Ben Hanowski's first hockey practice was spent watching from the rink door.
John Hanowski said his then 4-year-old refused to hit the ice. Instead he just watched.
Thursday all eyes were watching the Little Falls Flyers senior captain break the state scoring record.
Johnny Pohl needed 111 games to amass the Minnesota state record of 378 career points. Thursday's Central Lakes Conference game against St. Cloud Apollo was Hanowski's 111th career varsity game.
Before the game, Hanowski said he wanted the chase to be over. For him, and more importantly, for his team.
"It's not that we don't appreciate the praise and attention that we've been getting, but it would be nice to get it done so we can concentrate on the section tournament," said Hanowski. "We're going to have to really battle if we want to get back to the Xcel."
Ben Hanowski of the Little Falls Flyers was given the puck after he became the highest scoring player in Minnesota boys' high school hockey history Thursday in Little Falls. Brainerd Dispatch/ Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
The four-year varsity player praised his teammates and said they deserved much more attention than they've been given. Senior defensemen Isaak Berglund became the first Flyer defenseman to reach 100 career points. Riley Hirsh and Ben Nelson both reached 100 career points last week. Linemate Wesley Waytashek is closing in on 100 points. Senior goalie Michael Sperl has enjoyed an all-star like season in net with nine shutouts.
Yet, the headlines have been about Hanowski and his chase for No. 1.
"I think Ben is handling it all pretty well," said John Hanowski. "I am sure he will be glad to get it over with so he and the team can focus on the real goal of getting back to the state tournament.
"Most nights there are a couple of pro scouts at the games. We don't get many phone calls at our home anymore because they all have his cell number. (Flyers head coach) Tony Couture gets the scout calls and media stuff. At the rink, people mean well, but we don't talk about it. I don't keep track."
It's the final regular season home game for Hanowski. According to Section 6-1A statistician Jamie Pettit, Hanowski has only left the Exchange Arena three times in his four years with a loss: Jan. 12, 2006 against Brainerd, Jan. 24, 2006 against Sauk Rapids and Jan. 31, 2006 against Willmar.
Little Falls owns a 45-game unbeaten streak and a 43-game winning streak on its home ice.
Catching the majority of those games has been Hanowski's grandparents, Bob and Mary Gerlach of Brainerd.
"One of the biggest drawbacks with all of this is we haven't been able to go south for four years," said Bob Gerlach a retired basketball coach and principal at Cloquet. "It has curtailed what we've done, but this is a better choice. About four years ago when Ben's older brother Beau was playing in the first state tournament I was sitting down in Florida. As an old coach, and because I love my grandkids, this is the place I want to be. It's been a good ride."
It's a ride that started with 35 goals and 29 assists during his freshman season. As a sophomore Hanowski tallied 40 goals and 71 assists. Last year he registered 48 goals and 47 assists. Heading into Thursday's game, he has collected 55 goals and 52 assists.
Earlier this year against Apollo, Hanowski became the state's top goal scorer with his 172nd.
"It hasn't been too bad," said Hanowski about the media attention surrounding his numbers. "If I get it done tonight I'm sure I'll be busy talking to people, but it hasn't been too bad. I've tried to enjoy it because the day will come when nobody wants to talk to you."
Hanowski has played with some of Minnesota's top young talent. As a member of the Minnesota 90 Selects, Team North, he skated on the same line as Minnesota Gopher Aaron Ness. Hanowski played five years for Minnesota Northern Wings 3A team out of Duluth.
Hanowski called this season the most fun he's had, though. The team is 24-0 and ranked No. 2 in the Let's Play Hockey Class 1A poll. That's not why this is his best season, though.
"I'm playing with the same guys I've been playing with since Mites and Squirts," said Hanowski. "We're a tight-knit group. These are the guys I hang out with on the weekends and in the offseason. We've accomplished a lot of great things and hopefully there is more to come."
jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.
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