Bedford athlete enjoying life with PSU ice hockey team

Commentary

The Penn State State men’s ice hockey team is ranked No. 3 in the country, and among those Nittany Lions enjoying their history-making season is a Bedford native who cut his teeth (and skates) competing in central Pennsylvania’s youth programs.

Junior goaltender Matt Erlichman chose Penn State because of the possibility of walking on to the new program before he graduated, and after playing two years in the university’s ACHA (Division II) program, Erlichman was asked to do just that.

“It meant a lot because it’s been my biggest dream to play Division I … it was pretty awesome,” he said.

Even more awesome, considering Erlichman’s road to college ice hockey’s highest echelon was a long and winding one, including Ligonier Valley, Westmoreland, Allegheny and even playing in tier-one programs in Pittsburgh. But he credits the Altoona Trackers with keeping him on the ice as a young player after rinks in Somerset and Cumberland closed.

“I don’t know if my brother and I would have continued playing hockey without the Trackers,” he said. “It allowed me to continue my career. When I started, the Trackers program was just getting going and when I was leaving, they were winning AA championships. It was nice that it kept growing and getting better.”

Matt’s athletic career, like that of so many hockey players, has been a family affair. His dad, Ed Erlichman, served on the coaching staffs of many of his two sons’ teams. Mom, Dr. Katherine Erlichman, drove thousands of miles across Pennsylvania and beyond to practices and games, while living in a county with no ice rink.

“That’s what Moms do,” she said. “Sports was a confidence builder for Matthew.  He had a dyslexia issue, and I felt that if this was something that built confidence in him, that maybe the education would follow.”

The Erlichmans advocated for their son to give Matt the stepping stones he needed to overcome the challenge of dyslexia, but the work needed to pursue his goals in the classroom and on the ice, fell upon him alone.

Today, Matt is the only engineering major on the Penn State varsity hockey team, adeptly juggling the requirements of one of the most challenging curriculums on campus with the demands of D-I athletics.

“I’m extremely proud of him,” said his dad, Ed, who knows his experiences pursuing his hockey aspirations will serve him well in the future. “The commitment and the work he put in to get where he is … he’s worked his tail off, and he knows what it takes to be successful.”

While Matt has been practicing with the team as a reserve goaltender, his eligibility officially begins in January, when he’ll finally put on the Penn State jersey and take the ice for his first game.

“I think it’s going to mean a lot,” he said. “I want to fill my role, be a good teammate, be ready when my name gets called.”

But regardless of his playing time, Matt has already learned valuable lessons of success from the challenges of life:

“Persistence and working hard and not getting defeated by the long road and getting knocked down so many times…just never give up.”

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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