Tuesday, June 8, 2010

AHL Calder Cup Fan Chats: Hershey Bears Defensemen Karl Anzer

Both teams had one of their star players go into the AHL Chat Room during the AHL Calder Cup Championship to give fans chance to ask questions during the Championship Series. Jamie Benn is scheduled to answer questions today in his fan chat. Recently Karl Anzer who's been a star defensemen for the Hershey Bears answered question from fans.

Topics for Anzer ranged from looking to repeat as Calder Cup Champions, best moments from the season, playing Texas for the championship, making the NHL full time and how he will enjoy the off-season.

From the American Hockey League Website: www.theahl.com

Is they any particular player who you try to model your game after? Bryce from Kenora, Ontario

Without a doubt, I've tried to model my game after Nick Lindstrom. He does everything really well, he's the type of player I'd like to be. He's not overly physical, but he's good with his stick, smart and solid in his own zone and with the puck. I'm always trying to do things just a little bit like because even a little bit of Nick Lindstrom makes a good player, I'd say.

With all that you and the team have accomplished this season, what has been your favorite moment this year? Laurel from Highspire, Penn.

It's a tough one to say. We've had a lot of good things happen to us with a few of the records we've set this year. It's been kind of nice, but you don't get overly excited about setting records. You get excited about winning, so up until this point, I'd say one of the most exciting games have been the ones we've won in OT in the playoffs. You know, against Bridgeport, against Manchester, we've had a few. so all of our overtime games have been awesome. And finally closing out Game 6 in the third round, that was certainly memorable to me.

(Game 5 in Manchester) was a major, major turning point. It's never nice to lose to a team when you come from behind or in OT, so its tough to be the opposing team there. It was nice to see because we were struggling there. We won the first round in five, the 2nd round in 4, and then we were up two and (Manchester) started coming back on us. We hadn't really faced anyone that yet in the playoffs, and i'm not going to lie, we were panicking a little bit there. It was nice that we finally pulled together and showed that we can face adversity, and I think we did a pretty good job of that. It was nice to see.

How has your game changed or improved between this year and when you played in the Calder Cup Final last year? Jess from Monrovia, Maryland

My game has personally changed quite a bit, I think. Last year, I was very one dimensional. I was trying to stick with straight defense, make simple plays, just get the puck out of my zone. There have been many times this year where i've been called upon to do more of that - and that's play on the power play, jumping into the rush, and be that fourth attacker for us, and I think it's been a good year for me. I've transitioned more of a dimensional player, and that's huge for me.

I've learned a lot from John Carlson, and I think we've been a good fit together. Hopefully he's learned a lot from me, but I've definitely learned a lot from him.

Were you surprised that Texas turned out to be your opponent in the Calder Cup Finals, and does the fact that you guys didn't play one another during the regular season change your preparation for them at all heading into the Championship? J.D. from Georgetown, Texas

I think it changes a little bit, yeah, just because we have to rely on watching video of them and watching how other teams played them, and not all teams play the same system. So it's kind of hard to judge just how they would react to what we do. In that sense, it is a little different, but at the same time our coaches watch a ton of video and they're really good at breaking down clips. Hopefully we'll all get in our heads and know what we're supposed to be doing out there.

As far as being surprised, not really. They have a lot of good players - a solid, solid back end, a lot of good players up front and they have a hot goalie a hot two goalies, really. I know their starter (Brent Krahn) was hurt, but when you have a back up (Matt Climie) come in and play the way he's been playing, that's always nice. And a goalie can win you a series and can win you a championship. I wouldn't say i'm surprised at all. It was nice to see a good battle between them and Hamilton, and hopefully that took a little bit out of them, but a 10 day break is enough time to recover.

Jamie Benn is the AHL's leading playoff scorer with 14 goals and 24 points in 18 games. How do you and the other defensemen play to reduce Benn's impact during the Calder Cup Finals? David from Chicago

The thing is, we gotta watch what he does in the offensive zone. Obviously, he's been a big, big part of the offense. So, i've just been talking to the coaches a little bit about what he does and his tendencies, that sort of thing. For us, we need to make sure we take away his time and space. We can't give him enough time to release the puck. We know he's good at finding those soft areas, so for us, we just have to have our eye on him, and we make sure that when we go into battles with him, we're going in strong and not taking him too lightly. There's a reason why he played in the NHL all season - he's definitely doing what he's supposed to do, and it'll be a good challenge for us.

