Reign’s White happy to be home
Matt White got a late start with the Ontario Reign this season. Getting up to speed took a bit more time.
That’s understandable given the workout his passport has gotten in the past six months.
Shortly after leading the ECHL franchise in scoring last season, the skilled forward played for the U.S. National Inline Team that earned a bronze medal at the IIHF Inline World Championships in the Czech Republic.
He started his ice hockey season early with Ljubljana Olimpiija HK of the Austrian League. After an 11-game stint with the club, which is located in Slovenia, he returned to North America and re-signed with the Reign.
“It’s nice to be back home,” said White, who was born in Whittier and grew up playing for the Beach City Lightning, Huntington Beach Sun Devils and Los Angeles Jr. Kings. “Things didn’t work out (overseas) so I returned in mid-October. I was scrambling to find a place to play, and thankfully Ontario picked me up.”
And why wouldn’t the Reign?
White, who was taught the game by his older brother Ronnie – now a California Wave coach – led the team with 22 goals and 57 points in 71 games during his rookie pro season of 2013-14.
He had 25 points (11 goals) in his first 36 games this season as well as a plus-18 rating.
He relishes his time in Ontario.
“We have a top-notch facility; the staff lets us have a nice locker room,” White said. “And it’s a good setup overall – apartments are close to the rink and our fans are great.”
Trading blades for wheels, he added a strong performance for Team USA over summer.
“We’d like to win, but I enjoy roller because I get to see a lot of friends who don’t play ice anymore. We relive our childhood,” said White, who won gold with Team USA in Germany in 2013.
This year, seven of Team USA’s 12 skaters hailed from Southern California.
The summer fun has many benefits for his game, White said.
“You’re working on your skill, which is on the plus-side, and you’re working on it against some of the most skilled guys in the world,” said White, who played collegiately at the University of Nebraska-Omaha after winning USA Hockey’s Dave Tyler Junior Player of the Year award in 2010.
The transition back to ice hockey, however, is never easy.
“The stopping and hitting is adjusted, so you have to have the right mindset to go from summer to the preseason,” he said. “The hitting and the pace are a lot different, and I’m usually pretty sore after the first three games or so of the (ice) season.”
This season, White was reunited with defenseman Dennis Brown, a teammate with the Jr. Kings and the United States Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers and an opponent in the CCHA. They’re enjoying their encore, but White knows it could be temporary in a league known for advancing players.
“Everyone down here is focused on winning games, but the ultimate goal is to get called up to the (American Hockey League) and stay up,” White said. “You can’t really control if or when you get that call.
“If someone gets called up, we’re happy for him. We realize if there’s a big number of them, then the team is doing something right.”
– Chris Bayee