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Iron Range jackrabbit

By Loren Nelson, Editor, 11/13/11, 10:08AM CST

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Ultra-quick John Matchefts of Eveleth earns Top 100 nod for state tounament dominance

John Matchefts

Born: June 18, 1931

H.S. Class: 1949

Position: Forward

Rank
10

Status: Retired

Top 100 Scoring System

HOMETOWN HIGH SCHOOL COLLEGE
Eveleth Eveleth Michigan

Notable stats

State Tourneys State Titles All-State Tourney NCAA Titles Olympics U.S. Hockey HOF
1947, 48, 49 1948, 49 1947, 48, 49 1951, 53 (Michigan) 1956 1991

180

  • High School | Max 185

    171 points

  • State Titles | Max 10

    6 points

  • Post H.S. Career | Max 5

    3 points

'Jackrabbit' John Matchefts' prolific scoring helped propel Eveleth to unbeaten seasons in 1948, '49


Eveleth's John Matchefts ranks fifth in state tournament career scoring with 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists). Courtesy photo

Hockey equipment in the 1930’s and ’40s compared to what is available today is akin to the difference between an abacus and an iPad.

Still, the rudimentary offerings of gear were considered luxury items in many households. A decent pair of skates, especially, was a rare find.

Eveleth’s John Matchefts had one option if he wanted to play hockey with the rest of the neighborhood kids.

“They were high blades, but hell, that’s all we had, so I used hers,” Matchefts said about his sister’s figure skates. “Of course, they were too long for me.

“It probably was good that I learned on them. Because when I got a decent pair of skates, it was like I was skating barefoot.”

By the time Matchefts was 16, he was fully grown at a stocky 5-foot-6 and renowned as something of a skating and stickhandling wunderkind. Matchefts was held in such high regard he was invited to Boston to try out for the 1948 U.S. Olympic team.


Eveleth's John Matchefts was the first player (one just one of 13 overall) to be named to the all-state tournament team three straight years. Star Tribune file photo

“He was like a jackrabbit on the ice,” said Ron Casetellano, who played on Eveleth’s varsity hockey team for two seasons with Matchefts. “He could really maneuver well.”

As a sophomore playing in the 1947 state tournament, Matchefts had three goals and three assists in three games as Eveleth finished in fourth place. He tied with four other players for the tournament scoring title and was the lone Eveleth player named to the eight-member all-tournament team.

Matchefts scored a stunning nine goals and added five assists to not only lead the 1948 tournament in scoring but also power Eveleth to an unbeaten season and its second state championship in the four-year history of the event.

“He was a tough kid, I’ll tell you that,” said Willard Ikola, Eveleth’s goaltender during all three of Matchefts’ varsity seasons. “He was a heck of a halfback. He was a heck of a baseball player, too. He was just tougher than nails.”

Matchefts’ had good end-to-end speed, but it was his quickness that made him all but untouchable. His hands moved as fast as his feet, leaving defensemen little chance of seeing the puck, much less stealing it from the Golden Bears’ pocket tornado.

“He was a role model for me,” said John Mayasich, another standout Eveleth forward who was two years behind Matchefts in school. “He was very quick, and he was smart. He could deke, he could hit; he had everything.
“You admired everything he did. He was somebody you would want to learn from. He was special.”

Eveleth beat White Bear Lake 6-0 and Warroad 8-0 to reach the championship game of the 1949 state tournament. Matchefts had a goal and an assist in Eveleth’s 4-1 triumph over Williams that capped another undefeated season.

Matchefts became the first of 13 players to be named to the all-tournament team three straight years, and he finished with 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) in nine tournament games. He ranks fifth in all-time state tournament career scoring.

“He was tremendous coming in on a breakaway,” Ikola said. “He was like a halfback coming in with his hips moving and all that. He was shifting all over the place. He scored lot of his goals coming in close.”


Eveleth's John Matchefts takes in the sights while competing on the U.S. Olympic team at the 1956 games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Star Tribune file photo

Joe Matchefts, John’s father, was a 6-foot-3 baseball star who grew up in Virginia. Joe was a pitcher on a local barnstorming semi-pro team that would play games as far away as in California.

