Harrington grows into new role

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. - A lot has changed in three years.

It was December 2012 when Matt Harrington, 22, joined the Mississippi RiverKings on a three-game tryout contact for a weekend series in Knoxville. He had played two seasons in the Federal Hockey League in Cape Cod and this was his second opportunity in the Southern Professional Hockey League.

Three years ago, the ECHL didn’t look like it was in the cards. But after a successful start to the 2014-15 campaign where he had ten goals and eight assists in 23 games, Harrington earned his first “AA” call-up when he joined the Wheeling Nailers for four games. After returning to Mississippi for just four days, he received another call, this time to Alaska.

“It was a big culture shock,” said Harrington of the changing of sceneries. “They hit you with every bit of information about specific systems the first day and if it’s not done to a ‘T’ you hear about it immediately and it’s expected to be corrected. If not, then you find yourself watching games from the bench.”

While in Alaska, Harrington notched three points in 16 games before rejoining the RiverKings prior to their run to the President’s Cup finals. The stint gave the fourth-year pro a new perspective.

“When I came back from Alaska, my compete-level was so much higher because those games were crucial for our playoff push,” said Harrington. “There’s a lot less room for error in the ECHL. Turn the puck over there, it’s an automatic two-on-one, three-on-two and that kind of mindset helped coming back.”

This season, Harrington started his season in ECHL Wichita. When players began to trickle down from the American Hockey League, he found himself on the outside looking in and made his way back to the RiverKings.

“It’s always nice to know I have a place to come back in Southaven,” Harrington said. “But it’s not one of those things I take for granted. The league is constantly getting better. I can’t come back and be content with how I’ve played in past, I have to keep improving my skill level and raising my compete level.”

Now 25, Harrington is the longest-tenured RiverKing. Since the RiverKings began play in the SPHL in 2011, only two have played in more games wearing the crown than the guy those around the organization call “Harry”: Matt Whitehead (195) and Andrew Randazzo (144). Harrington’s 134 games is 10 more than current-forward Devin Mantha and that kind of longevity with any organization brings with it additional leadership responsibilities along with on-ice production.

“For me, I’m a ‘lead-by-example’ kind of player,” says Harrington of his changing role. “I like to keep it light in the room, but as soon as I step on the ice and the puck drops, it’s all business. It’s a completely different personality.”

With seniority in the league comes with adjustments on the ice.

“I’ve learned to just be patient, no matter the situation and just being able to be confident as well,” Harrington said. “Based on what I’ve done the past couple of seasons, I know I can play in this league and produce and that helps.”

Through nine games this season, Harrington has six assists and is on pace for 30 points this season, right at his point per game average for his career. So while a lot is changing around him, at the end of the day, you shouldn't expect anything different from him.

Mississippi RiverKings forward Matt Harrington entered this season as the team's longest-tenured player, which has brought with it a new set of responsibilities. Harrington, 25, is in his fourth season with the club and has spent time in the ECHL with Wheeling and Alaska.

Posted by David Schmoll at 10:00 AM


12/14/2015 at 10:36 AM by Cyndy Alvarado

We are so proud of you, Matt. You are an integral part of our experience each week. Of course, we always wish bigger and better things for your future, but we are appreciative that you see the RiverKings as a destination, not just a stepping stone! That's why I am so proud to wear your jersey!

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