Photo: Courtesy of Jud Burkett, The Spectrum Newspaper Reporter
By Jud Burkett, The Spectrum Newspaper (St. George, UT)
November 10, 2015
While his former teammates are still waiting for their home ice to freeze at the Glacier in Cedar City, last year’s Southern Utah Independent Hockey starting goaltender, Caleb Anderson, is practicing day in and day out in Great Falls, Montana, with his new junior team,the Great Falls Americans.
After attending a hockey camp in Las Vegas earlier this summer, Anderson was approached by one the Americans’ coaches.
“The assistant coach, Clayton Jardine, he came up to me after one of the practices and asked me what my plans are in hockey and then he asked if I wanted to join the Great Falls Americans,” Anderson said. “I told him I’d be more than happy to.”
He’s since moved in with a host family and is attending high school in Great Falls. His days consist of team workouts early in the mornings with a personal trainer and hockey practice every day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. during two open periods in his school schedule.
“He’s doing great, he’s a young kid, but he’s really liking the Great Falls Americans,” said the team’s owner Jim Keogh. “We’re just really happy to have him on the team.”
While Anderson sits at the bottom of his team’s depth chart in net, his team is 15-11-4 and in first place in the Frontier Division of the North American Tier III Hockey League. The NA3HL is one of 11 USA Hockey sanctioned Tier III Junior Leagues and serves as a training league for players between the ages of 16 and 20 hoping to advance their skill levels and playing careers towards the goal of either collegiate or professional recruitment.
“It’s a developmental league,” Keogh said. “Most of the kids are out of high school and trying to to get to the next level or trying to get a good college scholarship.”
The hockey is going fantastic,” Anderson said. “I haven’t played a game yet, but that’s mostly because my game needs a lot of work.”
The game is played at a much faster pace and the players he faces in practice are quite a bit more skilled than those he’d gotten used to playing against in Utah.
“They just hit corners,” Anderson said. “They know how to shoot, they know how to go in for a deke, they know how to go around a goalie so I’m just trying to adjust to that. It’s more like instead of just shooting the puck at me, they’re waiting for an opportunity and they know how to do that really well.”
Anderson said the shots in juniors are quite a bit harder as well.
“I’ve been hit once in the throat already, in the chest and I took a puck to the knee cap too. That swelled up pretty well,” Anderson said. “I will admit, sometimes it makes me miss playing in Utah. I’ve never been hit in the throat before, that was an experience.”
While Anderson’s youth and inexperience are a challenge for him now, Keogh says he can’t say enough good things about Anderson.
“He’s really impressed the coaches with how young he is and how mature he is,” Keogh said. “He’s really a great kid and a good hockey player. (But) he is one of the youngest players on the team. There’s only one other high school-aged player. It’s like being a freshman on the high school varsity team. Next year, as he gets older, he’ll just keep getting better.”
His former coach, Southern Utah Independent’s Chad Fain, said that while Anderson will be missed in Cedar City, he’s happy to see him get the opportunity to play at the next level.
“It’s pretty cool that after only having the ice rink for a couple of years we already have one kid moving on to juniors,” Fain said. “It’s a big deal for him and a big deal for our organization. We’re definitely proud of him.”
While Anderson’s play on the ice and leadership in the locker room will be missed in Cedar City, Fain said his SUI teammate can draw inspiration from his success.
“It opens their eyes and shows them there are opportunities beyond SUI,” he said. “If he keeps his head on straight, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to earn a scholarship, and that makes us all feel all we’ve done is worth it. It’s another one of those things that proves that we’re giving kids the opportunities in life and in their educations.”
For his part, Anderson is quick to credit both his coach and Fain’s wife, Kerry, who serves as the president of the community ice rink in Cedar City for having a great deal of influence on his success.
“I can’t thank Chad and Kerry enough,” Anderson said. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity.”
While he’s thankful for the opportunity, Anderson also said knows it’ll take plenty of hard work to advance his playing career beyond juniors.
“I’m excited for the challenge to work my hardest and prove that I can be one of the best players on that team,” Anderson said. “I know it’s going to be a struggle to be sure, but I’m more than ready for the challenge and I’m excited for it.”
Story Courtesy: The Spectrum Newspaper (St. George, UT): Southern Utah Independent goalie playing at the next level (November 10, 2015)