By Brendan Price and Joshua Boyd
The Utah Outliers’ Matthew Koepke, a third-year Outlier with 74 points in his USPHL Premier career, is bound for NCAA hockey with Concordia University (of Wisconsin) next season.
He caught up with USPHL Premier Mountain Correspondent Brendan Price on a recent road trip to Northern Colorado to face the Eagles to give the full story on why he chose Concordia and what he’s learned from being an Outlier and a Premier standout the last three years.
“We had one of our ex-teammates go there, one of our leaders from the team last year [Parker Williams]. I was in talks with him, and I wanted to stay near the Midwest. It’s only an hour away from where I live at home, and I think that was a big decision-maker for me at the end of the day,” said Koepke, a native of Vernon Hills, Ill. He attracted the attention of the Outliers from his time with the prestigious Chicago Young Americans program.
Concordia’s program is relatively new, playing its first season in 2007-08 under former Head Coach Tony Hrkac, a veteran of more than 800 NHL regular season and playoff games and a Stanley Cup Champion (with Dallas in 1999). Concordia won the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association regular season championship in 2020-21.
Head Coach Jim Mosso is in his first year with the program. An alum of the Northern Cyclones prior to the creation of the USPHL, Mosso joined Concordia after one season as Associate Head Coach at the University of New England.
“I started talking [to Mosso], I really liked what he had to say, and where the program was going,” said Koepke. “I went out, took a visit, everything I saw from the school was awesome, the lakefront views, all this sort of stuff, it’s a great school. I went home, talked with my parents, and we thought it was a good spot for me, so I ended up going there.”
Koepke is one of the few remaining Outliers players who can lay claim to two Mountain Division titles and trips to the National Championships, and certainly feels he’s developed well under Head Coach Paul Taylor and the Outliers program.
“It’s been an awesome experience, it talks to the culture, talks to the commitment we have in the organization. [In 2020-21], I was a first year junior player, no idea what to expect, but you stick to the grind, stick to everything Paul’s been trying to teach you, and you slowly get better, and you take steps in your hockey career every year you go.”
He posted eight points in 45 games the first year, as well as four points in seven postseason contests. He really broke out in Year 2, 2021-22, when Koepke put up 37 points. He’s on a great pace again this year with 29 points in 40 games.
“Looking at Year 1-3, it was just consistency. For me as a first year player, I had all the tools to be a really successful player, had the skill, had the size, had the strength, all this sort of stuff,” he said, adding, “As you get older, you get more mature and you get to develop those tools and become more of a difference-maker and you’re able to take over games in that way.”
Taking over games is fine, but Koepke says it’s time for the Outliers to take over the Premier Conference Championship. He hopes it’s third time’s the charm, if the Outliers can capture one of the two Nationals berths up for grabs in the Mountain Division and make it to Utica in late March. He talked to Brendan Price about the keys to victory for Utah in the remainder of the regular season – in which Utah leads all Premier teams in points – and beyond.
“Just getting back at it – for us it’s fighting complacency, fighting against ourselves, looking at every team like a faceless opponent,” he said. “For us our goal is to win National Championship. It’s National Championship or bust I think. It’s my third year, I’ve had the opportunity to go to Nationals twice, to win the Mountain Division twice, but I think we’re trying to win it all this year. We have a lot of returners, a lot of really good guys on our team, think we can do it.”
The USPHL congratulates Matthew Koepke, his family, the Utah Outliers and Concordia University for his commitment.