Building the Herd – Matt TowalskiPosted: 21/07/2016
#21 Matt Towalski
Born: Stafford, Staffordshire
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 21st July
With the Bison roster nearing completion, Doug Sheppard announced the return to the club of experienced forward Matt Towalski.
Whilst relatively new to the Bison, having joined the club just before Christmas 2015 when Grant Rounding was lost to injury, Towalski is a veteran of the EPL with over 650 league and playoff games under his belt as he enters his 17th season in the league.
A product of Slough’s junior system, Towalski’s first forays in to senior hockey came with the Jets in the BNL whilst playing juniors for the Slough Comets as well as making appearances for the then England u20s side that played in the EPL just after the turn of the millennium.
After 3 solid years establishing himself with the Jets and earning 14 Great Britain junior caps, Towalski moved from Berkshire to Milton Keynes for the 2005/06 season and the move paid instant dividends as the Lightning finished the season with the playoff title. In all, Towalski would spend 7 seasons with the Lightning totalling 325 regular season and 36 playoff games for the Buckinghamshire side, winning the league title in 2010. Statistically, 2008/09 was his best year as he scored 12 goals and 34 points in 53 league games.
At the end of a lack lustre 2011/12 season for the Lightning, then coach Nick Poole had a bit of clearout of the roster, fan favourite Towalski moved back to Slough along with Michael Wales. The first campaign in Slough went OK but the Jets well publicised issues made 2013/14 a long season at The Hanger. While some like Michael Wales and Ciaran Long left, Towalski stayed and battled it out with the Jets for the duration as he played the full 54 game campaign.
With the Jets withdrawal from the EPL, Towalski remained in Berkshire and moved to Bracknell to provide veteran presence for the Bees. His first season in black and gold saw a productive 17 points in 48 games but the 2015/16 season was, again one to forget for hockey in the royal county. Finance issues at the Bees saw Towalski and others leave the club, with Matt being announced by the Herd on Christmas Eve 2015. Towalski scored 7 points in 29 games en route to his second league title as a player.
Anyone notice that Matt Towalski’s got a half decent shot? Just thought I’d throw that out there. He only scored 4 goals in the regular season for the Bison but a couple of them were really nice shots.
If you go back to Christmas time and check back on what I said about Matt when he joined, I was actually right for the most part. He didn’t set the world on fire but contributed a few points, was much needed depth on the roster and did whatever was asked of him. It worked. Matt Towalski joining the Bison did exactly what it was meant to do; the signing filled in a hole and a need we had in the roster that we had at the time, he came in, did his job and was part of the success.
What I personaly enjoy about us signing players like Matt Towalski who have been around a while is we get to watch them much more. If you’re new to Bison hockey then this is all new and great so we get to learn this together. Matt will be honest enough to admit that he’s been around the block a few times and those of us who have been around British hockey a bit will be familiar with him but we’ve had that chance to watch him week in, week out so I’ve really enjoyed getting to see how his mechanics work. It’s like what I’d mentioned above; I’d never really taken the time to notice that he’s got that a decent shot before but Sheppard signing him allows us to get more familiar with these kind of players. Maybe that’s the nerd in me coming out but hey, this is my blog so if I can’t geek out here then where can I?
We’ve talked before about how the Bison have role players and versatile players and Towalski will be the later; he is a veteran presence on what remains a mostly young team. He will be the calm head along with Baird and Vantroba. He will be shuffled around the lines when needed and the special teams as well. Being able to do that is what brought him to the Bison and it’s why he’s back. That and the fact he’s had a bit of chemistry on a line with Vanya Antonov won’t hurt.
Welcome back, Matt.
And now, my favourite GIF from last season.