By Doug Reese
Florence Morning News
FLORENCE, S.C. – Matt Underhill always thought the National Hockey League would overwhelm him.
If he ever reached hockey’s center stage, the Florence Pride goalie assumed, the specter would wreak havoc on his concentration.
But standing in the home crease at the United Center last Sunday, wearing the Chicago Blackhawks sweater with his name stitched across the back, reality helped Underhill overcome the jitters.
This — the NHL debut he’d pined for — was just another game.
The significance did set in, but not until after he’d left the ice with a 29-save performance and a 4-3 overtime loss on his resume.
“That night, a little later I realized what had just happened,” Underhill said Thursday, shortly after being sent back down to AHL Norfolk. “I was so caught up in the game that I didn’t really think about that at all.
“If I started thinking about that, then I’d forget to stop the puck. And if you’re gonna play at the NHL, you obviously can’t get up with the fact that you’re playing because that’s your job. You focus on what you have to do — that’s the only way you’re gonna have success.”