The early conclusion to 2019-20 and late start to 2020-21 in the United States Hockey League could have created a disconnect between the two seasons.
But Matt Coronato and the Chicago Steel never let it slow them down.
The defending Anderson Cup, regular season champion Steel carried their success from a season that was shaping up as something special but was never completed, into another season on top of the USHL Eastern Conference and overall standings.
Although the break from game action between March 7 and Nov. 14 may have been too long for Coronato to remain aware that he had a scoring streak carrying over, the foundation built last season was still with the team and its current offensive leaders when action resumed alongside coronavirus precautions.
“Being able to be here all of last year up until the season ended was huge,” Coronato said. “The break was longer. I don’t think it had too much of a negative effect, but it was just a different situation.”
The team’s top six scorers this season were all part of the Steel squad that won its last 13 games to reach 41-7-1-0 before last season ended.
“Even with the long break between the two seasons, being here last year, developing the confidence and learning just the right way to play, learning certain details that they teach us here in Chicago was definitely huge in the development of my game,” Coronato said.
Coronato leads the USHL in goals with 28 in 31 games and is second in points with 55 behind teammate and fellow Harvard University commit Sean Farrell.
Farrell has league-high totals of 41 assists and 59 points. Farrell, Coronato, Erik Middendorf and Josh Doan give the Steel the league’s top four scorers and, while team leaders Ryan Ufko and Mackie Samoskevich to form a veteran group that is leading the high-powered offense.
The Steel are scoring at least a half-goal-per-game more than every other USHL team and nearly two goals above the league average with 4.9 per matchup.
Coronato has been a consistent force in that process.
Including the final nine games from last season, he set a USHL record with a 28-game point streak in which he produced 54 points.
“Consistency is definitely a big thing for me. It’s something I focus on in my preparation,” said Coronato, an 18-year-old from Huntington, New York, who became hooked on the game while attending New York Islanders NHL games with his family as a youngster. “In the way I play, overall consistency plays a big part. I think every night going in, working hard, focusing on the little things.
“When the game starts, just consistency in habits and focus were a huge part in having that streak go on.”
Steel coach Brock Sheahan has praised Coronato for those traits and GM Ryan Hardy points to Coronato’s 40 points in 45 games as a 17-year-old on last season’s high-powered team as a clear sign of what was ahead.
“The production that he had for a first-year player, a year before his NHL draft year, without playing much power-play at all on a real good team,” Hardy said. “… We had a lot of good forwards and for a young guy, those 40 points he put up were incredible production for that.
“He really, right from Day 1, showed himself to be reliable in so many situations. That really afforded coach the opportunity to give him different things.”
Coronato brought the first third of his scoring streak with him into the season and essentially doubled his scoring output.
“This year, I think he came in with a lot of confidence from the 40-point season that he had and feeling like, ‘Alright, I am one of the best players in this age group,” Hardy said.
Coronato has been proving that for years. He left home on Long Island more than two years ago to spend a season of prep hockey at Salisbury School prior to playing with the Steel as a 17-year old. Normally, a player of Coronato’s ability would have made a push to play for USA Hockey at the World Junior A Challenge this season. However, the tournament was canceled due to the global pandemic. After averaging more than a point-per-game in two appearances at USA Hockey Player Development Camps, Coronato might have his sights on making the roster for the BioSteel All-American Game, an annual game showcasing the top American draft-eligible talent.
Last year’s success, alongside this year’s dominance, is hopefully only the beginning of a headlining career for the New York winger.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Chicago Steel.