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After season lost to COVID and shelved with ruptured spleen, Dylan Anhorn making impression at SCSU

Dylan Anhorn is tied for second in points among defensemen in NCAA Division I after transferring from Union. He has been a good fit with his new team on, off the ice.

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St. Cloud State defenseman Dylan Anhorn (4) skate the puck around Bemidji State forward Lleyton Roed (29) in the first period Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — When you bump into Dylan Anhorn at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, there is typically a big smile on his face. After the way the last two seasons went for him, his appreciation for being at the rink is understandable.

In 2020-21, Anhorn was at Union College and the ECAC was going to delay the start of its season due to the pandemic. Then in December, the conference decided to cancel the season.

Last season, Anhorn was an alternate captain for the Dutchmen and suffered a ruptured spleen in the second game of the season. He had a month off to recover and ended up third on the team in assists (13), tied for third in goals (7) and fourth in points (20) in 29 games.

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Dylan Anhorn
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Anhorn went into the transfer portal after last season and ended up choosing to play this season for the St. Cloud State men's team. Putting it lightly, it has been a good fit for Anhorn and the Huskies.

Anhorn, a 23-year-old senior from Calgary, Alberta, is tied for second in NCAA Division I for points by a defenseman with 10 in eight games. Anhorn is playing in all situations for the Huskies, who are ranked No. 4 in national polls and play a series against second-ranked Denver at 8 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday at Magness Arena (both on NCHC.tv).

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"It was a lot of not playing, so I'm really happy that we're rolling now and been able to play some good hockey," said Anhorn, who added that his spleen injury came on a routine hit in a game. "This is what I love to do and I just love hockey. Back home in Calgary, I'd be out on the lakes all winter and (I) play through the summer.

"That's what I love to do. I love competing and improving my craft and I'm passionate about improving every day. I love getting out there and competing. We've got such a strong team this and it's been a lot of fun and I want to keep it going."

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St. Cloud State forward Kyler Kupka (10) and St. Cloud State defenseman Dylan Anhorn (4) move the puck against Minnesota State forward Connor Gregga (20) in the first period Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter/The Rink Live

Better than advertised defender

After last season, the Huskies were in the market for a defenseman who could play on special teams and a lot of minutes because Seamus Donohue and Nick Perbix both graduated. The St. Cloud State coaching staff took a look at the players in the portal and Anhorn, who was an alternate captain at Union, quickly jumped out.

But even with watching game video of Anhorn playing, the Huskies have been pleasantly surprised by some elements in his play. Anhorn is tied for the team lead in plus/minus (plus-5) going into this weekend.

"We recruited him to be in our top four (defensemen) and help us there and he definitely has," Huskies head coach Brett Larson said of Anhorn, who has five power-play assists and is winning 58% of his puck battles. "He's getting a lot of credit for his power-play play right now, which has been really good. But he's been a really good all-around defenseman. We trust him out there in offensive and defensive situations."

Larson admits that one area of Anhorn's play has been better than expected.

"He's been better defensively than we expected and that's been a great surprise for us," Larson said of Anhorn, who is averaging 21 minutes, 12 seconds on ice per game. "We had him pegged as a bit more of a run-and-gun guy who was a little bit riskier offensively. But he's found a really good balance of defending, but finding the right time to jump up into the play as an offensive threat."

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Anhorn has been paired for most of the season with fifth-year senior Spencer Meier, the team's captain. The pair sees a lot of time against the top lines of opposing teams.

"Right when he came in, we kind of had that chemistry on and off the ice," Meier said. "He's a great person. On the ice, he skates and moves the puck well. We move the puck together really well. We communicate well. That's the biggest thing on defense is communicating with each other. When things do get squirrelly, you work them out together."

Anhorn said that he has enjoyed playing with Meier and has a clear understanding of why he is the team's captain.

"He's such a good player and an unbelievable leader," Anhorn said. "He's fantastic for us in the dressing room. On the ice, he's such a smart player, easy to read off of and communicates well and I think we have a lot of chemistry. It's been a lot of fun."

Anhorn said that he had heard about the culture in the locker room, but it is an area that has been better than he anticipated.

"For the most part, it's straight to the point, honest of what the coaching staff was selling to me, which I appreciate and it just shows what kind of character people they are and how professional they are," he said. "Honestly, with every group you expect there to be some cliques in it, a handful of guys who aren't the best in the dressing room.

"But this group is just so tight. Everyone is a good person as well as a good player. It's actually kind of incredible that they were able to put together a group like that. For me, it's really special to be a part of."

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St. Cloud State defenseman Dylan Anhorn (4) makes a pass in front of Bemidji State forward Jackson Jutting (27) with Huskies forward Grant Cruikshank (19) looking on in the second period Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at the Herb Brooks National Center in St. Cloud.
Jason Wachter / The Rink Live

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Watches lots of video

Anhorn, in turn, has impressed the Huskies with his attention to detail. Coaches go over a fair amount of video during the course of a week, but Anhorn always asks for more.

"That's been a part of my routine for a while, at least since juniors, maybe before," said Anhorn, who is finishing an undergraduate degree in neuroscience. "I love watching hockey. I love watching the NHL. That kind of leaked into watching some of my own game film. I'm just looking for things to improve on.

"I try not be a perfectionist, but at the same time, I'm trying to be as close to perfect as I can in terms of details of the game. I take a lot of pride in that and I enjoy it as well."

But this group is just so tight. Everyone is a good person as well as a good player. It's actually kind of incredible that they were able to put together a group like that. For me, it's really special to be a part of.
Dylan Anhorn

As you can imagine, that dedication to detail goes over well with the coaching staff.

"He's a student of the game," Larson said. "He asks for video of practice, if we have it. He spends a ton of time watching the NHL.

"That's a common theme among really good players. They're students of the game and they want to keep learning and keep getting better. He's a very, very coachable kid. He asks a lot of questions and they're good questions. That's part of his development is his desire to want to get better and want to be coached."

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Mick Hatten is a reporter and editor for Forum News Service and helps manage TheRinkLive.com, a website dedicated to hockey. He began working for Forum Communications in November 2018 and has covered St. Cloud State University hockey since 2010. A graduate of St. Cloud State, he has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and has been a youth hockey coach since 2014. mhatten@forumcomm.com
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