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Brzozowiec gets surprising call to play Jr. A hockey

Matt Brzozowiec learned a valuable lesson: You never know would could be watching.

The Angola resident earned a break in the sport of hockey at the unlikeliest of places and when he had little idea it was coming.

Just a few months following his decision not to return to Cazenovia College, where he was recruited to play baseball, Brzozowiec was off to Wyoming to make his debut for the Cheyenne Stampede Junior A hockey team of the Western State Hockey League.

“I’m super excited,” Brzozowiec said Monday, a day after flying into Denver and later, meeting his new teammates and coaches. “I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.”

Brzozowiec was a dominant four-year defenseman for the Eden/Lake Shore club team in the Southtowns Hockey League and played some for the Niagara Juniors hockey program and the Hamburg Hawks, as a youth, but it was baseball he had planned to further pursue. He pitched and played catcher for three years as part of Lake Shore’s varsity.

However, once college baseball was no longer in the picture and Brzozowiec was back home after his first semester in college, he decided to get back out on the ice to play weekdays during skate and shoot sessions at the Town of Hamburg Ice Rink.

He went religiously five days a week 1 – 3 p.m., hoping to improve his game to the point where he could potentially play at a higher level, but not realistically believing it would happen any time soon.

“I always wanted to go somewhere in hockey,” said Brzozowiec, who was one of Eden/Lake Shore’s top scorers as a senior with more than 50 points. “I knew it would be hard coming from the Eden/Lake Shore club team.”

Little did he know, someone who was playing at the skate and shoot sessions was so impressed with Brzozowiec’s ability, that person called Frontier High School graduate Rick Scarsella, now an assistant coach with Cheyenne, about the game of the offensive-minded defenseman.

“I guess someone called about me and said, ‘I shouldn’t be here; I should be playing at a higher level,’” Brzozowiec said.

He received a call from Scarsella when Cheyenne needed some depth on defense and the team put Brzozowiec on a plane Feb. 2. By Monday, he had already went for a brief workout with the team and got his first taste of running in the high altitude of the mountainous region.

Brzozowiec was set for his first practice Monday with a team that features a real international feel, with eight Swedes and three Slovakians. On Wednesday, the team was slated to fly into Phoenix for a game. Brzozowiec was still pinching himself. “I’m still in shock,” he said Monday.

Although the circumstances may have been a little different for Brzozowiec, he joins former classmates such as Kyle Eastman and Zack Evancho, who are playing Juniors in the USHL. “Those guys found their spots; now I found mine,” he noted.

“All Matt ever wanted was to get a first look,” said his father, Casey, who looks forward to watching Cheyenne games streaming online at Fasthockey.com. “And this is a great opportunity.”

“I love baseball and I’ll never stop loving it, but this is happening for me right now,” Matt said, about his opportunity in hockey. ‘I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
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