“I didn’t get those genes,” Matchefts said about his dad’s height, adding that his mother, Lena, was about 5-1.

Matchefts said he tried pitching for the Golden Bears but quickly discovered he was better suited for shortstop.

“He reminded me of (Phil) Rizzuto, the shortstop for the Yanks,” Mayasich said about Matchefts, who also was a standout sprinter on the track team.

Hockey was Matchefts’ sport of choice, and coming out of high school he declined offers to play professionally in the minor leagues.

Instead, he continued his career in college for Michigan. Matchefts was an All-American selection on Wolverines’ teams that won national titles in 1951 and ’53. He was academically ineligible for the second half of the 1952 season, or he would have been a regular on a third championship team.

Matchefts, who had traveled to Boston as a 16-year-old for that Olympic team tryout, didn’t travel to St. Moritz, Switzerland, for the 1948 Games. He was, however, on the 1956 U.S. squad that won a silver medal in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Matchefts coached high school hockey in Thief River Falls and Eveleth, then took over the head coaching position at Colorado College in 1966.

He left Colorado College for the Air Force Academy, where he became head coach in 1974. He guided the Falcons for 11 seasons before retiring.

Matchefts lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Carolyn.

-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor

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Moorhead's Jack Stetz (21) throws his arms up as he and his teammates celebrated the win. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com

From left, Eveleth's John Mayasich and John Matchefts, both forwards, coach John Mariucci and goaltender Willard Ikola joined forces on the 1956 U.S. Olympic team. Star Tribune file photo

