Hanowski Steps Into the Spotlight
Two-point Game Leads St. Cloud State to Rout of Notre Dame
by Avash Kalra/Senior Writer
TOLEDO, Ohio Despite just a 1-9 all-time record in the NCAA tournament, St. Cloud’s trip No. 9 is off to a strong start, as the Huskies delivered one of their most dominant postseason wins in program history, knocking off the Midwest Regional’s No. 1 seed Notre Dame.
It was a welcome turnaround after St. Cloud finished first in the WCHA, but then lost in the conference tournament semifinals.
And while it was freshman forward Joey Benik scoring two goals and an assist to lead the way for St. Cloud, it was team co-captain Ben Hanowski who kick-started the dominant effort on Saturday – all part of an eventful week for the senior.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired right-wing veteran and seven-time All-Star Jarome Iginla earlier this week – one of many mid-season deals made by the Eastern Conference’s top team – the move sent Yale’s Kenny Agostino and St. Cloud’s Hanowski to the Calgary Flames along with a 2013 first-round pick.
And just a day after Agostino tallied two points to knock off the top-seeded team (Minnesota) at the West Regional, Hanowski did the same, as the senior left winger scored the game’s first goal and added an assist on the second – the ultimate game winner – as the Huskies bounced CCHA tournament champion Notre Dame by a 5-1 score.
“The first goal was critical,” said Huskies head coach Bob Motzko of Hanowski’s tally. “We were relaxed – that’s what I liked about our hockey team tonight. We were a little uptight last week at our league championships.”
Of hearing the news of the trade this week, Hanowski said, “I woke up and had six or seven text messages and a handful of phone calls, so I got worried – thought maybe something had happened. It was kind of a whirlwind, getting traded for a future Hall of Famer. It’s hard to put into words. It’s a really unique situation.”
Hanowski’s effort on Saturday brings his collegiate point total to 113 (62 goals, 50 assists). But those kinds of gaudy numbers are nothing new for the Little Falls, Minn., native. In high school, he scored a preposterous 405 points in 117 games – still the all-time record in Minnesota High School hockey history.
Hanowski, who was selected in the third round (63rd overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, now has the 18th most career points for St. Cloud, which will depart the WCHA and play in the newly-formed NCHC next season.
Said Motzko, “His career has been built on scoring big goals. He’s used to it. He knows what to do.”
On the game’s first goal, Hanowski gravitated to an area popular among goal scorers – simply, an area of wide open ice. Left alone to Irish goaltender Steven Summerhays’ left, beyond the netminder’s peripheral vision, Hanowski lingered. So when sophomore defenseman Andrew Prochno’s shot from the contralateral faceoff circle produced a rebound, Hanowski pounced on the loose puck and fired it past a sprawling Summerhays.
The senior was part of a similar play on the game’s second goal, tallying an assist as Benik scored the first of two power-play goals for the rookie, starting a 5:25 second-period stretch in which St. Cloud scored three times to put the game out of reach.
“I was just going to the net and hoping for a weak side rebound,” said Hanowski of his goal. Hanowski has seven points in his last four games. “It happened to hit off one of their guys skates and popped right to me. It was big for us to get a lead.
“I think I’m playing pretty well right now. I obviously have some great linemates – all really good players. I’ve just been trying to work hard, focus on the little things and moving my feet, winning loose puck battles, loose stick players. So when you have the opportunity to make big plays, you’re going to make those plays.”
Certainly, Hanowski – who admitted after the game that he has never been to Calgary – has brought more than just his goal-scoring touch to St. Cloud. He’s also a second-year co-captain alongside linemate and Hobey Baker finalist Drew LeBlanc. Which means, of course, with each top-line star in his final collegiate season, any game could be their last in a Cardinal and Black jersey.
Said Hanowski, “Before the game, it maybe gives you some added urgency in these games. I love being a Husky and playing at St. Cloud State. That’s added motivation – just kind of realizing that this is it for me, trying to play every game like it’s my last one, which it could be.”
But if Calgary fans are to take Flames General Manager Jay Feaster at his word, St. Cloud’s eventual loss will be Calgary’s gain.
“Our pro scouts feel very strongly about Agostino and Hanowski,” said Feaster at a news conference on Thursday. “In these two players, we believe we’ve gotten two players who are going to play in the National Hockey League and play for us for a long time.”
First things first, of course.
On Saturday, against either Miami or Minnesota State, the Huskies and Hanowski will play for an opportunity to go to – where else? – Pittsburgh, for the NCAA Frozen Four.