By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The weather forecast for Andrew Gordon’s hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia last Thursday morning called for rain and a high temperature of 44 degrees.
More than 1,000 miles to the south in Mount Pleasant, the South CarolinaStingrays rookie awoke to sunny skies with a summer-like high of nearly 84degrees.
It was a good day to be in the Lowcountry.
Gordon spent most of the season in the American Hockey League with Hershey,but when the Bears were knocked out of the Calder Cup playoffs, the former St. Cloud State University star had a choice to make – join the Stingrays for a run at the Kelly Cup or hang up his skates for the summer.
After 58 regular season games and a tough series against Wilkes-Barre Scranton, Gordon had earned the right to take the rest of the summer off. And while Gordon’s ultimate goal is to make it to the NHL, he still wants the shot at winning a championship, no matter the league.
“I talked with my sister the other day and she was complaining about the weather back home,” Gordon said laughing. “I had not sympathy for here. I told her it was likesummer down here. This is beach weather.
“Everyone who plays pro hockey wants to make it to the NHL and that’s certainly my goal. But while I’m down in the minors, I want to win a Cup. I want to win a championship and hang a banner. I don’t care what league you play in, you’re ultimate goal is to win a championship. You play hockey to win a championship and there’s no better feeling than to be still be playing in the month of May.”
Despite playing in just 11 games with the Stingrays during the regular season, Gordon said he felt like he owed it to the team and head coach Jared Bednar to return for the playoffs.
After a slow start in Hershey, Gordon was assigned to the Stingrays in November for a conditioning stint. The former 7th-round pick admitted that he was nervous during his first few games in the AHL.
“I wasn’t myself,” Gordon said. “Every time I got the puck I was looking to get rid of it. I was a total non-factor and my confidence level was almost non-existent. I knew I could play better, but I was so worried about making a mistake that I couldn’t relax on the ice and let things happen.
“There was a stretch where I wasn’t getting on the ice. I was a healthy scratch a few times and I knew I needed some ice time, so even back then I knew coming down to South Carolina was probably the best thing for me.”
Gordon was right.
With a slower pace and less talent on the ice in the ECHL, Gordon was able to find his game again. He spent nearly three weeks with the Stingrays finishing with eight goals and six assists.
“I’m not sure where I would be if I hadn’t come down here and played,” Gordon said. “It was like I was back in college again. Making plays. Handling the puck. Just playing. It was the best thing that could have happened for me.
“Coach (Bednar) showed a lot of trust in me and that helped get my confidence level back to where I felt like I could go back up to Hershey and make a contribution.”
Gordon did more than just contribute. He was called back up to Hershey in December and went on a tear. He finished with 51 points, on 16 goals and 35 assists, in the final 52 games of the season.
“A lot of the success I had this season can be traced back to playing down here,” Gordon said. “When I look back at my career I’ll know that coming down here had a lot to do with where I ended up. I owe Bedsy a lot and hopefully I can repay him with a Kelly Cup title.”
When the Bears were bounced from the Calder Cup Playoffs in five games by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Gordon had almost forgotten he was still eligible to play for the Stingrays.
“After the season is over, it’s not something that you think about a lot,” Gordon said. “After a day though, I saw I got a call from Bedsy and it kind of hit me that the season isn’t over just yet. I was really excited to get down here.”
It took a couple of days to pack up all his belongings in Hershey, but Gordon arrived in Charleston for Game 2 South Division finals against Columbia. He made his presence felt almost immediately when he scored a goal on his second shift in the Stingrays 5-2 victory over the Inferno in Game 2. In six playoff games, Gordon has two goals and three assists.
“Andrew is an impact player,” Bednar said. “He’s a proven scorer at the American League level and he at this level. He can play in every situation for us. To have a player of his ability join the team during a playoff run only makes you that much deeper.”