Matt Garbowsky, an RIT hockey all-star and alum, was given the opportunity to play with the Rochester Americans at the Gene Polisseni Center (GPC) against the Binghamton Senators on October 1. Even though Garbowsky was not skating with the Tigers, he was given this opportunity to play at the GPC with his new AHL Team, the Rochester Americans.

He wore the “C” on his jersey with pride and led his team to great successes in the 2014-15 season. Garbowsky and his number one line-mates Brad McGowan and Josh Mitchell scored over 53 percent of RIT’s goals and they had the second best combined goals and assists numbers in the league, topped only by Boston University’s number one line. Garbowsky was also a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, which is given to the top player in the league.  

Matt Garbowsky enters the ice with the Rochester Americans at the Gene Polisseni Center on Oct. 1, 2015. Photograph by Rob Rauchwerger.

Even after facing an injury, Garbowsky came back out on top for RIT. In his sophomore year, the 2013-14 season, his wrist was injured and the injury put Garbowsky out for practically the remainder of the season  he only played 13 games. Garbowsky came back into the game with metal in his wrist, his stick in his hands and a “C” on his chest to play explosively in the 2014-15 season. He collected 26 goals, 54 points in 40 games that season and finished third in the NCAA in goals.

Perhaps one of the most significant achievements Garbowsky has accomplished is leading his team to the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinals and beating top seed, Minnesota State – Mankato, while RIT was placed at the 16th seed. This achievement was the first of its kind in NCAA ice hockey history.

After graduating from RIT with a degree in Business Management, Garbowsky moved on to pro level hockey. He signed with the Amerks on March 31, 2015 for an amateur tryout for the remainder of the Amerks season. He also signed a contract for the 2015-16 Amerks season. Pro hockey was a dream for him, as it is for many people who have been playing hockey as long as he has 20 years but it did come with work. Garbowsky said that the transition was not the hardest, but “little things add up.”

Overall, Garbowsky has been working on these “little things” to be a better pro player. After training intensively with the RIT team, Garbowsky noted that the easiest transition was in the weight room because coaches train RIT athletes in a similar way. Garbowsky also noted some of the style differences between college and pro hockey.

“College hockey is more ‘run-and-gun’ I like to say,” Garbowsky relayed happily, “but pro is a little more structured.”

Over the summer, Garbowsky was given the chance to put on the Buffalo Sabres sweater and participate in training camp. “It was a special moment,” Garbowsky smiled. “It’s been my dream since I was a kid.” He was able to live the dream of many for a few months, playing alongside players that you sometimes only hear about or watch on TV. “Sometimes you see someone and say, ‘Wow that’s so-and-so,’ but then you play the game,” Garbowsky continued. Even while suiting up with celebrities, Garbowsky kept his focus on the game and his love for it.

Matt Garbowsky (center) stands on the ice during the National Anthem at the Rochester Americans game at the Gene Polisseni Center on Oct. 11 2015. Photograph by Rob Rauchwerger.

Garbowsky still keeps in touch with his RIT teammates, saying that the one thing he really misses about college is “the get-togethers and bowling with the boys.” This season, Garbowsky will start in the ECHL but hopes to do well this year with his new team. Fortunately for Garbowsky, the Blue Cross Arena is just around the corner and his friends are not so far away.

Garbowsky was able to feel what it was like to be back in college for a single game on Oct. 1. “It definitely felt like a home game,” Garbowsky said. “It almost felt like I was back in college, but it did hit me that I’m playing pro hockey now.”

Garbowsky was in the starting lineup for the game at Gene Polisseni Center. “It was a crazy moment stepping on the ice again here,” Garbowsky told us about his experience on the RIT ice. At RIT, Garbowsky played center and described it as “more natural” for him. With the Amerks, though, Garbowsky plays a different position. He is less of a goal scorer for the Amerks but plays as a powerhouse for the rest of the team. “I think it’s important that you know how to play all positions, it helps you to be more useful to a team," Garbowsky said.

After having the opportunity to skate with the incoming class, Garbowsky believes that the Tigers can come back for another great season.

“They just need to find the back of the net and I know they can have another great year,” he said after having watched the team practice. Even after a loss with the Amerks, Garbowsky was able to experience a game in Gene Polisseni Center and the RIT Pep Band and Corner Crew. Garbowsky hopes for a great season for both the Amerks and the Tigers.

An overview of the Gene Polisseni Center during the Rochester Americans game on Oct. 1, 2015. Photograph by Rob Rauchwerger.