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Land of Leaders

12/16/2011, 9:13am CST
By Aaron Paitich

Minnesotans captain all five DI teams in the State of Hockey

It’s an honor to wear the “C.” Any newly-named captain, in any league, at any age will tell you that. Rich in hockey tradition, Minnesota has had its fair share of captains, from the likes of Phil Housley, Jordan Leopold, recently-named NHL captains David Backes and Zach Parise, among many, many others.

While hockey continues to grow and expand throughout the U.S., Minnesotans are still leading the charge — and their respective teams. As part of our college hockey coverage, the Minnesota Hockey Journal takes a look at the state’s five Division-I men’s programs, each highlighted by hometown captains.

ST. CLOUD STATE — 14 Minnesotans

Drew LeBlanc

Class: Senior 
Position: Forward
Height: 6-0  Weight: 195
Hometown: Hermantown
Last Team: Chicago-USHL

Ben Hanowski

Class: Junior
Position: Forward
Height: 6-2  Weight: 195
Hometown: Little Falls
Last Team: Little Falls HS

Mike Lee

Class: Junior
Position: Goalie
Height: 6-1  Weight: 190
Hometown: Roseau
Last Team: Fargo-USHL

A State of Hockey trifecta, St. Cloud State boasts three Minnesota natives donning the heralded “C.” Hermantown state title winner Drew LeBlanc led the Huskies with 39 points in 38 games last season, earning him third-team All-WCHA honors as a junior.

Pittsburgh Penguins draftee Ben Hanowski tied for the team lead in goals with 13 during his sophomore campaign. The Little Falls product left his hometown as the Minnesota boys’ high school hockey all-time leading scorer with 196 goals and 209 assists for 405 points in just 117 games played.

Another defending state champion, Roseau’s Mike Lee leads the Huskies in the crease. Lee helped Team USA win the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships, notching four victories in the tournament. Lee has the ability to steal games for the Huskies.

Taylor Matson

Class: Senior
Position: Forward
Height: 6-0  Weight: 190
Hometown: Mound
Last Team: Des Moines-USHL

MINNESOTA — 23 Minnesotans

It takes a determined individual to battle back from as many hampering and consecutive injuries as Taylor Matson has endured. His freshman and sophomore campaigns were cut short after suffering season-ending knee and ankle injuries, respectively. He also missed the Gophers season-ending WCHA first-round playoff series against Alaska-Anchorage last March because of injuries.

This season, however, he’s back and better than ever. That’s just one of the reasons Gophers teammates voted the former Holy Angels standout this year’s captain. Matson doesn’t bring the glitz and glam to the ice rink, but a reliable two-way game complete with speed, smarts and aggressive play that puts him near the top of the list when it comes to third-line centers in college hockey. Can Matson help end the Gophers three-year NCAA tournament drought?

So far, so good.

Bemidji State — 7 Minnesotans

Talk about heart. A proud member of the 2006 Class 2A state champion Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders, Ben Kinne suffered a stroke in July 2010 and only practiced with the Beavers last season under a medical redshirt. Now, still a junior eligibility-wise, Kinne’s teammates voted him captain. He played in all 74 games before the incident, tallying 18 goals and 39 points. The Beavers have remained competitive in the ultra-talented WCHA, and they’ll rely on Kinne to help make a run at another NCAA tournament bid this spring.

Ben’s younger brother, Bob Kinne, has committed to play at Bemidji State and is currently with Lincoln in the United States Hockey League.

Ben Kinne

Class: Junior
Position: Forward
Height: 6-0  Weight: 190
Hometown: St. Paul
Last Team: Sioux City-USHL

MINNESOTA DULUTH — 18 Minnesotans

The obvious leader for this year’s Bulldogs: Jack Connolly. Could it get any sweeter for the Duluth native, who finished third in the NCAA with 59 points during the Bulldogs’ national championship season?

Captain Connolly is a two-time All-American and a returning Hobey Baker Award finalist. He has tallied 29, 49 and 59 points, respectively, in each of his first three seasons.

Newly-extended head coach Scott Sandelin’s team lost a lot of firepower from Minnesota Duluth’s first-ever national championship team, but AMSOIL Arena can expect plenty of scoring from Connolly, Rosemount’s J.T. Brown and freshman Caleb Herbert, a Bloomington product who has looked good early in the season.

Jack Connolly

Class: Senior
Position: Forward
Height: 5-8 Weight: 160
Hometown: Duluth
Last Team: Sioux Falls-USHL

Michael Dorr

Class: Senior
Position: Forward
Height: 5-10 Weight: 175
Hometown: Roseville
Last Team: Minnesota-WCHA

MINNESOTA STATE — 14 Minnesotans

You always hear coaches say, “Don’t force it.” The same could be said about Michael Dorr. This 2007 Mr. Hockey Award finalist began his collegiate career with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. After appearing in just two games, he transferred to Minnesota State, where he now serves as co-captain in his senior year. The former Roseville High School standout has found a new home along U.S. Highway-169.

The forward finished second on the Mavericks in scoring last season with 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 38 games.

His leadership and scoring will be needed to win in the WCHA this season.

Tag(s): Issue Archive  December 2011