Anderson brothers' relationship matures as they play UMD hockey together
DULUTH, Minn.—Brothers Joey and Mikey Anderson of Roseville, Minn., were an entertaining duo back in 2013-14 at Hill-Murray School, and not just on game day.
Joey, then a high school freshman, and Mikey, then an eighth-grader, had a reputation of getting into heated skirmishes during practice. Occasionally, the gloves would drop, and a few fists would fly.
Things are different now at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where the brothers — separated 11 months by birth — are once again teammates after spending three seasons apart. Long gone are the brawls that used to break out during pond hockey or even table tennis.
"We still sometimes will bicker, but it's definitely toned down from what it used to be," Mikey said. "It doesn't end in a fistfight now. It just ends with a little bicker, and we're over it in a couple minutes."
Mikey, a freshman defenseman, and Joey, a sophomore wing, are still as competitive as ever, but the three seasons they spent apart made them both long for the 14 years they spent every waking moment with each other.
Although they don't think or talk about it much, the Anderson brothers know this reunion as Bulldogs is only temporary. Joey is a New Jersey Devils prospect, taken in the third round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Mikey was selected in the fourth round last spring by the Los Angeles Kings.
Three years from now — or sooner — the brothers could find themselves on opposite coasts. That's why there is no time now for fighting over the result of a battle along the boards, or a board game for that matter. There's a lot they want to accomplish together as Bulldogs.
"Being apart for three years, we developed a new understanding, a new respect for what we've gone through," Joey said. "We're a lot more mature now, we're a lot more professional, the way we approach our business."
Joey and Mikey have dreamed of playing college hockey together at UMD, even before the two committed to the school in 2013 (Joey) and 2014 (Mikey). Their family has strong ties to the area. Grandfather Tom played for UMD in the 1950s after graduating from Duluth Cathedral. Gerry, their father, played for Duluth Denfeld and St. Scholastica in the 1980s. Older sister, Sami, played three seasons for the Saints, as well, from 2014-17.
But a whole new dream was realized for the Anderson brothers during the three weeks surrounding the holidays when they were teammates on the U.S. National Junior Team. Along with UMD teammates Riley Tufte, Scott Perunovich and Dylan Samberg, they helped Team USA win a third consecutive medal — a second bronze to go along with last year's gold — in Buffalo, N.Y., at the World Junior Championship.
Joey, who captained Team USA this time around, was part of last year's team that won gold. Despite winning bronze, Joey said this year's tournament was extra special because it was with his brother.
The Andersons are just the third set of brothers to play together on Team USA at the World Juniors.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Joey said. "That's what was so cool about it was that going through it, we realized how special it was as it was going on as opposed to looking back and knowing how special (it was). It was pretty cool knowing that as we were going through it."
Adding to the uniqueness of this year's World Juniors was the outdoor game against Canada, played before 44,592 fans on a snowy day at the Buffalo Bills' New Era Field.
Though the snow made playing conditions rough that day as Team USA rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits to win the preliminary-round game 4-3 in a shootout, the conditions were nothing new to Joey and Mikey, who had played through a few snowstorms in their backyard growing up.
"It was unbelievable. The conditions made it a little hard to play a clean game, but it almost felt like we were on the backyard pond or playing anywhere," Mikey said. "The snow was building up, the snow was falling down, but it was hard to think you were playing a meaningful game out there. Everyone was having fun. It was like we were little kids again."
Joey and Mikey were roommates during the World Juniors, just like they are in Duluth as Bulldogs. They are the inseparable duo that they were as children, leaving their coach at the World Juniors, St. Cloud State's Bob Motzko, wondering if they are twins.
"They are just two high-level character hockey players. They are special," said Motzko, who coaches twins, Jack and Nick Poehling at St. Cloud State. "We learned that with Joey last year.
"Mikey is almost like looking at a twin. We love the energy they play with, how hard they want to play, and they do all the little things the right way."
Mikey said he's turned to his older brother for advice a lot this season on how to adapt to the college level.
Meanwhile, Joey has turned to his younger brother for emotional support off the ice. Joey said he's able to take a step back from his life as a college hockey player when he's back home with his brother at the end of a long day. That time is a chance to not only push the pause button, but to rewind the tape to a simpler time when they were kids back in Roseville.
Only this time, no one is left bruised or bleeding.
"Growing up together, we were so close. My breaks from everyone is when I'm with him," Joey said. "I can say anything in front of him, do whatever. It doesn't matter. He's almost like me. He helps keep me very calm, cool, collected. I get to go home every day to a very comfortable environment. I don't have to worry about a thing. I'm with the closest person in my life."