Minnesota's Top 100 Players

Rank Name School Grad. Pos. Born Status St. Titles Mr. Hockey College Olym. NHL
1 John Mayasich Eveleth 1951 F 5/22/33 Retired 1948, 49, 50, 51 NA Minnesota (1951-55) 1956, 1960 -
2 Neal Broten Roseau 1978 F 11/29/59 Retired - NA Minnesota (1978-81) 1980 1,099 gms; four teams; 80-97
3 Phil Housley South St. Paul 1982 D 3/9/64 Retired - NA - 2002 1,495 gms; eight teams; 82-03
4 Tim Sheehy International Falls 1966 F 9/3/48 Retired 1964, 65, 66 NA Boston College (1967-70) 1972 27 gms; DET, HAR; 77-80
5 Henry Boucha Warroad 1969 D 6/1/51 Retired - NA - 1972 247 gms; four teams; 71-77
6 Mike Antonovich Greenway 1969 F 10/18/51 Retired 1967, 68 NA Minnesota (1969-72) - 87 gms; three teams; 75-84
7 Willard Ikola Eveleth 1950 G 7/28/32 Retired 1948, 49, 50 NA Michigan (1951-54) 1956 -
8 Mike Crowley Bloomington Jefferson 1994 D 7/4/75 Retired 1992, 93, 94 1994 Minnesota (1994-97) - 67 gms; ANA; 97-01
9 Dave Spehar Duluth East 1996 F 11/7/77 Retired 1995 1996 Minnesota (1996-00) - -
10 John Matchefts Eveleth 1949 F 6/18/31 Retired 1948, 49 NA Michigan (1950-53) 1956 -
11 Kyle Rau Eden Prairie 2011 F 10/24/92 Active 2009, 11 2011 Minnesota (2011- present) - -
12 Aaron Broten Roseau 1979 F 11/14/60 Retired - NA Minnesota (1979-81) - 748 gms; six teams; 80-92
13 Craig Norwich Edina East 1974 D 12/15/55 Retired 1974 NA Wisconsin (1974-77) - 104 gms; three teams; 79-81
14 John Pohl Red Wing 1998 F 6/29/79 Retired 1997 (Class 1A) 1998 Minnesota (1998-02) - 115 gms; StL, TOR; 03-08
15 Gary Sargent Bemidji 1972 D 2/8/54 Retired - NA Bemidji State (1972-73) - 402 gms; LAK, MIN; 75-83
16 Bob Krieger Edina 1970 F 10/5/52 Retired 1969 NA Denver (1970-74) - -
17 George Pelawa Bemidji 1986 F 2/14/68 Deceased - 1986 - - -
18 Bill Nyrop Edina 1970 D 7/23/52 Deceased 1969 NA Notre Dame (1970-74) - 207 gms; MON, MIN; 75-82
19 Tom Chorske Minneapolis Southwest 1985 F 9/18/66 Retired - 1985 Minnesota (1985-89) - 596 gms; seven teams; 89-00
20 Steve "Pokey" Trachsel Duluth Cathedral 1969 D 4/16/51 Retired 1966, 67, 68, 69 (Catholic) NA Minnesota-Duluth (1969-73) - -
21 Scott Bloom Burnsville 1986 F 2/6/68 Retired 1985, 86 1986 finalist Minnesota (1986-90) - -
22 Phil Hoene Duluth Cathedral 1967 F 3/15/49 Retired 1965, 66, 67 (Catholic) NA Minnesota-Duluth (1968-71) - 37 gms; LAK; 72-75
23 Corey Millen Cloquet 1982 F 4/29/64 Retired - NA Minnesota (1982-87) 1984, 1988 335 gms; five teams; 89-97
24 Reed Larson Minneapolis Roosevelt 1974 D 7/30/56 Retired - NA Minnesota (1974-77) - 904 gms; six teams; 76-90
25 Bob Young Hill 1971 D 3/1/53 Retired 1970 (Indep.) NA Denver (1971-75) - -
26 Brad Shelstad Minneapolis Southwest 1970 G 9/14/52 Retired 1970 NA Minnesota (1970-74) - -
27 Mike Ramsey Minneapolis Roosevelt 1978 D 12/3/60 Retired - NA Minnesota (1978-79) 1980 1,070 gms; three teams; 80-97
28 Matt Cullen Moorhead 1995 F 11/2/76 Active - 1995 finalist St. Cloud State (1995-97) - 966 gms; five teams; 98- present
29 Bill Baker Grand Rapids 1975 D 11/29/56 Retired 1975 NA Minnesota (1975-79) 1980 143 gms; four teams; 80-83
30 Paul Martin Elk River 2000 D 3/5/81 Active - 2000 Minnesota (2000-03) 2006 487 gms; NJ, PIT; 03- present
31 Wally Grant Eveleth 1945 F 12/8/27 Retired 1945 NA Michigan (1945-46, 47-50) - -
32 Brian Bonin White Bear Lake 1992 F 11/28/73 Retired - 1992 Minnesota (1992-96) - 12 gms; PIT, MIN; 98-00
