Robert and Matt Treiber are friends — best friends — and that brotherly bond has only grown stronger during their play together for the Medfield High boys’ hockey team the past two seasons. But when it comes to competing with one another, they cannot help but give each other their best.
Such was the case last Friday during the team’s last full practice before Sunday’s Division 2 state championship at TD Garden.
Medfield coach Toby Carlow called for one of the team’s usual drills, a physical, small-area exercise that pits individuals against each other in the corners. The Treibers — Robert, a senior and assistant captain, and Matt, a sophomore — were among the first in line, as usual for this part of practice.
The winner of the “battles,” as the boys put it, always have bragging rights on the car ride home, but this one was bigger than the rest. This was one last battle before the big game, one last battle on the ice before Robert’s graduation.
“The last one, the last practice, I won,” Robert said in the bowels of TD Garden on Sunday night, following Medfield’s 2-1 loss to Beverly. The older sibling, a lean 6-foot-2, 180-pounder, was a bit teary-eyed, but upon reflecting on that last practice — and his win — a smile broke out across his face. “He’s going to hear about it the rest of his life.”
The loss was the end for the Treibers as high school hockey teammates, and the end of Robert’s career skating for Medfield. In the fall, he will be heading to Tufts University with plans to play goalie for the lacrosse team, and, if discussions continue to go the way they are headed, try out for the hockey squad as a walk on, while Matt returns to Medfield High for his junior year.
All the while, they will take with them mental mementos from the last two years, the only time they were officially hockey teammates. Because of the two-year age difference, the brothers competed in different age brackets as they climbed the youth hockey ladder.
In the fall of 2012, when they finally suited up for the same squad, Robert was there to ease Matt’s transition to the varsity game.
“Last year I came up as a freshman and I was scared, honestly,” said Matt, his 6-foot, 172-pound frame sporting a mohawk haircut for the playoffs, just like his brother.
“He was always there to tell me, ‘You’ll be fine; I got your back,’ all that kind of stuff. Through that first year he helped me a lot.”
When it comes to how he has changed since then — how he went from a “scared” freshman to the No. 1 left wing for a team in the state final — he paused, unsure what to say. But Robert knew.
“The confidence thing again — he knew he could take anyone on the ice,” Robert said. “There is no one he couldn’t compete with. He realized that even though there might be some bigger guys or some more skilled guys, there’s always something you do with it — you can always go hard.”
And so Matt did, all season long, finishing with a team-high 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists). Robert chipped in a goal and eight assists while serving as a mainstay on the blue line, but the brothers’ impact as team leaders can hardly be measured by the numbers.
According to Carlow, both saw plenty of ice time — power play, penalty kill, 5-on-5 — and worked harder due simply to the other’s presence. Robert’s role was significant enough that in a group of 11 seniors, he was one of three that earned a letter on his shoulder as an assistant captain.
In a senior class that has been immense for the program, racking up a 69-16-8 career record and helping the team transition up to Division 2 this year, Robert was one of the leaders.
“He keeps everybody in line,” Carlow said.
That is true of Matt, too, and was from the beginning. When they were children, Matt wanted to go where Robert went, do what Robert did. So when a 7-year-old Robert first started learning to skate, their parents, Kris and Bob, did not have much of an option when it came to their younger son.
“Matthew — because his older brother was out there — wanted to be out there too,” Kris Treiber said. “He was 5.”
Medfield’s run this year to the state final, which came after a pair of short-lived postseason campaigns following strong regular seasons in 2011-12 and 2012-13, was quite the ride for the parents, too. Kris noted how, just as each playoff game could have been the last for Robert and Matt to skate together, it could have been the last for her and her husband to watch their only children play together.
“I have to say, standing there watching them, and the national anthem came on and they were standing there in line at the Garden — it was phenomenal,” Kris said. “They are best friends. I think that they realize this is the last time they’ll skate together. I hope someday they play old-man hockey together.”