All his hockey career, Matt Fraser has had a nose for putting the puck in the net.
Especially in clutch moments.
Three years ago, he scored a big overtime winner for the Kootenay Ice in Game 4 of the 2011 WHL final against the Portland Winterhawks, and added another big goal in the extra frame at the Memorial Cup against the Saint John Sea Dogs.
That ability has stayed with him as he attempts to crack the NHL full-time with the Boston Bruins, and it’s safe to say he scored the biggest one of his career in Game 4 of the playoffs in OT against the Montreal Canadiens.
“I think those overtime goals are special,” said Fraser, in a recent interview with the Daily Townsman. “They are the kind of moments that stick out in your head and they’re important to remember, because they’re special moments as a player.”
Though the Bruins built up a series lead, the Habs were able to come back and win Game 7 to advance to the Eastern Conference final, knocking Boston out of the post-season.
Fraser is still in Boston as he is about to have surgery to repair a broken foot before heading back to Red Deer and the Great White North for off-season rehab and training.
The Kootenay Ice alumnus, who spent much of the year on Boston’s farm team with the Providence Bruins in the AHL, got the call from his parent club on May 7th to meet up with the team in Montreal for the second round of the post-season.
“They didn’t tell me if I was going to be playing or anything—they never do,” said Fraser. “They were very quiet about it and then the next day after a pre-game skate, they told me I was going to be playing.”
Even though he spent much of his year in the AHL, Fraser did get 14 NHL games under his belt, the last time being in January. He also scored his first and only goal of the regular season during a call-up in December against the Predators.
Though that experience is valuable in itself, the playoffs are a whole new level.
“To be a part of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s a special thing for a young guy,” Fraser said, “because you never really know when you’re gonna get back and you take every opportunity you can and you do everything you can to make the playoffs.”
Fraser recalls sitting in the dressing room and being struck by the presence of veteran pro Jarome Iginla, who has yet to get his name inscribed on hockey’s ultimate championship trophy.
“He’s been in the league for so long and has had so much success in this league, but there’s that one thing on his resume that he wants so desperately,” Fraser said.
“…Jarome has done so much in the city of Calgary and done so much as a professional and an Olympian—you want to see him succeed so bad here.”
Going undrafted, Fraser signed an entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars in 2010, and turned pro after the Memorial Cup run with the Kootenay Ice the following year.
He went up and down between the Texas Stars of the AHL and the parent NHL club for the next two years before getting shipped to Boston in a seven-player deal that included Loui Eriksson going to the Bruins in exchange for Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley.
While Fraser is grateful for his time in the Lone Star state, the transition to Boston has been seamless and he is eager to contribute to a city with professional sports teams that have a foundation built by championships.
“Coming to Boston, you’re coming not only into a city that is particular about hockey, but this whole city has a tradition of winning,” said Fraser. “You look at the Red Sox, you look at the Celtics a couple years ago, the Patriots—this whole city demands success and as a sports team here, you demand success.
“This is a sports town, they’re very caring and they’re very passionate fans and it’s definitely fun to play in front of them.”
After his surgery on his foot, Fraser will get into the familiar routine of off-season training with the hopes of cracking the NHL full-time at training camp next fall.
“I think, as a player, as soon as you start getting stale thinking that you’ve made it or thinking that you don’t need to work, that’s when you get into trouble,” said Fraser.
“For myself, the summer is important for me to get healthy with my broken foot, make sure that it heals and just continually get stronger, quicker, faster and just work on all facets of my game.”
QUICK HITS: Fraser spent four years with the Kootenay Ice from 2007-2011. He helped lead the Ice to a WHL championship in 2011, scoring the most goals (15) of anyone in the league during the playoff run. In 2010, he earned the WHL’s Humanitarian of the Year, which recognized his work with the East Kootenay Foundation for Health’s Shoot for the Star campaign. Fraser has also been twice named to the AHL All-Star team in 2012 and 2013. He was tied for third in goals on the Providence Bruins this year with 20 and totaled 30 points in 44 games.