Forsberg backstopping Falcons to new heights

by Megan Cahill | AHL On The Beat Archive

Just two months into his first full season in North America, Springfield Falcons goaltender Anton Forsberg is already making a name for himself.

The rookie netminder has been red hot, backstopping the Falcons to the last 10 of their franchise-record 11 consecutive victories. During November, the Harnosand, Sweden, native posted a 1.76 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage, while going 8-0-0, earning him CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month honors.

“It wasn’t something I expected,” Forsberg said. “The whole team has played really well and that makes it easy for me.”

So far this season, Forsberg has gone 11-2-0, tying him for first in the league in wins. He ranks second in both GAA (1.76) and save percentage (.937) and has helped push the Falcons to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Despite the clear dedication and focus on the ice, the modest netminder emanates humility.

“The team helped me a lot,” Forsberg stated. “I wouldn’t be able to play this well if it wasn’t for the whole team’s performance.”

For the 22-year-old, success in this sport has been the focal point for many years. He dedicated himself to the game to reach this point in his career.

“It’s not easy to get to the professional level,” Forsberg said. “I moved away when I was 15 to play hockey. It was difficult in the beginning to move away from my parents and take care of everything by myself.”

His decision started to pay off in 2011 when he was selected as the Columbus Blue Jackets’ sixth pick, 188th overall, in the NHL Entry Draft. Then, in 2012, he helped Sweden clinch a goal medal in the IIHF World U20 Championship, recording a 0.99 GAA and .933 save percentage in two tournament appearances.

Forsberg came to the Falcons late in the 2013-14 season and appeared in his first professional game in North America on April 1, 2014. Since then, his focus has been on honing his game and making a full transition to the North American style of play.

“The game is a little different here than in Sweden,” Forsberg said. “The size of the rink is different and the game is faster. Shots are coming from different angles. There are also a lot of bodies in front of the net. It’s harder to find the puck, especially on the power play.”

The demanding game schedule is another aspect that differs in North America.

“We are playing a lot of games in a short amount of time,” said Forsberg. “It’s not something I’m used to and I’m still learning. I try and take care of my body. I eat and drink a lot and make sure I rest. It’s important to get my mind ready for the next game.”

Springfield Falcons goaltending coach Manny Legace has worked with Forsberg since he came to the Falcons. To him, the transition to North American play has been smooth for Forsberg.

“It’s impressive how his game has taken off and how quickly he has made the adjustment to playing here,” Legace commended. “He understands this is a different speed and has adapted.”

Forsberg put a lot of work in during the off-season to prepare him for his first full North American campaign.

“I was back home in Sweden working with my old off-ice and strength coaches,” the goaltender said. “I also worked out with my buddies.”

His success in making the transition earned Forsberg his first call up to Columbus, where he made his National Hockey League debut on Nov. 1 against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

“I was a little bit nervous in the beginning,” recalled Forsberg. “I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but it felt really good.”

Forsberg appeared in two games before returning to Springfield on Nov. 15 to start his remarkable run. His experience in Columbus gave him a taste of NHL play and showed him what it will take to make it back to that level.

“Everything goes faster up there,” Forsberg explained. “The players are more skilled and there’s better shots.”

“When he got called up he saw what he needs to get used to,” Legace said. “Players are going hard to the net and it’s a different style than European hockey. The NHL level is even quicker and once he gets used to his timing and playing at that speed, he will have what he needs to get back up there. He’s got the skill set, he just needs to keep getting experience.”

As the Falcons continue to soar past the team’s previous franchise record of nine consecutive wins set back in the 1997-98 season, Forsberg has maintained his routine and focus on improving.

“I have a lot of stuff going on before a game – a lot of weird stuff, I guess,” Forsberg chuckled. “I keep that stuff to myself, but I try to not focus too much until the game starts, so I can stay relaxed. If I feel tense, I feel like I can’t perform. After warm ups is when I start getting ready.”

As the season progresses, Forsberg will work on developing his game in hopes of eventually making that next step – a step the American Hockey League is designed to prepare him for.

“I’m really trying to work on my pace and get it up to the NHL level,” Forsberg said. “Hopefully I will be back up there one day.”