Matthew Knies followed his older brother, Phil, into hockey and has kept following him all the way to the United States Hockey League.
Their parents, Miroslav and Michaela Knies, moved the family from Slovakia to the United States when Phil was young and before Matthew was born. Growing up in Phoenix, the Knies brothers became fans of the National Hockey League’s Coyotes while learning the game themselves.
“My dad growing up always used to watch hockey and he played a little himself,” said Matthew. “Once we moved to the states and settled into Arizona, with the Coyotes there, that kind of caught my brother’s eye.”
Matthew, who is four and a half years younger, has long had his own eyes set on his big brother.
“Once he started playing hockey, I wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps,” Matthew said. “Once he touched the ice, I followed his every move, and ever since then we kind of just loved the game and we kind of just went with it and now we’ve both become successful in the sport.”
Phil played two seasons in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers, where he was the second-leading scorer on the team with the league’s best record in 2016-17. He now plays NCAA Division I hockey at Miami University, something Matthew is set to do in the future as a commit to the University of Minnesota.
For now, Matthew is thriving in his first season in the USHL.
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound, 17-year-old forward has averaged a point per game with 13 goals and 29 assists in 42 games.
Matthew took a break from his first USHL season to play for the U.S. Junior Select Team in the World Junior A Challenge, where he helped the team to a bronze medal.
Along the way, he has continued to receive advice from Phil.
“He has been very helpful,” Matthew said. “He kind of mentored me. Once I knew he had gone through this league, I knew this was where I wanted to be and what I wanted to achieve.”
While putting up good scoring numbers, Matthew has been looking to generate some other positive numbers.
For his first full season — he played two USHL games a year ago — his plus-minus number is currently at minus-1.
Transitioning from being an offensive-minded youth player to becoming a well-rounded player in the top level of U.S. junior hockey has presented its challenges.
“It all has to do with work ethic,” Matthew said. “You can’t really take a day off. It takes a lot to make this league and be successful. For a young player, you have to realize it’s not just a skill game anymore. It’s big boy hockey and you need to transition your game a little bit.
“I had to transition my game a lot coming from U16 to this league.”
Matthew said linemates Colby Ambrosio, the team scoring leader and an experienced USHL player, and Nick Portz, a University of North Dakota commit, have helped ease the process for him.
If he needs additional support, Matthew knows where to turn for assistance.
“I couldn’t ask for a better brother,” Matthew said. “He’s been very supportive along the way, giving me some tips.
“He’s been a big help in my life.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Eldon Holmes, Tri-City Storm team photographer.