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Hanowski's hard work paying off

by Paul Post / Calgary Flames

GLENS FALLS, NY -- Adirondack’s record-setting 10-0 rout of Eastern Conference leader Syracuse not only snapped a three-game losing streak on Tuesday.

The contest also saw one of the Flames’ early season scoring leaders get back on track after struggling offensively of late.

Forward Ben Hanowski had two of Adirondacks’ franchise-high 26 points with a pair of assists and linemates Markus Granlund (goal) and Kenny Agostino (three assists) contributed four more points in the Flames’ lopsided win. Recently, Hanowski’s play had begun to mirror Adirondack’s season of late – tremendous effort, without much in the way of positive results.

But that all changed Tuesday as Adirondack brought a five-game Syracuse win streak to a screeching halt.

“The guys have been working hard. We haven’t been rewarded. Tonight we were,” Hanowski said afterward.

The Flames came into the contest after dropping a pair of extremely hard-fought close contests to first-place Utica. The intensity, despite the setbacks, brought Adirondack’s play to a whole new level as they simply exploded against the Crunch, while playing stellar defence as well. Joni Ortio stopped 29 shots in net to earn his fourth shutout of the year.

The 10 goals was the most scored by any team this season and the 10-goal margin of difference was the first double-digit victory in the AHL since 2002.

“When you have a weekend like we just had where it’s kind of got that playoff atmosphere, there’s a lot at stake, it just sharpens your battles and your pace,” Hanowski said. “We just did a good job going to the net, creating chances and being opportunistic when we got them.”

A 24-year-old, third-year pro from Little Falls, MN, Hanowski was one of 13 different players to earn points in the blowout. He now has nine helpers to go along with 12 goals for 21 points.

“I think with Ben, the part that we as a staff like best about him is that he gives an honest effort every night,” coach Ryan Huska said. “He competes hard. Now he’s starting to find some of that confidence again where he’s generating some offence for us.”

The 6-foot-2 forward got off to an incredibly hot start this season. On Oct. 29, he had a four-point night (2 goals, 2 assists) in a home contest against San Antonio and then recorded his first pro hat trick on Nov. 14 at Lake Erie. It was Adirondack’s only hat trick of the season until Sven Baertschi accomplished the feat in the Flames’ romp over Syracuse on Tuesday.

Hanowski followed that up with another two-goal performance during a 3-2 win over Toronto on Nov. 26. Until last weekend, when Emilie Poirier scored his 13th of the season, Hanowski, Poirier and David Wolf (currently with Calgary) shared a three-way tie for Adirondack’s goal-scoring lead with 12 apiece.

Markers had started coming a bit farther apart for Hanowski of late, but Huska credits him with continuing to work hard and improve other parts of his game.

“He wasn’t a guy that pouted or felt sorry for himself because the offence wasn’t there,” Huska said. “He tried to become a better penalty killer, a better defensive player, he continued to work. Now he’s starting to generate some offence again.

“The thing he’s most consistent with is work ethic, the way he pressures the game. He gives you an honest effort. I think that rubs off on his teammates.”

Adirondack’s lines have changed like a revolving door this year because of injuries and numerous player transactions. Hanowski feels comfortable no matter who he’s on the ice with.

“All the guys here, we know how to play, we’re all on the same page with how we want to play every night,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good hockey players on this team. It doesn’t’ matter who you’re playing with, you’re going to be playing with someone that can make plays and get you the puck. That hasn’t really been an issue for us.”

It appeared that Hanowski tipped in Adirondack’s third goal against Syracuse, a long slapshot by defenceman Mark Cundari. But the original scoring was upheld following a review by officials. His positioning alone, however, clearly contributed to the goal.

Huska has only recently matched Hanowski with Granlund and Agostino.

“We just started playing together the last three or four games,” Hanowski said. “I think we’ve been playing really well.”

He was a third round (63rd overall) draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. On March 27, 2013, Hanowski came to the Flames in a deal that sent former Calgrary superstar Jarome Iginla to the Pens. The Flames acquired Hanowski, Agostino and a first-round draft pick (Morgan Klimchuk).

Hanowski made his NHL debut only a couple of weeks later, in Calgary, and scored a goal in a 4-3 loss against his home state team, the Minnesota Wild. He spent most of last year at Abbotsford where he had 13 goals, 18 assists (31 points) in 55 games for the Heat, while also appearing in 11 games for Calgary.

His next goal will equal last year’s total, with 10 weeks still to play in the season. He constantly works on all aspects of his game.

“I’ve been working on winning more puck battles and possessing the puck more,” Hanowski said. “That’s just been a kind of work in progress; just continuing to win more one-on-one.”

However, his main focus is helping the Flames secure a spot in the 2015 Calder Cup playoffs. Adirondack is currently seventh in the Western Conference standings, tied with Chicago and Hamilton at 54 points apiece.

The Flames return to action Friday at Rochester, the first of four straight road games.

“We’ve just got to continue to play like we did (against Syracuse); continue to do the little things right; pushing the pace and get pucks in deep,” Hanowski said. “We’ll stick together as a group; play for each other. That’s what’s going to push us forward and get us into the playoffs. We’ll get our wins.”

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