By Alex Kantor
Matt Rhone '11 finished last season third in the conference in power play points, setting the table for a much-anticipated senior year.
[Backstory] It was Jan. 16, 2009, in the midst of the best season in the history of Amherst men’s hockey. With less than two seconds remaining in a non-conference game at the University of Southern Maine, Matt Rhone ’11 added an empty-net goal to seal the team’s eighth win of the season. For everyone else, it was just another game. For Rhone—and for Maria Rello, the team trainer—it was a whole lot more.
Rhone is Amherst’s most physical forward, and since that weekend in Maine, no player has scored more goals for the Lord Jeffs than he has. But what makes Rhone’s ability on the ice extraordinary is what he overcomes every day off the ice.
Rhone has Type 1 diabetes, and that night in Maine, the line to his insulin pump fell out mid-game, probably during a collision in the opening period. When he tried to insert a back-up pump, it broke. He didn’t have any syringes on hand. Rhone didn’t tell his coaches. He drank some orange juice and finished out the game.
But back on the bus, his blood sugar level hit a dangerously high 300. That’s when he finally told Rello—whom he calls his “second mother”—that he was in trouble. Within a few minutes, the bus had pulled off the highway and into the parking lot of a nearby hospital. As Rello remembers, Rhone’s legs were becoming rigid—he had trouble even walking into the ER. He was soon hooked up to an I.V.
After nearly slipping into a coma, Rhone was fine within a few hours, and he played the next afternoon at Salem State College. The Lord Jeffs lost that afternoon, 1-0, but went on to win the program’s first NESCAC Championship. Rhone didn’t miss a single game that season.
He didn’t miss a single game in the 2009-10 season, either. After opening his junior season with a hat trick in a 6-3 win against Little Three archrival Wesleyan, Rhone scored a team-high 12 goals during the year. Amherst was ranked in the top 10 in the nation by USCHO.com, registering a 16-5-4 overall record. Rhone finished the year ninth in the conference in goal-scoring and third in the conference in power-play points, setting the table for a much anticipated senior season.
When his blood sugar is high, he feels sluggish, lethargic. When it’s low, he gets shaky and weak. But Rhone never uses diabetes as an excuse for a bad game. When he was being recruited to Amherst, his high school coaches didn’t mention he was diabetic. Consistency helps him manage the disease.
He always eats the same pre-game meal: chicken parmesan with a small side of pasta and a salad. Upon arrival at the rink he always has a cup of coffee. He has a banana and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich an hour and a half before each game.
Rello believes that in her 21 years at Amherst, Rhone is the only diabetic student-athlete to play a varsity contact sport. Since he joined the team her medical bag has doubled in size, packed with glucose tubes and remedies for both high and low blood sugar, but Rello doesn’t mind: she considers herself his biggest fan.
Photo by Samuel Masinter '04