Ben Hanowski named AP boys hockey player of year

  • Article by: DAVE CAMPBELL , Associated Press
  • Updated: March 16, 2009 - 11:28 PM

Ben Hanowski

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Ben Hanowski had one more goal in him.

Little Falls and St. Cloud Cathedral were 22 seconds from needing overtime to decide third place in the Class 1A state tournament, when Hanowski swooped in and scored for the 196th time in his unparalleled high school career. Still stinging from their lopsided loss to eventual champion Breck the day before, the Flyers (30-1) ended on a winning note with the highest finish of their five straight trips to state.

Hanowski and his 10 senior teammates left without a title, but they proved to the rest of Minnesota that there is quality prep hockey played between the Twin Cities metro area and the Iron Range.

Unless an NHL team changes his mind, Hanowski will head to St. Cloud State in the fall as the state's all-time leading scorer in the sport. After scoring 196 goals and tallying 209 assists to pass former Red Wing and Gophers star Johnny Pohl, including 73 goals and 62 assists in 31 games this season, Hanowski was a landslide winner of the Minnesota Player of the Year award given annually by The Associated Press.

Eden Prairie defenseman Nick Leddy also received consideration for the award, voted on by a statewide panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Hanowski and Leddy were joined on the AP's all-state team by Edina forward Anders Lee, Holy Angels forward Danny Mattson, South St. Paul defenseman Zach Palmquist and Bloomington Jefferson goalie Casey O'Connor.

Hanowski's teammates Izaak Berglund, a defenseman, and Michael Sperl, the goalie, were voted to the second team along with Edina forward Marshall Everson, Duluth East forward Max Tardy, Centennial forward Tyler Pitlick and St. Cloud Cathedral defenseman Nate Schmidt. Schmidt is the only junior in the group.

He's a close friend of Hanowski's, actually, from their time together on elite summer teams. Little Falls and St. Cloud are also only a half-hour apart by car.

"The kid can shoot anywhere, and he's got a great shot," Schmidt said. "If you give him the shot, he's going to pick the corner. If you take the shot away, he's going to go around you. He's real strong on skates. He's kind of a power forward that gets around you, and if he gets around you then it's not so good."

Flyers coach Tony Couture called him a "highlight film" who makes his teammates around him better. Including a five-goal performance in the quarterfinal victory over Virginia, Hanowski finished with seven goals and two assists in three games at state. Before the tournament, he was a staggering plus-90 on the ice. Little Falls enjoyed a 206-53 goals advantage this season.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Hanowski, who is also a star baseball player, found himself the center of attention as he approached Pohl's 11-year-old record. His teammates were his haven.

"The locker room was kind of like my getaway, where I could kind of just worry about hockey and not have to worry about the record," he said.

Hanowski once considered playing junior hockey to prepare for the WCHA and, he hopes, the NHL. But the camaraderie created in this central Minnesota town of about 8,000 people by these boys who've skated together since age 5 was too strong. All those hours on the ice, in the locker room, in class, on the road and hanging out in the hotel during tourney time really add up.

"How do you say, 'OK, see you later guys, maybe I'll see you during Christmas when I get a week off?'" Hanowski said. He added: "They're my best friends. I'm hanging out with them in fall, winter, spring and summer."

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