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Kittanning grad Anthony invited to Minn. junior hockey league

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 1:46 a.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Kittanning's Hunter Anthony defends on Quaker Valley's Scott Weston during the PIHL Class A semifinal Monday March, 11, 2013 at RMU's Island Sports Center.

Hunter Anthony's Twitter description states: “Hockey is my life.” Beginning this month, that statement takes on additional meaning.

Anthony, a 2013 Kittanning grad, is in his first training camp with the Minnesota Owls of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League, a Tier III Junior A League with a 50-game schedule that will keep Anthony busy on the ice from September to March.

The Owls, located about 40 miles north of Minneapolis in the small city of Isanti, Minn., offered Anthony a tender in April after seeing him play in an all-star game in Minnesota. Anthony accepted their offer and will spend his first year out of high school as a full-time hockey player.

“It's exciting, for sure. I wanted to play juniors, but I didn't know if it would work out,” Anthony said. “A couple of teams showed interest, but (the Owls) were the first team to offer a tender.”

While Anthony also considered attending and playing at Slippery Rock, he chose to play for the Owls to take the first step in advancing his hockey career beyond high school. The MNJHL is one of a handful of Tier III Junior A leagues in the U.S., and Anthony expects the higher level of play will help him improve his game.

“We did some team scrimmages this past weekend, and you could tell the level of play is a lot higher. Everyone here is a very good hockey player,” Anthony said. “My primary goal is definitely to try and move up to a higher-tier junior level, or if nothing else, maybe get into a good college for hockey.”

Adjusting to the higher level of play is just the first challenge a new player to the junior ranks faces, according to Anthony's former coach at Kittanning, Jamie King. King played junior hockey in Michigan, and he said there are many new experiences Anthony will have to deal with.

“The biggest adjustment is leaving home for the first time. Living with a (host) family is great, but you're still on your own,” King said.

“On the ice, you have to go from playing major minutes — we basically used two lines at Kittanning — to being on a team that rolls out four lines, and you're fighting every practice to be in the lineup.”

Anthony's transition to life in Minnesota will be aided by the fact that his team will have three other players from Western Pennsylvania. But on the ice, Anthony knows August will be the most physically demanding month of his career, as the team goes through its preseason workouts.

“I'm excited to get started, and I can't wait for the games,” Anthony said. “I know the next couple of weeks won't be too fun going through camp, but how can you complain? Instead of studying all night in college, I'm going to be playing hockey for the next year.”

King thinks Anthony will be successful at the junior level because of the versatile skill set he showed as a center for Kittanning. By having the ability to fill a number of roles, King said, he should be able to find a role with the Owls.

“He's a hard worker and a good two-way player,” King said. “He blocks shots and plays physically, and I think that will be the area, at first, that he'll excel at.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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