For two very solid years, Sweden’s Kalle Andersson was the heart and soul of the Islanders Hockey Club defensive structure as its goalie. The ‘99-born goaltender appeared in 81 of a possible 100 regular season games.
He left the league with an incredibly impressive .914 NCDC career save percentage, not even counting the .929 he posted in four 2018-19 playoff games. The young man now takes this staying power and high performance level to the high country of New Hampshire, as he committed to Plymouth State University earlier this season.
“What I enjoyed about Plymouth State was that it only took me one game to see and feel the atmosphere in the Hanaway Rink. As for the program, I've heard that Craig Russell is a great coach and does a great job with each player,” said Andersson in an e-mail from his native city of Stockholm. “Their facilities are very good and the players are treated very well.
“Plymouth State offered the program I was looking for and the hockey team had a 3.64 GPA score, which means they are as committed to their studies as they are to hockey,” he added. “.What I liked about Plymouth State location was that it is surrounded by mountains and has a Swedish type of environment. Their campus is beautiful and they offer housing which I think is important.”
Important is a word Andersson does not take lightly. After all, it is quickly applied to his position on ice, and Head Coach Tim Kyrkostas says he was equally as crucial to the team chemistry these last two years.
“Kalle is a great person as he's always smiling and upbeat! Solid energy [in] him!” Kyrkostas said. “He's also an outstanding goalie - when he's locked in, he's one of the best that I have seen. I expect him to go on and have a great college career at Plymouth State and possibly beyond.”
Andersson was an unknown for North American hockey prior to 2018, coming in from the Sollentuna U20 program in his native land. His solid stats with their junior program (.923 combined save percentage between regular season and playoffs) earned him a call-up to serve as backup for Sollentuna’s Division I pro team, though he did not get a chance to play a game. The Islanders brought him over and Andersson was extremely impressed with the infrastructure of a program that had won the first NCDC championship in the spring of 2018.
“What I liked the most with my two years at the Islanders is that I was able to play for two different amazing head coaches, Sean Tremblay and Tim Kyrkostas. The Islanders Hockey Club is a great organization led by Richard Gallant. They offer everything from great ice time to an amazing off-ice workout with Athletic Evolution,” he added. “The Islanders also do a great job with billeting, which is led by the billet coordinator Emily Smith. Both my years, we had two fantastic groups of players and I am very thankful for getting to know each player.”
The Islanders sharpened Andersson’s mental approach to the game, thanks in large part to goalie coach Rob Day.
“The biggest development of my game under these two years was in my mental game, which I worked on a lot with our goalie coach. I want to give a big thanks to Rob Day - he helped me convert from a Swedish blocking style of play to a much more playing type of goalie,” added Andersson. “I developed my puck-handling skills which is a much bigger part of the game compared to European hockey. I am very happy about my development these two years and I could not have done it without the coaches I had and the organisation as a whole.”
Andersson feels it was an invaluable experience to join the Islanders and get a look at a whole new world, which of course helped open the door to an NCAA career.
“The American junior game is very different from European junior hockey. It has faster pace and the games are played with different tactics than European,” said Andersson. “An American junior hockey game has everything - speed, skill, hitting and scoring, compared to European, which contains a lot more puck possession and planned out plays. Personally for me, [who has] played both American and European juniors, I would prefer American juniors because of its intensity. The adjustments I'm expecting for college hockey are more speed, skill and less mistakes which comes with the more experienced players.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the NCDC playoffs, a tough pill to swallow for Andersson and an Islanders team that had secured home ice advantage for the first round after originally being out of the playoff picture last fall. The rise of both goalie and team helped Andersson catch the attention of several area colleges, and Plymouth State certainly struck the right chord.
“I started talking to [Panthers Coach] Craig Russell about my future after our season was cut short due to Covid-19,” Andersson said. “I had also been in contact with my roommate Marcus Seidl [a Plymouth State freshman left wing this past season], who played with me my first year with the Islanders.”
The two Swedes will be reunited in the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, ready to pursue some new peaks of their own on the ice.
The USPHL congratulates Kalle Andersson, his family, the Islanders Hockey Club and Plymouth State University for his commitment.