You guys have come back on numerous occasions this postseason to win games in which you were trailing heading into the third period. What has the atmosphere and mindset been in the locker room during the second period intermissions of these games where you've been trailing? Bruce from Halifax, Penn.

Guys get pumped up real easily there. We don't like to lose games, we don't like to be down, and it's been a common trend for us to have pretty decent third periods and pretty good third periods. We always want to make sure that we're a force there and make sure teams know that we're not going to give up there, especially when were down like that. It's also a good sign, it shows that we're willing to battle through it. We wouldn't really like to get ourselves into that position if we don't have to, but sometimes there's not much you can do, and it'll happen.

We're a team that doesn't give up, and in the dressing room we have a lot of older guys, a lot of leaders, that'll speak up, and it really helps us get going. And obviously our coaches - they seem to have some good speeches, they know what to say at the right time, and they get us fired up.

What has the team tired to stay focus during the playoffs the couple of unusually long layoffs that you guys have had during the playoffs? Kevin from Boston

This might sound a little bit opposite of what people would think, but we're staying focused on by getting our minds completely off the game. What I mean by that is, guys will go out golfing, if they live close enough they might go home, New York City, something like that. For instance, my girlfriend and I went to Florida after the Albany Series. It's nice to recharge because it's a lot of hockey. It's a long, long season, and a very long playoffs, so its nice at that point, it's like a fresh start when you come back.

Our coaches gave us, I think, four days off, and then a couple practices and another day off. It's a good way to do things I think, because guys come back raring to go. You don't like dealing with a break like that, but if you do, you have to really have to make the best of it.

How much do you think winning the Calder Cup once - let alone twice if your able to do it again this year - will help you prepare to eventually go on a Stanley Cup run in the NHL? Zach from Annville, Penn

It doesn't matter where you win a championship, it always helps. Knowing what it takes to get through a playoffs - 4 series, it's a long time - so just knowing the feeling you have after you win one series, two series, three series You definitely have a different feeling, a different mindset, because it's different mindset, because it's difficult to battle through the good weather, and your buddies calling you saying, "Oh i'm starting to to work out now" or "Summer Break is so nice."

It's just getting over the metal block that you can sometimes get, and at the same time knowing what it takes to win. There are a lot of sacrifices, a lot of playing through injuries, and you have to be able to get through your head right and make sure you can stick with it for that long of a run.

The Bears have obviously enjoyed a trendmous record at the Giant Center All Season long... How much of an impact do the fans from Hershey have on this level of enthusiasm that the team plays? Tyler from Landcaster, Penn.

They have a big impact. We always seem to have a lot of energy, and it's always nice to come out for warm ups and see fans there as well as the beginning of the game, because you want to have a good sign. If you can back the (opponent) up into a right corner, it's usually a good sign for your team.

There's been times where they've been on the other team so hard that it's actually kind of funny to watch because the referee has to come over and stop the game. At times it's really good, and at times you have just have to sit back and laugh and say, "Oh man, I wonder what it would it be like to play against these fans". It's definitely something different then what I've seen. They love their team, and we're happy about that.

From your perspective as a player, how impressive is that a small town like Hershey consistently leads the AHL in attendance and continues to pack the arena in the playoffs? Jeremy from Lebanon, Penn.

Yeah, it's nice. It's nice to see all the other surrounding towns come out and supporting us as well. It's a lot like where I have come from, Burnaby, B.C., we have a lot of cities that are right beside it, and when you can draw from all those cities, it really helps.

It's nice to see that they keep coming back game in and game out, even though sometimes we don't play our best game. They're still there the next game, and that's really huge for us. It's funny usually those small towns have the best fans. They're so die-hard - it's one of the many attractions. I know there are other important things going in Hershey - Hershey Park and other stuff - but it's nice to see that they come out and support us.

As the long hockey season wears on, do you find yourself needing to make any adjustments in terms of conditioning or keeping mental focus? Josh from Richard, Penn.

