Argentina staying sharp on ice

Matt Argentina will play at Notre Dame if he’s not picked in the 2021 NHL Draft. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Matt Argentina was just messing around with his dad.

It probably changed his life.

Argentina, a Torresdale native, was playing hockey at the Flyers SkateZone in the Northeast when he was about 6. The guys at the other end of the ice needed another player, so he skated down and joined them. At the time, he wasn’t a star.

Now, he absolutely is.

Argentina played hockey ever since and prior to last year, he attended the Hun School where he was one of the top hockey players in the area while playing for the Mercer Chiefs of the American Youth Hockey League U16 team. In his first year, he scored 24 points, eight goals, 16 assists, and then followed that up with a 22-point season that included helping the Chiefs win the 2019 AYHL championship.

Then he took a major step into getting his ultimate goal.

Last year, he signed with the Waterloo Black Hawks, a Tier 1 elite-level hockey team playing in the United States Hockey League.

“It was a huge step because, mostly, the game is so much faster and it took about a month of getting used to it,” said Argentina, who plays offense, usually center. “It was hard because I was the only 16-year-old player on our team. There were others in the league, I don’t know the number, but I was one of the only ones. The league is 16 to 21, so most of the players were older, and that was different.”

Still, he did what he always does. He played well and became a top player.

In 45 games, he scored five goals and added six assists, but the season was cut short because of coronavirus. Once that started to shut everything down, he left Iowa and returned home to prepare for next year when he’ll have one more year of playing elite-level hockey.

“It was a lot better than I thought it would be, because you go out there and you stay with a (host) family, and you have a roommate,” Argentina said. “I met a lot of people out there, and I started to learn to play against guys at a high level. It was good because I have a very supportive family, and they were always there for me. That was good. I needed that support, and they’re always there for me.”

Argentina is tough to play against.

He’s even tougher to talk about himself.

He’ll gladly tell you about his teammates, he’ll always tell you all about his family, which includes mom, dad, sister Catherine, 15, brother Joe, 12, and his very supportive grandparents, and he’ll tell you how much he’s learned from his coaches.

But he’ll never brag or talk about his skills. It’s just not the way he’s wired.

“I think I just try to go out and work hard all the time, I’m always worried about getting better,” said Argentina, who grew up playing soccer, football, baseball and basketball. “I like playing, and I’m doing what I can to get better.

“It’s been tough with everything shut down, but I have a great trainer and we’re doing some workouts virtually. And I’m working out on my own. My brother, he plays hockey, too, so we work out.”

Oh, about his ability to talk about himself? That doesn’t extend to all sports.

While he’s not the best basketball player in the world, he will talk some trash to his friends during pickup games.

“I brag a lot more in basketball,” Argentina said with a laugh. “In hockey, I just want to keep working hard. I’m trying to get better, that’s really all there is to say. I want to be better, and you get better by working.”

Argentina’s future is undecided, but he’ll definitely be playing hockey.

He’s signed to continue his career at Notre Dame, which plays in the Big Ten. Getting an opportunity to play for a team like the Fighting Irish is a dream come true, but it’s not the only dream Argentina has.

His ultimate goal is to play professional hockey, and he’s eligible to get drafted next year. If he’s picked, he’ll likely go right to the pros.

It’s a good problem to have.

“Notre Dame is a great school and I was excited about going there, I still am,” said Argentina, who said his family are huge fans of the Fighting Irish. “But the draft is a goal, too. So we’ll see how it goes. Next year is a big year, I’m really excited about all of it. The goal is to play professionally, but Notre Dame is a great opportunity.”

If he goes to college, he’ll likely major in business. If he doesn’t, the game will be his business.

Argentina knows full well how hard it will be to get to the next level and stay at the next level, but he’s ready to do the work.

He’s also thankful for the people in his corner.

“I couldn’t do it without my family, especially my parents and my grandparents,” Argentina said. “I’m really lucky to have such a supportive family. They’ve helped me all the way. I wouldn’t be doing this without them. They really help me.”