33 Larry Olimb Warroad 1988 D 8/11/69 Retired - 1988 Minnesota (1988-92) - -
34 Dave Langevin Hill-Murray 1972 D 5/15/54 Retired 1970, 72 (Indep.) NA Minnesota-Duluth (1972-76) - 513 gms; three teams; 79-87
35 Joe Bianchi Bloomington Jefferson 1994 F 8/17/75 Retired 1992, 93, 94 1994 finalist Wisconsin (1994-98) - -
36 Peter Fichuk International Falls 1965 F 4/8/47 Retired 1964, 65 NA Minnesota (1966-69) - -
37 Jon Casey Grand Rapids 1980 G 8/29/62 Retired 1980 NA North Dakota (1980-84) 425 gms; three teams; 83-87
38 Doug Woog South St. Paul 1962 F 1/26/44 Retired - NA Minnesota (1963-66) - -
39 Darby Hendrickson Richfield 1991 F 8/28/72 Retired - 1991 Minnesota (1991-93) 1994 518 gms; five teams; 94-04
40 Paul Ranheim Edina 1984 F 1/25/66 Retired 1984 NA Wisconsin (1984-88) - 1,013 gms; five teams; 88-03
41 Steve Christoff Richfield 1976 F 1/23/58 Retired - NA Minnesota (1976-79) 1980 248 gms; three teams; 79-84
42 T.J. Oshie Warroad 2005 F 12/23/86 Active 2003, 2005 (Class 1A) 2005 finalist North Dakota (2005-08) - 184 gms; StL; 08- present
43 Scott Lecy Rochester John Marshall 1977 F 4/8/59 Retired 1977 NA Wisconsin (1977-81) - -
44 Scott Bjugstad Irondale 1979 F 6/2/61 Retired - NA Minnesota (1979-83) 1984 317 gms; three teams; 83-92
45 Mike "Lefty" Curran International Falls 1962 G 4/14/1944 Retired 1962 NA North Dakota (1965-68) 1972 -
46 Joe Micheletti Hibbing 1973 F 10/24/54 Retired 1973 NA Minnesota (1973-77) - 158 gms; StL, COL; 79-82
47 Rob McClanahan Mounds View 1976 F 1/9/58 Retired - NA Minnesota (1976-79) 1980 224 gms; three teams; 80-84
48 Nick Leddy Eden Prairie 2009 D 3/20/91 Active 2009 2009 Minnesota (2009-10) - 46 gms; CHI; 10- present
49 Tom Pederson Bloomington Jefferson 1988 D 1/14/70 Retired - 1988 finalist Minnesota (1988-91) - 240 gms; SJ, TOR; 92-97
50 Dave Christian Warroad 1977 F 5/12/59 Retired - NA North Dakota (1977-79) 1980 1,009 gms; five teams; 80-94
51 Jay North Bloomington Jefferson 1980 F 6/26/62 Retired - NA Harvard (1980-84) - -
52 Paul Johnson Breck 1953 F 5/18/36 Retired - NA - 1960, 1964 -
53 Pete Waselovich International Falls 1973 G 11/15/54 Retired 1972 NA North Dakota (1973-77) - -
54 Tom Kurvers Bloomington Jefferson 1980 D 9/14/62 Retired - NA UM-Duluth (1980-84) - 659 gms; seven teams; 84-95
55 Mark Osiecki Burnsville 1986 D 7/23/68 Retired 1985, 86 - Wisconsin (1997-90) - 93 gms; four teams; 91-93
56 Mark Pavelich Eveleth 1976 F 2/28/58 Retired - NA UM-Duluth (1976-79) 1980 355 gms; three teams; 81-92
57 Mark Parrish Bloomington Jefferson 1995 F 2/2/77 Active 1994 1995 finalist St. Cloud State (1995-97) 2006 722 gms; seven teams; 98- present
58 Bryan "Butsy" Erickson Roseau 1978 F 3/7/60 Retired - NA Minnesota (1979-83) - 351 gms; four teams; 83-94
59 Roger Christian Warroad 1956 F 12/1/35 Deceased - NA - 1960, 1964 -
60 Bill Christian Warroad 1956 F 1/28/38 Retired - NA - 1960, 1964 -
61 Trent Klatt Osseo 1989 F 1/30/72 Retired - 1989 Minnesota (1989-92) - 782 gms; five teams; 91-04
62 Erik Rasmussen St. Louis Park 1995 F/D 3/28/77 Retired - 1995 Minnesota (1995-97) - 545 gms; three teams; 97-07
63 Robb Stauber Duluth Denfeld 1986 G 11/25/67 Retired - NA Minnesota (1986-89) - 62 gms; LAK, BUF; 89-95
64 Joe Dziedzic Minneapolis Edison 1990 F 12/18/71 Retired - 1990 Minnesota (1990-94) - 130 gms; PIT, PHX; 95-99
