Player Profile: Andrew McLean says Ice Bears “beyond motivated” for 2021

Ice Bears defenseman Andrew McLean went through some ups and downs before landing in Knoxville. The Michigan native experienced great success in college, where he won a Division III national championship with Wisconsin Stevens Point in 2019.

Then came the roller coaster ride the following season.

On March 7, 2020, the Pointers fell in the WIAC title game, ending their bid to secure an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. On March 9, Stevens Point went unselected as an at-large team for the tournament field, leaving McLean without an opportunity to help the Pointers defend their title his senior year.

The following day on March 10, McLean made his professional debut with the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL. Future Ice Bears teammate Brady Fleurent also suited up for the Admirals that night. McLean registered one shot on goal and a +1 rating as the Admirals beat the Maine Mariners 3-2 at Cross Insurance Arena.

It would be McLean’s last game until after Christmas.

Four days later, the ECHL announced the cancellation of the remainder of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. McLean and Fleurent were both placed on the Admirals protected list for the 2020-21 season in June, but in October the franchise opted out for the year under the league’s COVID-19 Voluntary Suspension Policy.

          Click the image to see game-worn products from Andrew McLean

That ultimately brought McLean to East Tennessee, where the blue liner led all Knoxville defensemen with 17 points and was a team-high +12. Those numbers led to a selection on the SPHL’s All-Rookie Team along with forward Nick Master.

After being placed on Knoxville’s protected list earlier in the offseason, McLean spoke with Ice Bears Director of Broadcasting Joel Silverberg about his off-ice interests, how he’s handled the highs and lows of the past two years and more.

Last week we were told by Brady Fleurent that you’re the best video gamer on the team. Is there any truth to this?

I would say, to some degree. A lot of the guys play Call of Duty, but that’s not my main game. But I would say overall, I’m probably the best one.

What’s your go-to game?

As of late my go to game is Smite or Gears of War. I find a lot of enjoyment in those games. So I try to stick to that.

I noticed a bunch of guys on the team play ping pong before games outside the locker room. Who’s the best ping pong player on the team?

Oh, without a doubt it’s Scottie Cuthrell. The guy… I don’t know how he does it. But he plays ping pong very well. And I haven’t been able to beat him. I think he lost one time the whole year.

I’ve seen you and Scott have some competitive games.

Yeah, I hang with him for about the first 10 serves, and then he just takes it away and just buries me real quick.

Speaking of Scott, you guys are both from Waterford, Michigan. Did you guys ever know each other or play against each other growing up?

To be honest, no, I didn’t even know of him until last summer. I started doing these summer skates and he came out and we kind of connected that way. But it’s funny because his dad and my mom go back. They went to high school together. So I thought that was kind of a crazy connection, especially meeting up last summer for the first time.

I heard recently that your mom actually went to prom with Scott’s dad. What’s the scoop there?

Yeah, I just found that out as of recently, too. I don’t know too much the details, but me and Scottie laugh about it to this day, and we give each other crap.

How did you find that out?

I think my mom told me way back when and then I brought it up. And then I brought up something about my mom and Kettering and then he brought up his dad. And then we kind of pieced together the story, and we’re like “Oh my god, no way!” We were laughing. We were rolling around for quite a bit when we found that out.

You’ve got a great sense of humor. You’re known in the locker room for bringing a lot of positivity to the team. Coach Carr’s commented on it, your teammates have mentioned it. Where did this positive outlook on life come from for Andrew McClean?

I would say it came from actually a very negative spot. I’ve had a couple tough times in my life and when you get really to the lowest point, you don’t think there’s that much that can get you out of it. Then you kind of find out who you really are, and you dig deep and you force yourself out of it. That’s where I went towards positivity and that’s what really helped me climb out of the dark stages in my life. Ever since then, I just kind of told myself, “You know, there’s no point in being negative. There’s no good outcome of it, and you just want to stay positive.” And I try to make the people around me realize, “Hey, being positive, good things happen with positivity, and you just feel better overall.” That’s kind of my motto I live by.

So how did you handle the mental and emotional challenges that came with the pandemic last year?

It was good and bad at first, you know. I finally got my shot up at the Coast. Just got out of college and I played one game with Norfolk. I was living large. It was nice. It was like, “Okay, my dreams are starting to come true.” And then COVID hit and that took a lot out of me. It was kind of like, “Oh my god, well, what’s gonna happen the following season?” So mentally, it was going back and forth. But I came back home, I was able to get back with my dog, who I left for the two weeks that I was there. And I really got to spend some good family time with my younger brother and my mom. That time that I haven’t really had to have with them in so long because our seasons usually start early and they end late. And I was actually able to have a Halloween and Thanksgiving with my mom and my brother for the first time in probably like eight years. So overall, it was enjoyable, but at first it was very stressful.

What about this past season? You were pretty restricted with what you were allowed to do. So how did you kind of handle all of that with with not really being able to go out to a whole lot of different places?

What we ended up doing is just putting a lot of faith in each other. You’re with these guys like five hours a day away from the apartments at the rink. And then you get back to the apartments and everybody just kind of leans on each other. You resort to your roommate, a lot of video games, a lot of movies. It was more or less we were there to help pick each other up. And whenever somebody was kind of feeling lonely, one of the guys is there to step up and really help them feel loved and like they’re not alone and that kind of thing. I would say overall, our team did a really good job of being there for one another and I think that’s what contributed to a lot of our success.

How do you take that positivity onto the Ice, especially in a sport like hockey where everything’s fast, intense and physical?

