His older brother Eric may have been chosen as the best of the best last season, but Matt Carreras is the Daily Local News All-Area Ice Hockey Player of the Year this year not because of his ability to score goals — which he can — but instead because of his ability to be a fantastic player on both ends of the ice.
“Matt is a little more defensive oriented than Eric,” said West Chester Henderson head coach Scott DiRico. “He can play both positions and is more of a giver with the puck instead of the goal-scorer that Eric was. Matt is a bit more poised in the back and sees the ice completely, allowing him to distribute the puck all over the ice.”
Carreras spent his senior season showing off his unique ability as he started the season on forward before moving to defense.
But it wasn’t his first time manning the blue line as he spent his sophomore and junior year with the Henderson varsity team on defense.
“This year, we had him playing forward because we had a large number of defensemen, but we kind of needed that anchor defenseman that could move the puck and be able to skate the puck up,” DiRico said. “He was that anchor. It’s not a slight on any of our other players, but to have that added offensive presence back there and to be able to play such a defensive game made it a unanimous decision between coaches and the players. Everybody thought it was the best idea.”
It was a decision that was being tossed around the coaching staff during the season before the move actually happened.
“We had talked about if a few times during the year,” DiRico said. “We didn’t want to go that way. It came after we played Downingtown East the second time and tied them. We said, ‘All right, let’s go with this,’ and it worked, so we kept it.”
That happened Jan. 23 and after that, a noticeable change happened with Henderson.
From that moment to the end of the regular season, Henderson didn’t allow more than three goals. And that was after allowing four or more goals in seven games before the switch.
“You could see defensively we didn’t give up as many chances,” DiRico said. “The puck movement out of the zone was better. There was also a difference offensively. You could tell that our offense didn’t have that extra power, but it did help having the ability to not be in trouble or have any problems back on defense.
“All of our guys who filled in for him on forward were able to do their jobs because we didn’t have as much trouble moving the puck out of the zone or in our own end.”
It was a major asset heading into the playoffs as Henderson went to the championship game in both the Ches-Mont playoffs and the Flyers Cup ‘A’ tournament, though the Warriors ultimately fell in both games to the eventual state champions, West Chester Rustin.
Carreras finished the season with 33 points — 12 goals and 21 assists — in 21 games and an added five more points in four games during the Flyers Cup.
The senior, who captained Henderson this season, led his team with a quiet confidence which resonated with his teammates.
“When you look at Matt, he is much more introverted,” he said. “I think that’s what works for him. He’s respected among all the other kids, so he doesn’t have to say as much or be as outlandish as maybe some of the other guys. They all look at him and then they follow in his footsteps. They know he’ll always show up and that’s a reassurance for them.”
What stands out even more on the ice is not just the fact Carreras can rack up the points, but that, if this were the NHL, he would be in the running for the Lady Byng trophy.
Through 25 totals games this year, Carreras took just a single penalty.
That, combined with his natural talent, leads DiRico to praise Carreras on his ability to play the game with integrity.
“It’s a matter of not only just working hard and being able to play both offense and defense, but it’s respecting your opponents, respecting the other coaches, respecting the referees and respecting the game itself and not letting your emotions get the better of you,” he said. “He plays way above his age as far as his maturity level and things like that. He has class completely, up and down. No matter what happens, you never see the dirty penalties and you never see the stuff behind the play. It’s just business and he plays the game of hockey with none of the junk or any stuff no one likes to see on the sides. That’s the best way to play it and he shows that every time.”