By Ross Forman – Arseni Matveyeu is a senior center for co-op Waubonsie Valley, a returning right-handed-shooter for the Combined Division power in uniform No. 35.
He didn’t choose the number. “I was stuck with a (traditional) goalie number,” he said.
But he has made the most it and certainly left his mark on the team.
“He was a great addition to our team this (past season),” said Waubonsie head coach Jeremy Dombro. “He played an important role as a center in our bottom six forward group, and also spent time on our second power-play unit.
“He has one of the quickest and hardest snapshots on the team, and we will be looking to him to be a leader this year along with stepping into a much larger role as we graduated a good portion of our team. He’s a player who really gets up for big games and tallied a point in half of our league playoff games.”
Matveyeu, 17, who lives in Aurora, is a senior at Waubonsie Valley High School, as the Warriors also feature players from Metea Valley High School. He played his youth hockey for the Sabres, Huskies and Cyclones.
“I think that we had a very good season and a good chance to make it to the United Center and win (state) for the second year in a row,” Matveyeu said, reflecting on this past season. “It would’ve been a great experience for me and my teammates who didn’t get to do that the year prior. I feel as if we had a great team. The boys really came together, and I think we played well, and our record showed that. We had our ups and downs, but overall, it was a very fun season.
“My personal goal for the upcoming season is, to be the best I can be (and) hopefully lead my teammates as far as we can get, and just to enjoy my final season of hockey.”
Matveyeu brings a playmaker approach to the Warriors’ bench.
But it was one goal from his past that truly stands out. “My career highlight was, as a 12U, when I scored a coast-to-coast goal, and it was posted by Pavel Barber on his YouTube channel … it racked up a good amount of views.”
Another highlight from Matveyeu’s career was playing in a tournament at Yost Arena on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“This season, I have focused on getting bigger and stronger,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate how the season ended (this past March) and how the (then)-seniors didn’t get a shot at (the) state (championship).
“I do feel some pressure for this season due to the fact that more than half the team graduated and we had some vital players leave, but, in the end, I think it will turn out OK.”
One of Matveyeu’s biggest assets on the ice is his snapshot, which has often been labeled quick and hard. “I don’t really know where it came from, but I’ve always felt more comfortable shooting with a snapshot than a wrist shot and over time, as I became stronger, it got more power on it; I think that works well for my style of play.
“I am pretty excited to play more of a leadership role this season. I think that it will be a great experience for me as a person and I will learn a lot from it. Being a senior, I hope I can be someone the boys can talk to and I can help them out with whatever they need.”
Matveyeu had 5 goals, 7 assists in 32 IHSHL West Division games last season as the Warriors finished in second-place (51 points) behind champion Maine Township (56 points).
Matveyeu moved to the U.S. when he was 5 from Belarus and can speak English and Russian.
“Hockey (in Belarus) is free, so it was a pretty big financial challenge for my parents to be able to pay for the costs for me to play,” in America, he said. “It was definitely a challenge for me and my family’s life, even outside of hockey. But I always felt blessed to play because I know how hard it was for them when we moved here. It was a new country, no friends, no money, no nothing, and at the time I didn’t really think about how difficult it was for them, but they somehow made it work.”
Matveyeu said he is “confused, but excited” for the 2020-21 season. “With everything going on with coronavirus and such, I don’t know how this season will work. It’s something definitely different and it will be a challenge we have to overcome. It kind of sucks it happened during my senior year, but I am excited to be able to play hockey again and for the season to start up again.”
Slapshots with … Arseni Matveyeu
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Patrick Kane
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Legend No. 17
Favorite Pregame Meal: Buttered noodles
Best Hockey Tip: “(It was) not much of a tip, but, my squirt coach laughed in my face when I said I wanted to play Central States … I think that motivated me a lot.”
Teammate who you could you see, someday, as a hockey coach: Craig Cirko
Most accurate shot on your team: Craig Cirko
Best HS jerseys (other than Waubonsie): Hinsdale Central
On his dad, Alex, who has filmed the majority of his games over the years: “I think it’s a great tool for everyone. I can watch the games back and see what I can improve on. My coaches over the years have watched the games, reviewed them, and used them to see what we need to work on or improve. The parents can watch the games if, for example, they missed it. I think it’s a great tool for everyone and I’m glad he puts the time in to film them, edit them and post it, which I know can be a hassle (at) times. It’s also fun for me to look back on old videos and see how much I’ve personally improved over the years.”
Ross Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.