Morell native comes to town with Saint John Sea Dogs
© Guardian photo
Charlottetown Islanders’ forward Yan-Pavel Laplante, left, and Saint John Sea Dogs’ winger Stephen Anderson will play against each other tonight at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown.
By Scott Briggs
SAINT JOHN, N.B. – The way Stephen Anderson sees it, there’s an upside to the Charlottetown Islanders being one of the top-ranked teams in the country.
The Saint John Sea Dogs forward feels the Isles’ recent run of success can only add to the intensity of what should be an entertaining contest Friday at 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. The teams are barely removed from the Isles’ 3-2 shootout win Sunday in Saint John.
Charlottetown improved to 4-0-0-0 and the club is ninth in the Canadian Hockey League’s weekly rankings. The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, also 4-0-0-0 and the only other undefeated team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, are ranked second.
“I love going home and playing against them,” said Anderson, a Morell native. “The games against them have usually been pretty close and spirited. It’s always a good, intense game.”
That was the case on Sunday. The Islanders prevailed in a nine-round shootout courtesy of hulking defenceman Troy Vance, one of several rugged rearguards patrolling the Charlottetown blue-line.
“With their big defencemen, we like to use our speed, go wide on them and make them move,” Anderson said. “I don’t know what it is, but I think every game against P.E.I. (the Islanders were formerly the P.E.I. Rocket), we just have that extra edge and we want to go out and play with that extra gear. There’s always that extra bit of grit that we want to beat them.”
Anderson has two goals and two assists this season, helping Saint John get out of the gates with a 2-1-0-1 record.
“He’s a 19-year-old guy who’s obviously very physically capable of playing in the league,” Sea Dogs head coach and general manager Mike Kelly said about Anderson. “He can play both sides of the special teams and he can add offence and he’s strong enough that he can defend as well. He’s one of very few 19-year-olds on this team and we look at him to provide leadership.”
Anderson has already seen both sides of the coin with the Sea Dogs. He played nearly half of the 2011-12 season with the club, chipping in with 16 points for a team that finished first overall and won the President’s Cup championship.
He spent the rest of that season with the junior A Summerside Western Capitals, notching 36 points in 31 contests. Anderson tallied 12 goals and 27 points in 63 games last year, his first full season in the Q.
“He’s got real good character and he’s an easy guy to be around, and he has the respect of his teammates,” Kelly said. “He was a full-time guy last year and had to play important minutes, and I think he went home this summer and was really focused on becoming a better player and preparing himself for this season, knowing he was going to be an important part of the team.”
Like teammate and fellow Islander Jason Cameron, Anderson’s off-season training regimen included some manual labour. Cameron, who hails from Clyde River, worked in lobster fishing. Anderson cashed in from oyster fishing.
“It was great physical work and a long summer in the gym, but there was nothing but benefits from that (combination),” Anderson said. “The first couple of weeks, we were just hauling lobster traps, but then it was oyster fishing. It was a new experience, but it was actually kind of fun.”
While today’s strength coaches are good at designing sport-specific programs, surprising one’s muscles and shocking the system is also beneficial.
“Anything that gives the muscles some different movement, it’s weird at first,” Anderson said. “Pulling up those 300-pound oyster traps, you have to learn how to throw those around pretty well, and it has nothing but benefits for upper-body strength.”
Anderson, a solid five-feet-11 and nearly 190 pounds, hopes his muscle makes Saint John consistently competitive in the Maritime Division. Doing so will mean keeping up with the likes of the Islanders.
Things don’t get any easier for the Sea Dogs, who host the Sherbrooke Phoenix Saturday at 7 p.m. at Harbour Station before welcoming the Halifax Mooseheads for a Tuesday tilt at the same start time.
“I’m expecting to have a big year,” Anderson said. “I had a really long and good summer. That extra couple of months that Saint John is not used to having off, I think that’s only going to help me and I’m hoping for a big year. I’m going to work hard, that’s for sure, but most importantly, I just want the team to have a good year.”