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Union's Hanson shakes off extra pressure

Union's Hanson shakes off extra pressure

Dutchmen will need junior to be at his best to turn around 0-6 start
Union's Hanson shakes off extra pressure
Union goalie Darion Hanson makes a save against Boston University on Oct. 5.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY -- The disparity in goals and shots screams off the page.

Through six games -- all losses -- the Union men's hockey team has been dominated in both categories.

That was particularly evident in a 7-3 loss to Boston University to open the season and in a sweep by UMass last weekend, when the Dutchmen were outshot 85-32 and outscored 11-1 in two games.

Except for a stretch of 3:52 at the end of last Friday's 6-1 loss, junior goalie Darion Hanson, has been in the hot seat for the entire hot mess.

Still, heading into two games against Capital Region rival RPI, Hanson has resisted any urge to put the weight of the world on himself, and the Dutchmen will need their co-captain to keep fighting the good fight if any turnaround is to happen.

"Usually the goalie has to be the best player out there," he said on Tuesday afternoon. "The trick is not to look at it like that. I haven't put any added pressure on myself. At the end of the day, it's still just hockey. You just try to make the saves you can. I haven't really struggled with that, the pressure aspect, so far."

Hanson continues to be the bedrock upon which any success this freshman-heavy team will have.

His goals-against average through six games (4.09) is significantly higher than what he produced in 14 games as a freshman (2.32) and in 28 games as a sophomore (2.33), but statistics will have to take a back seat, for now.

And as he has barely gotten any help from his teammates at the other end, Hanson said he isn't disappointed with his overall body of work through the early stages of this season.

"Ten goals in a weekend is tough, and the numbers aren't good, but I thought I still had some big saves and didn't have a real issue with any of the goals that I did give up," he said.

"There were a few that I was frustrated with in the BU game, and I was frustrated with the Saturday Northeastern game. But otherwise, no, I think I've been doing my job.

"That said, it doesn't mean that I can't be better. It seems like this year and this team, I'm going to need to have some games where if we are getting 30 shots in, I'm not letting in five goals if we have a chance to win."

Union has been outshot 211-107 and outscored 25-8.

In Friday's 6-1 loss at No. 4-ranked UMass, the Dutchmen actually were right in the game late in the second period, trailing 2-1, and were seconds away from going into the locker room with that score. But Reed Lebster scored for the Minutemen shortly after matching penalties expired, with 10 seconds left.

After that deflating goal, UMass scored two in the first 38 seconds of the third period to put the game away.

"It's killer," Hanson said, of the timing of Lebster's goal. "As a team, me personally, we pride ourselves on trying to win the first three minutes of a period and the last three minutes of a period, and we did a horrible job at that this weekend."

Of the Minutemen's 11 goals in the two games, seven were scored in those three-minute windows at the beginning and end of periods.

The quality of the opponent certainly had much to do with the results -- besides being ranked No. 4, UMass made it to the national championship game last season and brought most of that team back this year.

"You still have to remember that that's a team that's going to put up 40 shots on goal probably against half the teams they play this year," Hanson said.

"It's frustrating for us, because we thought after the first weekend, going into the Northeastern weekend, we had made some progress. Going into UMass, I thought we took a step back. Granted, that's a really, really good team, and they're a bit older. They showed us what a national championship-caliber team looks like."

The Dutchmen can't afford any more steps back, especially with RPI directly in front of them to open the ECAC Hockey season, at home at Messa Rink on Friday night and at Houston Field House on Saturday night.

It doesn't help that freshman goalie Garrett Nieto has been injured, but Hanson stands to play every meaningful minute this season.

Head coach Rick Bennett pulled him for freshman Merek Pipes with 3:52 left in the Friday game, and Pipes let in one goal to produce the 6-1 final.

"He [Bennett] didn't say much," Hanson said, of being pulled from the game. "There's a lot that goes into it. Obviously, the game was far out of reach, they were pressing. We got Merek in there, who's been working really hard, staying after practice, so he earned that, too. So I wasn't upset with that, no."

Hanson is naturally predisposed to optimism and positive thinking, and that's doubly important now that he's a co-captain with senior defenseman Vas Kolias.

"It's tough to stay positive, after the start we've had, but we're trying to do that," Hanson said. "In the future, playing teams like this and facing some adversity, we're hoping to make some good out of it.

"It is frustrating, but mostly because we're competitors, and we want to win. But this is what we've got, and feeling sorry for ourselves isn't going to get us anywhere. So you've got to stay positive, because otherwise you're just miserable. We're not too down. We're still working hard and think that, in the coming weeks, it's going to get better."

If it does, Hanson will have to do his part on the ice, and not just in the locker room.

"For me, I'm still trying to hit my stride a little bit, and we'll see. I think my best is still yet to come," he said.

"I think there's not a lot of room for error. I'm not going to sugarcoat it and pretend that it's anything different than it is. I know I'm going to have to be the best player on the ice every time we go out there. But, pressure-wise, it's not too much different."

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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