College men's hockey: UMD’s defensive corps, led by freshman Mikey Anderson, will be youthful next season

Minnesota Duluth freshman wing Joey Anderson is excited about his younger brother, Mikey, joining the Bulldogs next season. And Joey's not the least bit shy when it comes to sharing how good he thinks his brother will be as a Bulldog. "I'm really...

Mikey Anderson is an incoming freshman defensive player for the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team this fall. (Waterloo Blackhawks / David Mahncke)
Mikey Anderson of the Waterloo Black Hawks is one of three incoming freshman defensemen who will be asked to contribute right away for the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team in the fall. (Waterloo Black Hawks/David Mahncke)

Minnesota Duluth freshman wing Joey Anderson is excited about his younger brother, Mikey, joining the Bulldogs next season.

And Joey's not the least bit shy when it comes to sharing how good he thinks his brother will be as a Bulldog.

"I'm really excited. I think everyone should be excited, honestly," Joey Anderson said. "He's a player that everyone will love to watch. He's physical, he plays a good shutdown D and can also be up in the play and be offensive.

"I think he'll be able to make a big impact."

If the Bulldogs want to make another run at NCHC and NCAA titles in 2017-18, Joey Anderson better be right about his younger brother, because Mikey Anderson and UMD's other incoming freshmen defensemen have a tall task ahead of them when they arrive in Duluth in the fall.


Read more: Swaney expected to make offensive impact next year with Bulldogs

After winning an NCHC postseason title and playing for the NCAA championship this past season, UMD is graduating four senior blueliners and losing another early to the pros.

On top of all that, the team's starting goaltender bolted for the NHL as well.

For now, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin has three true freshmen defensemen signed for next season in Mikey Anderson, of Roseville, Minn.; Matt Anderson (no relation to Mikey and Joey) of Shakopee, Minn; and Scott Perunovich of Hibbing.

UMD also has two more 18-year-old defensemen verbally committed in Hermantown senior defenseman Dylan Samberg - currently playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States Hockey League - and Hunter Lellig of the North American Hockey League's Minnesota Magicians. Sandelin will need to bring one of those players in, or find a defensemen elsewhere.

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"It's a good mix of guys," Sandelin said of the signed incoming defensemen. "They're all tremendous competitors, and that's what I like."

The rookies will compete for playing time with UMD's four returnees, though Nick Wolff was the lone defenseman to play all season, getting in 30 games. Freshman Jarod Hilderman played 11 games while freshman Will Campion and junior Nick McCormack played in a combined five games.


Mikey Anderson said there will be pressure to pick up where the departing five left off, but he and everyone else should welcome what's before them.

"It's a very big opportunity for all of the incoming D and all the D who haven't played as much," Mikey Anderson said. "I'm sure everyone will have their moments to do their thing, so it should be a fun start to see how everything plays out."

Mikey Anderson, who turns 18 in May, is in his second season with the USHL's Black Hawks. Not typically known as an offensive defenseman, Mikey Anderson has two goals and an assist in three USHL playoff games. He had nine goals and 46 assists in his previous 120 games in Waterloo.

Nick Swaney - a versatile incoming UMD freshman forward - is in his second season playing alongside Mikey Anderson in Waterloo. Swaney said Mikey Anderson's defensive game is "something special" and that his defensive IQ may be the best in the USHL.

"Mikey is a great player," Swaney said. "It feels like he is out there the whole game when he's playing here. He logs a lot of minutes. He's very reliable. He's a guy we look to in big situations to take on top lines. If he needs to mix in a little offense, he can do that, too."

Matt Anderson, at 5-foot-11, and Perunovich, at 5-9, are undersized but offensive-minded defensemen who will allow the UMD blue line to take on a different dynamic next year, Sandelin said

Matt Anderson has a real edge to his game and NHL skating ability, according to Sandelin. Matt Anderson posted six goals and 26 assists in 23 games as a senior captain at Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria, Minn., last winter. In 16 games with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers in October and March, he tallied just three assists.

Perunovich, who would have been a senior for Hibbing-Chisholm this winter, spent all of 2016-17 with the USHL's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders where he finished third on the team in scoring with six goals and 15 assists in 56 games.


Sandelin said Perunovich possesses tremendous vision and even compared the former Bluejacket to another former 5-foot-9 defenseman in Denver's Joey LaLeggia, who was named NCAA Rookie of the Year, a two-time All-American and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

"He's just a good hockey player," Sandelin said. "He's smart. ... You're not going to take away what he has between the ears. He's got tremendous hockey sense. He's got that ability to be like a fourth forward."

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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