Darion Hanson stops pucks that have no business being stopped, puts a bad goal behind him in a hurry and wins big hockey games.
Hanson left Minnesota for Vernon in late November and the Vipers have been the hottest team in the B.C. Hockey League ever since. Vernon entertains the West Kelowna Warriors tonight.
The 20-year-old Union University Dutchmen commit is the BCHL Player of the Week for the week. Hanson stopped 112 of the 116 shots that came his way in three games while earning two wins, one of them a shutout, and a tie.
The 6-foot-3, 180-pound netminder began his week making 40 saves and taking third star in a 3-3 double overtime tie in Penticton. He then stopped 33 of 34 in a rematch with the Vees, a 3-1 Vipers’ home win where he was second star, and he wrapped his week with a 39-save outing in a 3-0 win over Nanaimo Clippers, taking first star.
Since joining the Vipers, Hanson has posted a .944 save percentage and a 1.80 goals-against average which are both the best numbers for goalies with at least 800 minutes played. The native of East Bethe, Minn. carries a record of 11-2-2 with two shutouts. He is backed up by NHL prospect Ty Taylor, 17.
“He’s such a calm kid; actually both our goalies are,” said Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus. “Darion’s been good for Ty in showing him how to be a starting goalie, how to prepare for games. The team feels really secure since we’ve locked down the goaltending positions. This is the best tandem I’ve seen here in a while.”
F Steven Jandric of the Vipers received an honourable mention with three goals, one a winning snipe, three assists and a second star.
The Vipers, meanwhile, meet the defending Royal Bank Cup champion Warriors for the sixth time this season. Vernon has won three of the five games.
The Warriors will be without captain Nicholas Rutigliano, Cavin Tilsley, Peter Tomaras, Chase Stevenson and Jared Marino, all on injured reserve.
Forwards Jon Van Der Molan and Tyler Chavez-Leech have been called up from the KIJHL Revelstoke Grizzlies, while 15-year-old defencemen Connor Horning will fill in on the back end from the Pursuit of Excellence Midget Prep team.
“We know they are missing some bodies, but they will still come out hard in an inter-divisional rivalry game,” said Kraus.
The Snakes went 6-3-2-0 in January and are just six points back of the Interior-Division leading Penticton Vees. The Vipers have seven of their last nine games of the season on home ice where they are 14-5-1-2.
Penticton has three games in hand and visit the Merritt Centennials tonight. The Vees are on Vancouver Island for games Friday against Nanaimo and Saturday versus the Victoria Grizzlies.
*Fan voting is now underway (HOBEY BAKER AWARD – FAN VOTING) for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top player in NCAA hockey. Five BCHL graduates are up for this year’s award.
Former Coquitlam Express forward Alex Kerfoot of Harvard, Chilliwack Chiefs grad Mitch Gillam of Cornell, former Langley Rivermen standout Mario Puskarich of Vermont, former West Kelowna Warriors captain Max French of Bentley and Salmon Arm Silverbacks alum Angus Redmond of Michigan Tech are all on the long list of 66 names put out this week.
The Hobey Baker Award has been given out annually since 1981; the last three winners are current NHL stars Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel and Jimmy Vesey. Recent Top 10 finalists for the award from the BCHL include Alex Petan, Mike Reilly, Joey LaLeggia, Matt Garbowsky, Joel Rumpel, Carsen Chuback and Justin Schultz.
Past BCHL graduates to win the award are Paul Kariya, Brendan Morrison Jason Krog and Ryan Duncan.
The long list out this week will be narrowed on March 16 down to 10 names after which more fan voting will take place. The ‘Hobey Hat Trick’ of three finalists will be revealed ahead of the 2017 Frozen Four in Chicago and this year’s winner will be announced April 7, the night before the NCAA championship final.