Cayden Casey instantly endeared himself to his new Andover teammates this summer.
The transfer from Elk River didn’t say much at those summer workouts, didn’t try to impress anyone with showstopping moves or incessant chatter. Nah, he just put his head down and went to work.
And the Huskies loved him for hit.
They love Casey even more after Friday’s two-goal, one-assist, in-your-face defensive performance in a 4-0 victory over Cloquet/Esko/Carlton at the Pagel Activity Center in Minnetonka in the Tonka Thanksgiving Preview.
Casey, a junior forward, scored the lone goal of the second period and added another in the third to put the Huskies ahead 3-0. He came within a whisker of a hat trick, but couldn’t beat standout Lumberjacks goaltender Jacob Walsh on a third-period breakaway.
“He’s what we expected him to be,” Andover senior defenseman Kyle Law said about Casey, who led Elk River with 30 points, including 17 goals, last season. “He's a great addition to the team. He's really come together with our group.”
Poker nights are something of an Andover tradition. Casey has excelled in those, too. This week was particularly lucrative for him — and not so good for good buddy Gavyn Thoreson.
“I made some pretty good money,” Casey said.
If Thoreson was peeved about his losses to Casey at the poker table, he didn’t show it Friday. Thoreson and Casey threw the puck back and forth to each other with such unselfishness and frequency you would have thought they had played together since they were toddlers. And when Casey scored in the third, both he and Thoreson flashed ear-to-ear grins as they skated side-by-side to the Andover bench.
Friends for life.
While the Huskies had their share of good times in their season opener, they had moments of frustration, too. Cracking the impenetrable vault that is Lumberjacks senior goaltender Jacob Walsh can leave even the best scorers shaking their heads and mutter to their sticks. Walsh, who excelled in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League this fall, finished with 37 saves.
“He played great,” Casey said. “I mean, the kid faced like 40 shots and we were in their zone almost the whole game.”
Andover coach Mark Manney played Casey alongside Thoreson for stretches of the game, although Manney said would prefer they center separate lines.
“He just does a lot of things well, and guys like that will always have a place,” Manney said. “I’m not sure whether he's a goal scorer, although he was tonight. He might be our best defensive center, he might be our best playmaker.”
Since those first few days with his new teammates this summer to Friday’s play-for-keeps debut, Casey said he’s had nothing but positive experiences.
“I’ve bonded with a lot of new guys, made a lot of new friends,” he said.