Hanna brings ‘O’ to Tech ‘D’

HOUGHTON – Michigan Tech hockey freshman Shane Hanna tallied 51 points in 53 regular season games last season in juniors. He’s a defenseman.

Huskies fans wondering where Steven Seigo-like offensive production from the blue line will come from, look no further than Hanna, the highest-scoring defenseman in the British Columbia Hockey League in 2012-13.

“Basically, we think he can come in and pick up some of the slack we’re going to lose with Steven Seigo,” Tech coach Mel Pearson said. “He has high hockey IQ, sees the ice well, enjoys getting involved in the rush – but he defends well, too. He doesn’t give up any defense for his offense, so we think he’ll be able to help our power play and help our team offensively in general.”

Hanna, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound defenseman, was actually the highest regular-season scorer on his hometown Salmon Arm Silverbacks, just ahead of 2014-15 Tech commit and forward Alex Gillies (47 points). Factor in Hanna’s two playoff points, and he actually surpassed Gillies for overall season total, and he earned BCHL Interior Conference First Team All-Star accolades.

“I like to take care of my own end first, then definitely help out offensively,” Hanna said. “Help out on the power play, or wherever I can fit in, just moving up and jumping up and joining the rush, making odd-number situations.”

Often a defenseman with such offensive instincts spent time as a forward growing up, but not Hanna. He simply acquired what Tech assistant coach Bill Muckalt called “elite vision” through playing a lot.

“I started at defense because I played in a small town called Chase (population about 2,500) and nobody wanted to play D, so I got to play a lot more,” Hanna recalled. “You can see the full ice from the back end, you can see the plays happening and jump into it. It just worked for me, and I was good at it, so I stayed with it.”

After developing in Chase, Hanna moved to Salmon Arm, B.C., working his way up through Peewees and Bantams, before latching on with the Thompson Blazers of the BC Major Midget League and registering 19 points in 40 games in 2009-10. The following year in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, Hanna chipped in 50 points in 50 games, earning a late-season shot with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees.

In 2011-12, he started in Penticton, only to be traded after 13 games to his hometown team, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

“It was kind of tough, but being traded back to home, it wasn’t a big adjustment,” Hanna said. “Going back home I had no complaints, got to eat my mom’s cooking.”

While living in his family’s house, he started becoming a household name throughout Salmon Arm with 22 points in 40 games, leading into last season’s explosive output of 47 points in 43 games (12 goals, 35 assists).

Hanna, now a 19-year-old who will be majoring in business management, first started receiving interest from colleges when he was 17, with a voicemail from Yale. The offers and requests for visits started coming, with Western Michigan being among the other schools that sought Hanna.

“Michigan Tech just stood out after I did my fly down there, it was great,” said Hanna, who has one older brother. “There were a couple other schools, but they just didn’t compete.”

And the weather certainly won’t be a surprise to the business management student, who visited in February during a Houghton blizzard.

“It was one of the worst days we had all winter,” Pearson said, “but it all turned out great. We’re happy to get him.”

“It was really cold, but once I got to the arena, it was great for me,” said Hanna, who had been in touch with Muckalt since October 2012. “I met some of the guys at the dorms, the facilities were great, and Mel and the coaching staff are definitely phenomenal.”

With senior defenseman Dan Sova recovering from a late-summer wrist surgery, Hanna knows as one of eight healthy defensemen, he has a chance to make an impact right away.

“Definitely with some guys injured, it gives us freshmen a chance to step up and try to solidify a spot,” he said. “I just want to help the team.”

Pearson realizes between Hanna and fellow freshmen defensemen Cliff Watson and Chris Leibinger, giving freshmen key minutes is a very real possibility. But Hanna at least has the natural instincts to play Tech’s style.

“As a freshman, you’re going to have some time to grow, but we’d rather have guys who we have to tell them to lay back instead of always trying to kick ’em in the rear end to get up in the offensive play,” Pearson said. ” Some guys look good defensively and they get to the offensive blue line and they just sort of shut down. (Hanna) isn’t like that. He can carry the puck up ice, and when he gets in the offensive zone, he sees the ice well and tries to make plays. He’s not afraid to take it to the net and shoot the puck. He’s a great offensive player.”