This week’s interview is with Dakota Jackalopes D Matt Cherner.
SHL Digest: We’re here this week with Matt Cherner, top defenseman for the Dakota Jackalopes. Matt, thanks for speaking with us.
Matt Cherner: Sure thing, it’s my pleasure.
SHLD: At last week’s trading deadline, your name was one that came up often as a possible trade candidate. But the deadline came and went, and you remained with Dakota, even as teammates like Lars Karlsson and Harvey Bellmore were traded. Are you happy to still be with the Jackalopes?
MC: Absolutely, I am. The trading deadline can be tough on a guy, especially if he has a family like I do. I’m very happy to still be here in Dakota. My family is here, and my teammates and friends are here. This is where I want to be.
SHLD: Even though it’s a rebuilding team that’s not going to the playoffs?
SHLD: You wouldn’t rather be on a contending team?
MC: I think it would be great if we were contending. But leaving Dakota to go to another team… I’m happy here.
SHLD: What is it about Dakota that you like so much?
MC: Well, for one thing, it’s a small town, and I’m a small-town guy. This reminds me a lot of my home back in Red Deer. I feel at home here more than I would in New York or Seattle or Washington. And there’s a real family feeling here. The fans, the players, the coaches… we’re all part of one big family. I love that.
SHLD: Speaking of Dakota being a small town: Your stats make a strong case for you as one of the league’s best defensemen. And yet, when people talk about the best blueliners in the league, your name often gets overlooked. Do you think that playing for Dakota hurts you in terms of league-wide recognition?
MC: I don’t know, it might. Maybe if I played for New York or Michigan, more people would know about me. But who cares? I’m not doing this for glory. I’m in this for love of the sport and to try to win games. That’s what counts.
SHLD: Obviously, the Jackalopes have a lot of new faces this season: a new coach and a lot of new young players. How do you feel about all the change?
MC: I think it’s great. Coach [Flim] Dahlgren is a smart, patient guy, and he’s been doing a good job bringing everybody along. And I like the young guys we’ve got, especially the defensemen. We used to be an all-offense, super-aggressive kind of club, and we’re becoming more balanced. I think we’ve got a great up-and-coming group, and I’ve taken it on myself to try to teach them whatever I can.
SHLD: Are there any young blueliners that you think we should really keep an eye on?
MC: Alex Angelos is a really remarkable guy; so fast, a terrific shot, a great head for offense. You can’t teach natural talent like that. I’ve been working with him on polishing his defensive skills: backchecking, gapping up, things like that. And Sergei Trefilov is a great, rugged defender. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was younger.
SHLD: One more question. Your contract is up at the end of next season. Are you looking to sign a long-term extension to keep you in Dakota?
MC: I can’t speak to what the team has in mind, or if I’m in their plans long-term. But I can say that I’m definitely open to that. I’m happy here, and I think we’re building in the right direction. If the team is interested in making that kind of commitment, I’d love to have that conversation.
SHLD: Well, Matt, thanks for your time and good luck the rest of the season!
MC: I appreciate it.