If you just take that positivity off the ice, these guys will do anything for you. So on the ice, you know they’re going to do that times two. No matter what, even when we’re down by a goal, or we get an unfair call or something, you’ve really got to dig deep. And you’re like, “Hey, you know what, we’ve been in worse situations and we’ve gotten out of it perfectly fine. These guys, you know what they’re capable of.” There were quite a few times this year where we really had to dig down deep to get things done to get the win. I was very proud of how well our team handled that and reacted to it, especially in these COVID times where you never knew what was going on.

You were named to the All-SPHL Rookie Team last season. How did you first find out that you had won the honor?

Actually, somebody messaged me on, I think it was Instagram, to say congrats. And I was like “Congrats on what?” And then I looked and I was like, “Oh my gosh, no way!” And then one of my buddies who follows it really well. He’s pretty much a brother to me. He messaged me and was like, “Hey, congrats on the All-Rookie team,” blah, blah, and all this. And I started reading the article. And I was like, “Oh, dang, I was like, that’s a great accomplishment.” But you know, I think it’s just an accomplishment. And at the end of the day, I’ve still got to keep moving forward, I’ve got to get better and I’ve got to keep climbing the ranks.

Were you surprised by that at all? Did you see yourself as being in the running for that this year?

To be honest, I didn’t even know there were awards [laughs]. When I got to the rink I took every day to the best of the ability I could. I’m not one that really just wants points, I want to win and I’ll do whatever it takes. I like when the points come with it, but at the same time, at the end of the day, I just want to try to win or win a championship. I never even thought about the awards. I was just trying to do the best I could for the team and leave everything on the ice every night so I could look at myself in the mirror and also the guys could look at me and be like, “Hey, he really left it out there and we can trust in him.”

You mentioned wanting to get better. What was your biggest improvement as a hockey player this past season?

I would say more or less confidence. You come in, you got all these phenomenal players who played in the Coast, played in the SP that are like the top tier guys that could have played in the Coast if they had their chance. And I came in, I just graduated college and I had one game in the coast under my belt. And unfortunately, I got a late snip right at the beginning of the year by a Coast team. So I called Carr and he extended himself to me and brought me to camp. It was one of those things where as the year went on, I progressively got more confident and was like “Hey, you know what? I can play in this league. I can play with these guys. I can do good on the power play.” And I just kind of took that and I ran with it. I just tried to build on my confidence and I would try new things and they would work and then my confidence just kept getting better. Overall I can say I’m a lot more confident. I used to be that guy that would go to the rink and I’d be very nervous, but now it’s like I go the rank and I’m like, “Hey, how’s it going guys?” I take the confidence that I got this year and I just keep carrying it with me.

What will your offseason look like as you get ready for next season?

Offseason is a lot of training. It’s a lot of training and a lot of work. My brother and my sister-in-law own an ice cream shop, believe or not, and I worked there in the summers to help them out. It’s like a big, family-oriented thing and my younger brother works there. I do that and then I usually skate three or four times a week and I just bought a weight set, too, so I’ve been lifted at home so it’s kind of nice being able to stay in my home and do that stuff instead of going to the gym and having to beat all the traffic. Roads are so busy nowadays. It’s kind of stressful. So that’s about it.

So I could just walk in and see Andrew McLean with a hat and an apron on just scooping ice cream for people?

Yeah, believe it or not. The one they own is actually super popular. It’s like super big in my hometown. Usually there’s a line that goes to the road and the drive thru is out in the main road and the walk-up line’s all the way through the parking lot and stuff. It’s crazy, but it’s nice to help them out and they like to give me a summer job, too, and especially with the family you don’t get to see them much so even at work when I get to see them I really enjoy that. It’s called Mr. C’s Ice Cream. It’s really good. We’ve got a lot of hand dips, soft serves, we’ve got everything you could possibly imagine in ice cream and probably more.

I hate to bring this up. But does your offseason training include wanting to improve your slapshot? Because you did come in last in the hardest shot competition at the skill challenge last year.

Ahhhh, I mean, I don’t really plan on it. Obviously, I’ll try to get it better, but in this day and age with hockey with it being such a fast game, you don’t really get those times where you can just wind up. They’re few and far between. So I just really try to focus on quick releases in my snapshot, but you know, after you bring that up, maybe I’ll spend a week on it [laughs]. I still think it was a little unlucky. My first shot was a good shot. Hit the post, so it didn’t register, but I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t the right day. Maybe I didn’t have a good breakfast. I don’t know.

Did your teammates give you any ribbing for that at all? That’s like the one competition where you don’t want to come in last.

They gave me a little bit of crap here and there, but then in the shootout my shootout move made up for it so they didn’t rip on me too long.

To wrap things up, what excites you the most for next season with the ice bears?

Honestly, it’s just with our success this year. We’re going to be unstoppable next year. I think with everybody that we have, we have the right pieces of the puzzle. With the normal situations hopefully moving forward this season, I think it’ll be nothing but success. We’ve already been there before. We battled through the adversity and everything. Coming in with the clean slate, I think that’s gonna be our biggest key factor moving forward with this next season.

After having the success that you all did in the regular season, and then to fall short in the semifinals against Pensacola, how motivated do you think this team is as a whole for next year?

I think we’re beyond motivated. The looks in the locker room after that game, we all felt the same way. We just couldn’t believe it. But we we really dug down. We did our best, but I think we have that kind of hunger. We want that revenge. I think going into this next season, we’re going to be full steam ahead and we’re just really going to give it our all and make sure everybody remembers, “Hey, watch out. The Ice Bears are in town,” and we’re ready to get those two points and they are gonna have to do their absolute best to beat us.