HOUGHTON - Michigan Tech had already added four freshmen forwards to its 2012-13 hockey roster, but late in the recruiting process, the Huskies coaching staff decided to give a fifth forward, Patrick Anderson, a shot.
Anderson was Mr. Hockey runner-up in North Dakota in 2009 - and no, he's never been a North Dakota fan - and he played two seasons in the North American Hockey League with the New Mexico Mustangs, including 2010-11 under current Tech assistant coach Bill Muckalt.
"Patrick really wanted to continue to play and Billy really supported Patrick and felt he would be a good fit for what we're looking for - a good hard-working forward who's just looking for an opportunity," Tech coach Mel Pearson said. "That's all he's doing and we're going to give him that opportunity and see where it goes."
Michigan Tech’s Patrick Anderson, one of five freshmen forwards on the Huskies this season, skates last week during a preseason practice at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
Anderson was captain of Muckalt's Mustangs, leading the team with 19 goals and 15 assists that year. During the 2011-12 season, New Mexico struggled to an 18-39 record, including losing its last 10 games as Anderson battled injuries all year long.
"Our team this year had a pretty rough season. We didn't have a very good record, and I kept getting injured and that slowed the ball down. Luckily it all worked out, and I'm here and ready to go," said Anderson, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound, 21-year-old forward from Bismarck, N.D.
He grew up with the classic hockey experience, shoveling off and playing on a back-yard rink with his two older brothers, Tim (now 28) and Danny (now 26).
In addition to his Mr. Hockey runner-up award, he helped Bismarck High School to a state runner-up finish in 2009, tallying 26 goals and 16 assists in 26 games.
That opened the door for Anderson in the 2009-10 season with the Idaho Junior Steelheads, a Junior "A" Tier III hockey club in its inaugural season in the Western States Hockey League.
He is now the first former Steelhead player to advance to an NCAA Division I hockey program.
Then he joined New Mexico in its inaugural year under Muckalt.
"Both experiences (playing in inaugural seasons) went really well. The teams developed immensely and everyone grew together and started their own little traditions," Anderson said. "(Muckalt) was my coach for a year in New Mexico and he pretty much started that team up, and he named me as captain my first year playing down there. He was very professional and I loved playing for him."
Last year's struggles actually resulted in this year's New Mexico team being inactive in the NAHL.
Anderson was in contact with Muckalt since the beginning of last year, but with so many other forwards coming to Tech, it took until three weeks before Tech's freshmen orientation for Anderson to finalize his decision to come to Houghton.
"It was all really fast. It was getting so late in the year that this was my last chance for D1," said Anderson, who will major in general engineering and who enjoys fishing in his off time. "I'm not really sure what to expect. I'm just going to give my all every shift, every practice and see what happens after that. I just want to be a part of the team and find my role on it."
Even the coaching staff doesn't yet know what that role will be, but they've made Anderson aware of the situation, and they'll at least give him a chance to make an impact.
"He knows there's no guarantees. He might even possibly redshirt this year," Pearson said. "We've discussed all the possibilities with him and we were up front and told him there's a lot of bodies and some good numbers up front and he might not get a chance this year, but he can show us what he has. He's OK with that."
Editor's note: This article is the fifth in a series of "Tech Tomorrow" features on 2012-13 Michigan Tech hockey freshmen. Previous features have been written about forwards C.J. Eick (tinyurl.com/ctbetn3) and Alex Petan (tinyurl.com/8hdjbr6), and goaltenders Jamie Phillips (tinyurl.com/d9luryk) and Pheonix Copley (tinyurl.com/cdvc72o).