For Ethan Anders, sometimes more is better.
The 19-year-old netminder from Pilot Butte, Sask., is expected to be the bell-cow between the pipes for the Red Deer Rebels, much like he was a season ago.
He played a career-high 57 games last year, leaving just 11 for backup Byron Fancy, who will once again serve as the Rebels second goaltender to start the season.
Anders said that last year, after a hot start including goalie of the week honours in early November, he tapered off in the second half.
He admits most of that was a failure to find consistency in the latter half of the season.
“I felt like there were times when I was really consistent and playing well and there were times later in the season on a back-to-back where I’d play really well and not play as well the next game,” said the third-year goalie.
“Just want to be consistent, give these guys a chance to win.”
With a pair of goalies who have combined to play 121 regular-season games in the WHL, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter noted this week that the tandem will need to be a security blanket for a young group this season.
“We need to have good goaltending. There’s no reason why our goaltending can’t be a very established duo in our league with the experience both these guys have playing in the league,” Sutter said.
“There’s nights when we’re going to need our goalies to play lights out for us. Because our young kids are going to fight some nights.”
As the last line of defence, Anders understands that with a young, inexperienced group in front of him, he will be relied on a lot, sometimes heavily.
Last season he faced 1,789 shots and posted a 0.907 save percentage. That had him ranked 16th among goalies with more than 30 starts last season and will need to be better in the upcoming campaign if the Rebels hope to reach the playoffs.
“I really liked that last year. I liked playing a lot and I like being accountable. I like Brent going to me. It’s just something I want to do again this year,” he said.
Especially considering last year there was talk Anders might sneak is way into the later rounds of the NHL Draft. That ultimately materialize, nor did he receive a camp invite this summer.
Instead, he skated lots in late July, did some yoga to focus on his flexibility and hopes that’s another factor in his improved consistency.
“Worked out five times a week, did some yoga and once July came, skated three or four times a week and build up from there,” he said.
Through two WHL seasons, Anders’ goals-against average in his rookie year and last year were exactly the same at 3.09. Those numbers also may have got in his head a little bit last year and this season he’s focusing on the day-to-day performances.
“I just want to play a lot and play well. I don’t want to worry a whole lot about the numbers or anything like that. Just want to worry about stuff I can control and focus on the controllables,” he said.
Like most of the group, the netminder understands they’ll be young and there will be mistakes in front of him. Anders is simply ready to embrace the challenge.
“I’m really excited,” he said.
“It could go either way, could get a lot of shots, could be a quiet game. I’m just ready for whatever comes my way.”