Down and Dirty

Know Your Bobcat – Matt Anders

Throughout the months of August and September, will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment features second-year forward Matt Anders.

Name: Matt Anders

Position: Forward

Hometown: Lafayette, CO

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 197 lbs.

2012-13 Team: Bismarck Bobcats

2012-13 Stats: 58 GP, 11 G, 15 A, 26 PTS, +27, 47 PIM, 1 PPG, 1 GWG

Favorite TV Show: Entourage

Favorite All-Time NHL Player: Peter Forsberg

Highlight of 2012-13: “It may sound weird, but I’ve gotta say it was ‘Hell Week.’ It was my first taste of what Bobcat Hockey is all about.”

If You’re Going through Hell

By far the most famous part of Bismarck Bobcats training camp over the past five-plus seasons has been the front-loaded dryland training regimen affectionately known as “Hell Week.” As its name indicates, it is a five-day baptism-by-fire into the Cats’ highly regarded conditioning program led by fitness director Mike Salwei.

For forward Matt Anders, it was a memorable stretch amid a 2012-13 season of spectacular highs.

“Everything about it was fun,” laughed Anders. “It was tough, but I don’t think I ever got overwhelmed. The biggest thing was that it was great for team bonding: working that hard together for a week immediately brings everyone closer, almost by default.”

Bobcat coaches use “Hell Week” as a gauge for a number of things that may be a little less obvious than the players’ physical shape. These nuances are not lost on Anders.

“The great thing about ‘Hell Week’ is that it’s a lot more than just ramping up our conditioning,” explained the former Rocky Mountain Roughrider. “You learn a lot about the character of the guys that you’re in the trenches with for that first week; guys’ offseason commitment levels are pretty clear when you look around and it’s where the leaders of that year’s team start to step up.”

His coaches hope every Bobcat takes similar notice.

“Every year, ‘Hell Week’ shows us how bad these guys want to be here—want to be a part of what we’ve been building in Bismarck/Mandan,” expressed Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “’Hell Week’ is our laying the foundation for a championship season and preparing these players for the intensity of off-ice training once they advance to the next level.”

Unlike many other players, who approach the grueling week with more than a little apprehension, Anders is openly looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m ready, I’m up for it,” asserted the 6’2” forward. “’Hell Week’ is the first step we take toward bringing the Robertson Cup back to the VFW Sports Center.”

Adjusting on the Fly

When Anders arrived on the scene in August 2012, it didn’t take long for the big forward to realize that his role with the Bobcats would be much different from what he experienced in AAA hockey.

“The first thing I had to realize was that I wasn’t going to step out there and be the best player on the team and be that go-to guy,” recalled Anders. “That’s not a bad thing, either; we had some really talented guys on the team and by the time playoffs rolled around, we didn’t have one go-to guy—we had 23.”

During the 2011-12 season with the Roughriders, Anders rang up 38 points in 40 contests, but when he donned the black and gold, it was defense that his coaches wanted to see.

“Instead of going out there and trying to score every shift, my job was to not get scored on,” clarified Anders.

Ultimately, he succeeded on both charges, finishing second in scoring among Bobcat rookies with 26 points and leading the team in plus/minus at +27.

His role would shift again in the postseason—though only slightly: combined with Seth Blair and Bob Kinne on the fourth line, Anders’ defensive responsibilities remained largely unchanged but his line became one of the top-scoring units league-wide in the 2013 playoffs, combining for 11 goals and 17 assists.

“As good as our top three lines were, we were able to take advantage of better matchups from the other team,” offered the veteran attacker. “Our line’s focus was still not getting scored on; we just managed to make that happen from the other end of the ice.”

The line finished +24 in 10 playoff games.

All told, Anders credits his ability to adapt to whatever role his coaches ask of him to his boyhood NHL hero, Peter Forsberg.

“Have you ever watched Forsberg play,” asked Anders, rhetorically. “He always played with so much skill but he was also the most physical player on the ice. He used his physicality to turn defense into offense, and that’s how I go out there and try and play, too.”

The Fire Rises

Looking back on the 2012-13 season, littered with peaks and valleys for the black and gold, Matt Anders sees the big picture of everything he and his teammates accomplished in the franchise’s 16th iteration.

“Last season was a huge success for us, of course,” Anders agreed. “We won our fifth straight division title, moved players on to NCAA programs and made a lifetime of memories with some amazing guys.”

As it is for many of his 2012-13 Bobcat compatriots, however, the end of the Cats’ 2013 Robertson Cup Playoff run remains quite a touchy subject for the Colorado native.

“I had someone in the last day or two ask me about how our season ended,” detailed Anders, “and even now, going into how we missed the national championship game on tiebreakers—even though we had the best record—I get a little bitter.”

The Cats finished in a three-way tie with the Amarillo Bulls and Wenatchee Wild with a round-robin record of 2-1 and were eliminated on tiebreakers despite the fact that they were the only team whose loss came in overtime.

Like his fellow returners from that squad, Anders has been using that memory to motivate every move he made this offseason.

“I picture that last day of the tournament and my blood boils,” stated Anders. “We’re a different team and Amarillo and Wenatchee are totally different teams, but I see those jerseys and see red. Our 1992 birthyears from last season aren’t so lucky, but my teammates this year and I have a chance to get back to the ‘Robbie’ and set things right.”

Stay tuned to over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. This week we will also feature Evan Giesler, Chris Diver, Tyler Dunagan, Kenny Curtis and Huba Sekesi.