COLOGNE – The hat he’s wearing says it all. It’s a gray baseball hat, with “The Great Wall” in red letters printed on the side. That’s exactly what Frederik Andersen was on Saturday in Denmark’s opening game, when he led his nation to its first win over Finland.
In the nine previous games between the countries since 2000, Finland had outscored Denmark 51-8, but on Saturday, Andersen turned away 37 Finnish shots, or 97.30 percent of them.
His fellow Herning natives, Frans Nielsen and Peter Regin, both now playing in the NHL, took care of the rest, knowing they could trust their young goalie between the pipes.
"He was outstanding against Finland. He took care of all the shots that came from the outside, and if there was a rebound, defence took it. He’s big and he’s tough to beat, because he covers so much of the net," Nielsen says.
Andersen, at 190 centimetres, has the makings of an excellent goalie. He’s also got his feet planted firmly on the ground.
"I’m pretty happy with the game. We got three points which was especially important because the Germans took two points in their game against the Americans. The group is wide open now. That’s good for us," Andersen says.
“The whole team played awesome in front of me. I don’t think anybody made any mistakes, or if they did, someone else stepped up and covered for them,” he adds.
Times have changed since Frederik’s father, Ernst, tended the Danish goal in the Pool B World Championships. His goals against average in seven games in the 1997 tournament, was 6.11.
Not everything has changed, though. One of Ernst's teammates was Jesper Duus who's on Team Denmark this year as well.
Ernst retired in 2002 when Frederik was 13. At that point, Frederik had switched positions from centre to goalie.
“I didn’t want him to be a goalie, but he insisted. He was a really good goal scorer when he was younger,” says Andersen, the elder, who’s in Cologne to cheer on his son.
“I coached him in the juniors, but he’s gone on since that. The game is so much faster now than it was in my days, but the mental part, the focus, that stays the same. I wasn’t surprised at his play against Finland, I know he’s calm and relaxed,” he says.
Frederik Andersen is in his first season as a starting goalie, with the Fredrikshavn White Hawks. He led the team to a regular season third place, and even if they had to bow out of the playoffs at the semifinal stage, Andersen was voted league MVP.
The 20-year-old came through the Herning junior system, and played his first Danish league games two years ago. He was a backup in close to 20 games, but played mostly in the juniors.
“Three years ago, I played junior hockey in Denmark, in both the under-18 and under-20 teams, plus junior national teams. It’s been pretty important three years for me,” he says.
The Herning native had to leave his – and his father’s – alma mater to get ice time, but he wouldn’t mind traveling even father for hockey.
“I hope that someone noticed me last night so that I get a chance to play outside of Denmark. I’d love to play in North America, the ECHL, or the AHL, and see how far I can go. I’d love to try to compete there. There are a lot of goalies there but that’s my career goal,” he says.
His father is cautious but confident that Frederik can do it.
“It depends on so many things. I hope he can go far. He has to leave Denmark, so I hope somebody else also liked his game last night,” says Ernst.
It takes a few more great games to convince that special somebody. That, and a lot of work, and Frederik knows it.
“I need to get better overall, but quickness is a big thing. If I can get some quickness in my legs, I can be pretty good, thanks to my size,” he says.
Arnesen’s role models are from the NHL.
“I’ve always looked up to Patrick Roy, he’s one of the best goalies ever. I also like Marc-André Fleury but I try to learn new things from all goalies I see,” he says.