the season and the playoff race so tight?
MD: Every game now has to be a playoff game for us. We need these points to get into the playoffs. We’ve got a great team here and we just want to keep it simple — get pucks to the net and we’re be alright.
CT: The last two games at home against South Carolina were a pretty good indication of what this team is capable of when it does the right things and is disciplined.
MD: Exactly. Our first power play is really clicking right now and as long as we stay out of the box, we’re good.
CT: Any big plans for your birthday next week?
MD: (laughing) My birthday is in March actually.
CT: They have it wrong?
MD: Somebody put that down wrong. I don’t know. Last year it said February and they announced it (during a game) and I was like, “It’s not until next month.”
CT: Well, nevermind then.
CT: What’s your hometown (Windham, Maine) like?
MD: It’s pretty small. It’s good for lobster and there’s a big lake right there where a lot of people come for vacation.
CT: Besides family and friends, what are the best things about where you grew up?
MD: Right now the football team, the high school team is doing really well and everybody backs them up. So there’s always something going there. We always have a July 4th summerfest, which is good for us. Pretty much the whole town comes.
CT: Which high school?
MD: Windham. I went there for two years and then I went to Cheverus for two years in Portland.
CT: There are a few places in the country where you can play high school hockey instead of having to go off to play junior. Maine is one of those places, isn’t it?
MD: Well, Windham didn’t have a hockey team. I think last year they just got it. So I went to Cheverus. Then I played New Hampshire Junior Monarchs for two years. Then I went to school at the university.
CT: So you played junior hockey your last two years of high school?
CT: Was it tough to leave home?
MD: Well the thing was, I commuted back and forth. It was about and hour and a half. And on the weekends, I usually just stayed right there with one of my teammates.
CT: So you got to see your family a lot?
MD: Yep. And I got to graduate with all my friends.
CT: 2005 must have been a pretty good year for you — you were drafted and started playing for Maine?
MD: I was drafted the fourth round by Florida and my first year at Maine we made the Frozen Four.
CT: Not too bad.
MD: (Laughing) Yeah. We actually made the Frozen Four my first two years.
CT: Was college, and specifically Maine, always the goal?
MD: Yep. I always wanted to go there. I grew up watching them and being from Maine, I always wanted to go there. My parents wanted me to go there too because it was close to them.
CT: Did you consider going anywhere else?
MD: Nope. I went to look at a couple of other schools, just to see what it was like. But my heart was definitely with Maine.
CT: Coach (Jeff) Pyle has been very complimentary of your play every time I’ve talked to him. Does this system suit your style?
MD: It definitely does. He’s definitely pushing us in the right direction. He tells me to move my feet, keep it simple, make the smart play and just be patient on the blue line. Good things will come. I’m behind him all the way and whatever he wants in the systems is fine.
CT: There’s not a lot of glory in being a defenseman, much less a defensive defenseman. But do you like that position?
MD: Yeah. Keeping the puck out of the net is a great thing. The only way to win is to keep the puck out of the net and once in a while I’ll jump into the play, but my main focus is to play good ‘D’ and help the goalies out as much as possible so they can succeed also.
CT: Have you ever played another position?
MD: My junior year in college I played forward for about a month. We were short-handed guys so we needed a forward and I said they could throw me up there.
It’s a lot different than defense, that’s for sure.
CT: Good or bad?
MD: A little harder I think (laughing). Defense you can stay back.
CT: More skating?
MD: Definitely. Forecheck, backcheck. I got tired really quick.
CT: What kind of music do you listen to most often?
MD: Everything. Rap, rock and roll, country here and there.
CT: Are there any TV shows you try not to miss?
MD: (Laughing) “Jersey Shore.” All the guys like to watch it, too.
CT: Who is your roommate and how is he?
MD: Justin Milo. He went to University of Vermont. He’s a great guy. Easy going, pretty easy to live with — as long as you’re on time.
CT: Who does the best job of keeping things light in the locker room?
MD: Brando (alternate captain Andy Brandt). He definitely sparks us up when we need it and things aren’t going too well, he’s always positive and that helps a lot. Sam Roberts is the same way. He’s a great captain.
CT: Plus you get Brando dancing and singing to music all the time.
MD: (Smiling) Oh, yeah.