Matt Abercrombie has scored four goals with six assists in 17 games since leaving Brock University after his senior year. THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Walleye forward Matt Abercrombie considers himself very lucky to be one of six players on Toledo's roster that the team signed right out of college in recent weeks.
Abercrombie, a 24-year-old center, is among 13 rookies on the Walleye's current active roster. Abercrombie is just a few weeks removed from his college games at Brock University where he played for four seasons before signing his first pro contract with the Walleye.
With the team long since eliminated from the playoffs, Abercrombie is among a half dozen college players that have been given an “audition” for next season.
“It's been really great having people in the same situation as you,” Abercrombie said. “You learn and grow with each other. We all talk about what a good opportunity this is, especially here in Toledo. We've been to other cities and we know the fan base here is incredible. We consider ourselves lucky to be part of this organization.”
Abercrombie, a native of Sarnia, Ont., played against his current linemate Jesse Messier in college at Brock which is located in Catharines, Ont.
Messier also played in the Ontario University Athletics league. Rookie defenseman Ken Peroff also played in the OUA.
“I played against them so it was nice when we met up here,” Abercrombie said. “We drive to the rink together. We hang out and help each other out.
"We keep each other positive knowing there are a lot of adjustments to make.”
Two of Abercrombie's former teammates at Brock, Derek Brochu and Steve Miller, also played with the Walleye at the tail end of the 2011-12 season.
“They said it was an amazing experience and I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.
Abercrombie was nearly a point-per-game player in college before joining the Walleye on Feb. 28.
In 107 career games at Brock, he produced 105 points (57 goals, 48 assists). Abercrombie collected 27 points (15 goals and 12 assists) in 24 games his senior season.
Abercrombie has 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in 18 games with Toledo.
“It's always been a dream of mine to play pro hockey,” Abercrombie said. “It has worked out so far.”
The 6-foot-1 and 183-pound forward said the highlight of his hockey career came on March 15 at the Huntington Center. Abercrombie scored his first pro goal midway through the third period of a 6-4 loss to Kalamazoo.
“It was off a faceoff. I went to the net and I deflected a shot between the goalie's legs,” Abercrombie said. “Obviously it was a really exciting moment. I had been here for a few games (six) and it was good to get that first one out of the way. I have the puck in my apartment.”
Abercrombie said the biggest adjustment to the pro game has been the intensity.
“It's a jump up,” he said. “The players are bigger, stronger, and faster. I'm just trying to use what assets I have.”
Abercrombie said he has always been an offensive-minded forward. He said he developed into more of a shoot-first mentality in college.
“I guess I'd say I'm a play maker,” he said. “I'm a play maker and a passer. But I'm working on becoming more of a complete, two-way player.”
Toledo (21-43-5) has three games left in a forgetable season.
The Walleye play Kalamazoo at home on Friday and travel to Fort Wayne on Saturday before hosting Cincinnati in the season finale on Sunday.
The Walleye had gone 2-1-1 before a current four-game losing streak.
“You're never going to quit even when you are mathematically eliminated because you are playing for a job and this is your job,” Abercrombie said.
Abercrombie's father Bill played pro hockey in Europe.
Abercrombie, who received a degree in Kinesiology, hopes to open some eyes and continue his career next season.
“This year is a little bit of a trial basis to get the feet wet. I'd love to play at this level or get the chance to move up to the highest league possible,” he said. “I can't ask for a bigger opportunity.”
with Matt Abercrombie