The year 1990 brought us The Simpsons and Seinfeld, but the year that witnessed the demise of pop group Milli Vanilli's career also produced two of the area's best prep hockey players.
Little Falls forward Ben Hanowski and Brainerd defenseman Drew Olson showcased their talents, along with 240 of the nation's best 17 year olds, in front of numerous pro and college scouts at the USA Hockey Boys' National Select 17 Festival July 7-13 at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
"My main goal was to come in, work hard and play my game and see how I stacked up with everybody from around the country," said Hanowski. "Obviously, I didn't make the international team, but I still did well and had a good showing."
Olson, who tallied three goals and 13 assists for the Warriors last year, credits his time at Minnesota Hockey Camps in Nisswa with giving him the physical conditioning needed to perform well at the Festival.
"It actually went really well, Minnesota Hockey Camp kept me in great shape for the physicalness of it," Olson said. "My goal was just to go there and turn some heads a little bit, I thought I played really good."
Although neither player made the national Select 17 team, which will play in Slovakia and the Czech Republic in August, they brought home new knowledge that will improve their respective games for the highly anticipated 2007-2008 Central Lakes Conference hockey season.
"I learned a lot of stuff from teammates and coaches that will take me to the next level, I have to tighten up the defensive zone and move my feet a little better and make better passes," said Olson, 2007 CLC All-Conference Honorable Mention.
The 240 skaters had six days to make their impressions, and the talent level present created a heated playing atmosphere.
"It's just intense, there are so many college scouts and pro scouts, it's not very relaxed," said Hanowski, who finished second in Section 4-A last season with 111 total points.
"It's not quite like a high school game where it's that intense, but it's not like summer hockey where you just throw your shin pads on. It's a little change from high school where you can always get the puck, there you have to work for every puck and every point and every goal.
Drew Olson competed at the USA Hockey Boys' National Select 17 Festival at the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud July 7-13. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"It gets your adrenaline going when you see (SCSU coach) Bob Motzko and (Gophers coach) Don Lucia and guys you see on TV there."
The players split up into 12 teams and played games with two 23-minute halves in a round-robin format. Olson, who is good friends with Hanowski, agreed with the Flyers forward about the added pressure of playing in front of scouts and coaches.
"It's crazy because you want to impress all of them, you want to be on top of your game, because you know they're going to be watching every move you make," said the Warrior captain defenseman.
Hanowski expects Little Falls to be a Class 1-A State Tournament contender once again in 2007-08 after a first round tourney loss to Hermantown in March.
"We're hoping to be section champs, we got a lot of guys returning, a lot of good defenseman," he said. "We're going to be a tough team to beat in the playoffs and that's a long ways off, but that's the goal."
Olson, along with Bronson Shepherd and Joe Frazer, will captain a young Warriors team next season.
"We're going to have a pretty young team and we're going to try and build on what happened last year and take it to the next step," said Olson.
Hanowski hopes to make a college decision soon. He's looking within the WCHA at St. Cloud State, North Dakota, Minnesota, and possibly Colorado College.
Olson hasn't yet narrowed his college search.
"I'm still keeping my options open right now, I'll probably end up going to juniors and playing on the Omaha Lancers next year," he said.
Hanowski hasn't yet decided on junior league hockey.
"I have no idea, me and my family are going to have to sit down and talk about that, we'll see when it comes around," Hanowski said.
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