Peters Township's Hannan flying high for Purple Eagles
Last holiday season was good for Jeff Hannan and the Niagara University hockey team.
Once the calendar turned to 2012, the Purple Eagles went 12-5-3, including a seven-game winning streak, to close out the season.
That strong second half coincided with Hannan's return. The Peters Township High School graduate had been sidelined with a concussion, but returned to help Niagara reach the Atlantic Hockey semifinals, where RIT eliminated the Purple Eagles, 2-1, in overtime.
“The second half of the season, we really clicked as a team. We didn't lose many games after Christmas,” said Hannan, a son of former Penguins player Dave Hannan.
“We have a lot of older guys coming back. We have a lot of depth and we're getting great goaltending. As a team, we look pretty strong and we hope to continue that.”
Niagara has carried over its momentum. The Purple Eagles started the year with an 8-2-3 mark, including a 7-0 conference record, heading into the Thanksgiving break.
“Air Force is strong and so is RIT. Those two teams won the Atlantic the last 10 years,” Hannan said. “Mercyhurst and Robert Morris are tough, too. It'll be a tight race. Every game is crucial for points.”
Hannan was limited to 16 games last year, but finished with four goals and four assists. This season, he scored three goals and five assists in the team's first 10 games.
“I've really kept my game simple. I want to be strong defensively, and that leads to offense,” he said. “I scored twice against Michigan State. Playing with Isaac Kohls has helped a lot. He is a good player. I am just trying to do what I can to help the team win.”
Hannan, a 6-foot-1 senior center, enjoys contributing at both ends of the ice.
“I am a two-way player and a good faceoff guy; I pride myself in that,” he said. “I chip in offensively when I can. I scored a lot in junior hockey, but being a two-way reliable player is where I fit.
“My defensive play in the center is important. I am always making sure we're covering down low. I like to get in on the forecheck and try to disrupt and get possession of the puck.”
Hannan has excelled off the ice, too. He was named to the AHA All-Academic Team the past two seasons.
“Coach Burkholder really emphasizes we're students, too. When we're not at the rink working on our game, it is important to study for tests and get ahead,” he said. “We take a lot of pride in our team GPA. It's been about 3.90 for the last 15 years.”
A finance major, Hannan had the unique opportunity to intern with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization this summer.
“That was neat. I was in their accounting department from May until the middle of August. It's neat to see the other side of the business,” he said. “A lot of work is put into it. Those people should get credit for what they do. It's a lot of work.”
Hannan is not sure what he wants to do after graduation. He said he's just focused on the season.
“We want to win the Atlantic as we do every year. We were a game away last year and we're hungry this year,” he said. “We're pretty close as a senior class. We've played a lot of games here as a class. We've learned form the seniors when we were younger guys. We're just trying to pass that down to the younger guys who are coming in and try and help them that way.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.