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Cloud Nine

by Brooks Bratten / Pittsburgh Penguins

Ben Hanowski would fit right in among a number of folks that call Western Pennsylvania home. The Penguins third-round draft pick in 2009 (63rd overall) is an avid outdoorsman, and has been known to collect a deer or two in his spare time.

“Back when I was in high school, it might’ve been my sophomore year of high school, I shot a pretty nice white tail buck,” Hanowski said. “I got it mounted and everything.”

Photo credit: Brace Hemmelgarn

The Little Falls, Minnesota native has also honed his firing craft indoors, using pucks and sticks instead of guns. In his senior season at St. Cloud State, Hanowski has recorded eight points (4G-4A) in his first nine contests, all while recovering from an injury that saw him miss a good portion of November. In his second game back from an almost month-long hiatus, on Nov. 24 vs. Minnesota-Duluth, Hanowski potted a goal and two helpers in a 5-1 win.

“It felt good just to get back on the ice,” Hanowski said of his late November return. “Then to have a game like that to help build the confidence back and just contribute on the scoresheet a little bit was big for me.”

Hanowski is sporting the ‘C’ on his sweater for the second straight campaign as well. He’s become accustomed to having a leadership role with the Huskies, and says there isn’t any added pressure to perform being a second-year captain.

“It’s a lot of just leading by example on and off the ice, going about your business the right way and when need be, being a vocal leader, and I’m comfortable doing that,” Hanowski said. “You just kind of go out and play your game and not try and do anything extra. We have a great group of guys on this team right now, so it’s a pretty easy team to be a leader on. I just worry about working hard every day and getting better.”

Getting better is something that Hanowski is always concentrating on, especially since his rights belong to an NHL club in Pittsburgh. The scoring winger realizes his weaknesses, and with the help of Penguins scouting personnel, he looks to improve every time he’s at the rink.

“I speak with (Penguins scouting staff) after games (that they attend) and then maybe talk to them once or twice a month,” Hanowski said. “They kind of analyze my game and where I can get better.”

That analysis has shown Hanowski that his overall skating, winning battles in the trenches and adding more physicality with his 6-foot-2 frame are all aspects to improve upon when on the ice. As for Penguins fans that have never seen Hanowski in action, he certainly fits the mold of a traditional power forward.

“I’m a bigger guy, and I like being around the net and in the corners,” Hanowski said.

“I’m comfortable on the power play, comfortable with the puck, and I just try and make plays and bring a lot of energy. (I try to) win battles along the boards and in the corners. I think I can make plays on the power play and contribute in that way.”

Two of his goals this season have come on the man-advantage, and overall Hanowski has shown a knack for finding the twine during not only his collegiate career, but in high school as well. Before arriving at St. Cloud State, Hanowski put up 196 goals and 209 assists in just 117 games over four seasons for the Little Falls Flyers en route to becoming the highest-scoring high school hockey player the state of Minnesota has ever seen.

Hanowski’s time as a Husky is winding down, and the senior is just trying to soak it all in during his final season. It may not be long, however, before he’s putting up numbers within the Penguins organization.

“I’m just taking it day by day,” Hanowski said of his last tour in St. Cloud. “I’m trying to focus on school, focus on getting better every day at the rink and helping this team go as far as we can my senior year. Down the road, I would really enjoy being a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, but right now, I’m really happy to be a St. Cloud State Husky and trying to make the most of my senior year.”

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