Air Force coach Frank Serratore estimates he’s spoken to his leading goal-scorer and nephew, Matt, three or four times in the two and a half seasons he’s coached him, calling him “very low-maintenance.”
“He don’t talk much,” coach Serratore said. “People ask me what’s it like to coach your nephew, and I go, ‘I don’t know, I don’t really talk to him.’ ”
Linemate Ben Kucera seemed confused by that assessment.
“I think maybe that’s just because it’s his uncle,” Kucera said. “I don’t think think he’s quiet at all. Actually, the opposite.”
Regardless, his play speaks for itself. Matt has helped lead Air Force through a rough patch in its schedule with consistent scoring and playmaking, tallying six goals and three assists through 12 games as the Falcons head into a conference series with Niagara this weekend.
He scored the tying goal Sunday as Air Force scored five straight to take three points out of a weekend series at Sacred Heart.
Perhaps not being too chummy with the coach didn’t hurt.
“I’m just focused on my play and continuing to improve,” Matt said. “Guys on the team see me as me and not Frank’s nephew, which is what’s most important to me.”
Serratore said his nephew is capable of playing on any college roster thanks to a well-rounded skill set and strong work ethic. He’s a true coach’s son, with a team-first attitude that’s been ingrained since early childhood. But Serratore said he didn’t even try to recruit him.
“I wasn’t gonna recruit my nephew,” he said. “You get a lot of emotion in there. Hey, there’s a reason he’s not playing for his dad (at Bemidji State). Dad didn’t want to deal with it.
“Nothing’s been given to that kid. He was our leading freshman goal-scorer, and I didn’t play him on the power play, simply because I didn’t want people to say, ‘the only reason you’re on the power play is because your uncle’s the coach.’ ”
The coach was talked into giving him a shot at the end of the season. He finished with 10 goals and eight assists and was named to the Atlantic Hockey Conference all-rookie team.
His sophomore campaign was scattered with injuries and one healthy scratch. He missed the first four games of his junior campaign but took off after a three-point effort in a weekend series against his father Tom’s Bemidji State Beavers on Oct. 20-21.
He’s been a fixture on the top line of Air Force’s constantly shifting sheet and making his own name in "the family business," whether they talk about it or not.
“He works very hard, is usually in the right spot, and knows how to find the net,” Kucera said. “He’s doing the right things this year and it’s working out for him.”