65 Ryan McDonagh Cretin- Derham Hall 2007 D 6/13/89 Active 2006 2007 Wisconsin (2007-10) - 40 gms; NYR; 10- present
66 Craig Johnson Hill-Murray 1990 F 3/18/72 Retired - 1990 finalist Minnesota (1990-93) 1994 557 gms; five teams; 94-04
67 Matt Hendricks Blaine 2000 F 6/17/81 Active 2000 2000 finalist St. Cloud State (2000-04) - 137 gms; COL, WSH; 08- present
68 Wally Chapman Edina 1982 F 7/6/64 Retired 1982 NA Minnesota (1982-86) - -
69 Bob Paradise Cretin 1962 D 4/22/44 Retired - NA Saint Mary's (1962-66) 1968 368 gms; four teams; 71-79
70 Ben Hanowski Little Falls 2009 F 10/18/90 Active - 2009 finalist St. Cloud State (2009- present) - -
71 Damian Rhodes Richfield 1987 G 5/28/69 Retired - NA Michigan Tech (1987-90) - 309 gms; three teams; 90-02
72 Eric Strobel Rochester Mayo 1976 F 6/5/58 Retired - NA Minnesota (1976-79) 1980 -
73 Dick Dougherty International Falls 1950 F 8/5/32 Retired - NA Minnesota (1951-54) 1956 -
74 Gino Guyer Greenway 2002 F 10/14/83 Active - 2002 Minnesota (2002-06) - -
75 Jim Amidon International Falls 1963 F 2/18/45 Retired 1962 NA Colorado College (1964-67) - -
76 Karl Goehring Apple Valley 1996 G 8/23/78 Retired 1996 NA North Dakota (1997-01) - -
77 Rube Bjorkman Roseau 1947 F 2/27/29 Retired 1946 NA Minnesota (1948-51) 1948, 1952 -
78 Tony Bianchi Bloomington Jefferson 1989 F 12/15/70 Retired 1989 - Minnesota (1991-94) - -
79 Oscar Mahle International Falls 1957 F 8/22/39 Deceased 1957 NA Minnesota (1959-61) - -
80 Mike Randolph Duluth Cathedral 1970 F 11/5/51 Retired 1967, 68, 69 (Catholic) NA - - -
81 Aaron Ness Roseau 2008 D 5/18/90 Active 2007 2008 Minnesota (2008-11) - -
82 Doug Palazzari Eveleth 1970 F 11/3/52 Retired - NA Colorado College (1970-74) - 108 gms; StL; 74-79
83 Nick Checco Bloomington Jefferson 1993 F 11/18/74 Retired 1992, 93 1993 Minnesota (1993-97) - -
84 John Rothstein Grand Rapids 1975 F 10/28/56 Retired 1975 NA UM-Duluth (1975-79) - -
85 Gary Wood International Falls 1965 D 9/28/46 Deceased 1964, 65 NA - - -
86 Al Hangsleben Warroad 1971 D 2/22/53 Retired - NA North Dakota (1971-74) - 185 gms; three teams; 79-82
87 Doug Peltier St. Paul Johnson 1968 F 6/29/50 Retired - NA Minnesota (1969-72) - -
88 Mike Lauen Edina East 1979 F 2/6/61 Retired 1978, 79 NA Michigan Tech (1979-83) - 4 gms; WIN; 83-84
89 Max Oshie Warroad 1948 F 6/10/28 Deceased - NA - - -
90 Tom Gorowsky Centennial 2004 F 4/8/86 Retired 2004 2004 Wisconsin (2005-09) - -
91 Jack McCartan St. Paul Marshall 1953 G 8/5/35 Retired - NA Minnesota (1955-58) 1960 12 gms; NYR; 59-61
92 Doug Zmolek Roch. John Marshall 1989 D 11/3/70 Retired - 1989 finalist Minnesota (1989-92) - 467 gms; four teams; 92-00
93 Pete LoPresti Eveleth 1972 G 5/23/54 Retired - NA Denver (1972-74) - 175 gms; MIN, EDM; 74-81
94 Terry Abram South St. Paul 1965 D 2/14/47 Retired - NA North Dakota (1966-69) - -
95 Bill "Buzz" Schneider Babbitt 1972 F/D 9/14/54 Retired - NA Minnesota (1972-75) 1976, 1980 -
96 David Backes Spring Lake Park 2002 F 5/1/84 Active - 2002 finalist Minnesota State (2003-06) 2010 364 gms; StL; 06-11
97 Don Ross Roseau 1960 F 10/11/42 Retired 1958, 59 NA North Dakota (1961-65) 1964, 1968 -
98 Mike Polich Hibbing 1971 F 12/19/52 Retired - NA Minnesota (1971-75) - 226 gms; MON, MIN; 76-81
99 Chris Locker Duluth East 1996 F 10/14/77 Retired 1995 - UW-River Falls (1999-2000) - -
100 Herb Brooks St. Paul Johnson 1955 F 8/5/37 Deceased 1955 NA Minnesota (1955-59) 1964, 1968 -