While his former teammates were receiving their Atlantic Hockey championship rings at RIT this week, Matt Garbowsky was in Buffalo preparing for the Prospects Challenge.
Last year’s captain who led the Tigers to the NCAA tournament still hasn’t received his ring.
“I’ve seen plenty of pictures though,” he said with a laugh after his first practice with the Sabres prospect team at First Niagara Center Friday.
Garbwosky, a native of St. George, Ontario, set an RIT record last year with 54 points on 26 goals and 28 assists.
He was finishing his collegiate career on a dream season as RIT knocked off Minnesota State in the NCAA tournament before losing to Nebraska-Omaha in the Midwest Regional.
The sting of the loss was mitigated by signing an Amateur Tryout Contract with the Rochester Americans, getting his first taste of pro hockey in the AHL.
Garbowsky signed a one-year AHL deal to return to the Amerks this year. And after having a summer to breath is ready to take the next step in his hockey career.
“It was definitely a crazy time,”Garbowksy said of last year. “Making the NCAA tournament was huge and a good way to out being a senior and then when that was done, it was kind of a bad feeling being put out of the tournament then turning around and signing my first professional contract was pretty exciting for me as well. It’s been crazy pretty much the whole time. I’m definitely enjoying it.”
As an undrafted free agent, Garbowsky benefitted from the structure and opportunity of college hockey. Under coach Wayne Wilson he wasn’t only able to make gains in fitness and hockey skills but to gain confidence from being a go-to player.
“Coach Wilson gave me a chance right from freshman year to make an impact,” Garbowsky said. “I felt like each year I slowly got better and better and he relied on me more. Being that guy that gets to be relied on, you grow a lot as a player. I think my four years at RIT has helped me tremendously to achieve a pro-level of hockey.”
His time with coaches from the Sabres organization and the chance to play two games before training camp gives Garbowksy a chance to get back into the swing of a hockey season and to make an impression.
“I just want to show what kind of player I am to the organization and that I can help out the team,” he said. “Obviously I want to be a hard-nose player and make every shift count and show my skills.”