Yeah, for sure. Towards the end of the year, your body is starting to wear down a little bit. You try to get in the gym as you can and do whetever possible to keep your body in shape, because it's easy to see as the season wears on, you tend to get a little soft in the midsection or whetever. When you don't get in the gym that often, it's tough to keep it up.

But since we've had so much time off, it's almost like we're getting back into shape. We get to play those 15, 20, 25 minutes, it really wears on the body. You get in the gym when you can, and you listen to your body. Hopefully everybody knows their body pretty well, and when it tells them to take a day off, you take a day off.

Who are some of your best friends on the Bears, and who has given you the most guidance? Megan from Lebanon, Penn.

I hang out with Jay Beagle quite a bit. He's from Calgary, and I've spent a fair amount of time in Calgary, so we can relate a little there. At one of the houses, some of the guys live above an ice cream store, King Cone. I hang out with those guys a lot - that's Patrick Wellar, John Carlson, Branden Holtby and Sean Collins. It's us and Zach Miskovic, I hang out with them quite a bit.

We've got a lot of good guys, it's easy to go hang out with anybody on the team. But when we go golfing or when we play board games or whetever, it's usually those guys.

What has it been like playing on the Bears with a veteran captain like Brian Helmer, someone who has been around awhile and won his first Calder Cup 15 years ago? David from Newcastle, Ontario

It's really nice to play with Helms. He's got so many years under his belt in this league, and he's been through pretty much everything. He's had a lot of success here, so it's just nice to see and nice to hear what he has to say. And when he does say something in the room, if we're down or not playing our best he speaks up, you know its from the heart and you know it's serious. You always have to take a second to listen to what he says because there aren't too many things that come out of his mouth that aren't going to help you. He's a good captain to have.

Describe the atmosphere of playing in the NHL while you set up in Washington this year, and especially in Game 7 of the first round series vs. Montreal? Jordan from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Washington was awesome. It was so electric in that building, so loud and so different. The first time I watched a playoff game in the NHL in person was actually the year before when I got called up and watched the Caps play Pittsburgh. But to be in one is just a different feeling.

It's tough to play because so much is on the line and everybody's trying so hard, but at the same time they don't take so many chances. You don't want to take that once chance that maybe turns the game around and you could lose it. That's one thing I was thinking about quite a bit different when I was there. But for the coaches to have the confidence to play me in that situation was really, really nice to see, and i'm happy that I had a pretty decent game.

Describe the chemistry that has existed all season between yourself in defensive partner John Carlson. How do you think that might have translate if you two are eventually paired together in Washington? Doug from Ashburn, Virginia

Well it's nice to play with somebody who's around the same age you because it's just a little bit more relaxing. Me and Carly have been playing for a little bit now, and I think it's a good match up. He's offensive, i'm a little bit more defensive, and we read off each other really well. It's nice to mesh, and also like I said earlier, I've been learning a lot from him along the way. So i'm hoping he's a guy I get to stick with for a few years to come here because I think it'll work out really well.

Assuming that your number one goal for next season is to make the Capitals full time next season, do you have additional goals in terms of development you'd like to make your game, either offensively or defensively? Dale from Ganesville, Virginia

Oh yeah, I definitely want to become more of a well rounded player. I want to be tough to play against - I don't want to have forwards on other teams saying "Oh, we get to go against Alzner, he's easy to play against," because that's definitely not a good position you want to get yourself into. So I just want to make sure i'm just a little bit tougher and get some good consistency going, and I like said earlier, just play a little more offensive, chip in every now and then on the scoresheet, and help the team succeed. I want to be a part of a winning team, and that's the main goal.

What are some things you like to do in your free time and during the offseason? Tim from Worcester, Mass

I think it's pretty common with every player - I like to go golfing, really like to be outside on the course, as well as working out. We have a really good group of guys who I work out with back at home, and it's a program I've been doing since I was about 14 years old, so it's a nice fit for me there.

My girlfriend and I live in Vancouver, and it's a pretty nice area there. We get to go out on the water, hang out at the beach, and we have a couple bikes that we like to cruise around on whenever we get a chance. I'm a pretty big outdoors guy, so whenever I can be out there, I'm usually in my element.

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