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Local pro hockey: Privateers goalie Matt Anthony a workhorse

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Matt Anthony was the busiest goaltender in the Federal Hockey League last season.

The veteran netminder led the circuit in appearances with 41, which totaled more than 2,000 minutes of playing time in the 2012-13 campaign for the Thousand Islands Privateers.

Anthony also again led the league in shots faced and finished with 1,356 saves, notably up from the 1,094 stops he made in the previous campaign in three fewer starts.

“I think over my first three years as a pro, I only missed only four or five starts out of about 120 games,” said Anthony, who totaled 2,290:40 minutes played last season. “So they put me in mindset of going out on the ice every game to perform and I’ve grown with that, I prefer it, I like to be on the ice as much as possible.”

Never backing down from the challenge of being heavily relied upon as an everyday starter, Anthony wouldn’t have this any other way.

“For me, I like playing as much as possible,” Anthony said. “Coaches in the past have called me a workhorse and I just like to be in there as much as possible and to give my team a chance to win.”

Anthony is one of several players who have returned to compete for the team — now known as the Watertown Privateers, who open their FHL season on Saturday at Danbury.

“I know and really like the area,” said Anthony, who is back for his third season with the Privateers. “I’ve invested two years in this club so I’d like to see it continue to grow.”

In the offseason, Anthony also had a full slate, spending much of the summer taking college courses in Canada, working for the family business and keeping up with his workout regimen.

“It’s funny to think that I’m older guys now,” the 29-year-old said. “But I like playing. I’ve worked full time in the summers the last 10, 12 years in the family business and I know I still enjoy playing hockey.”

Anthony is only one class short of earning his degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“I did a full semester, which is supposed to be four months, but I did it in two and a half,” said Anthony, a native of Wheatley, Ontario. “So it was really condensed and intense as well.”

Anthony, who is tackling a double-major in English literature and sociology, hopes to teach one day.

“I plan to teach in college,” he said. “Eventually I hope to be a teacher, but for now hockey is my choice.”

He also spent part of his summer in Holland, where he served as a goalie coach while he played there professionally for three seasons before returning to North America to play for the then-Thousand Islands Privateers in Alexandria Bay in 2011.

“The support in Alexandria Bay, Clayton and here in Watertown has been strong,” Anthony said. “Playing here for the Privateers, we’ve got a real solid fan base and our attendance is always really good. Danbury is another team that draws well, and it always helps having a good fan base and playing in a packed barn with people who enjoy watching the team play. It’s nice to be part of.”

Anthony is one of several players who are returning to play with Watertown this season, including defenseman and team captain Kris McCarthy, as well as forwards Chase Tippin, Jeff Dill and Jamie Zaleski. Forwards Brent Tamane and A.J. Tesoriero, who played for the Privateers last season but didn’t finish the campaign with the club, are also back, as is forward Britt Ouellette, who played for the team in 2011-12.

“I didn’t start talking with Brad until September,” Anthony said of new Privateers coach Brad Zangs. “They told me the club was looking to go in a new direction, but wanted to bring back a couple core guys and start the team basically from scratch with a new mindset and I was interested to be part of it.”

Anthony helped guide the Privateers to a third-place finish in the FHL last season and they were swept by arch-rival Danbury in the first round of the playoffs.

“It was tough, especially playing three straight games in their barn,” Anthony said. “We didn’t get a chance to play on our home ice against them in the playoffs and it was too bad because we had some good success against them at home, especially at the end of the season.”

Anthony played in all but 12 games in the regular season in 2012-13, posting a 19-18-3 mark last season along with a 3.61 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.

“Last year we weren’t supposed to give up that many shots against,” Anthony said. “But it just happened that with the style of play we were playing we were giving up lots of shots, sometimes too many.”

Anthony also prides himself on being a balanced goalie in the way he approaches the game.

“Style wise, technically I think I’m a hybrid,” Anthony said. “I worked with my goalie coach when I was 17 to 19 when I was in Windsor. He worked with me preaching the butterfly style to me. Because before that, I was just a standup goalie. Thanks to him, I have both styles.”

“ ... I’m a small goalie, but I play big,” added Anthony, listed at 5-foot-9 and 168 pounds.

In 2011-12, Anthony also led the FHL in appearances (38), minutes played (2209:59) and stood second in wins (24) and saves (1,101).

“This is my sixth year, so I kind of pride myself in bringing a consistent game every day,” Anthony said. “If it’s facing a lot of shots, that’s something, but if not, it’s still a mental challenge to be consistent and one I still thrive on.”

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