North To The Future

Alaska’s Hannah Hogenson Is Confident And Comfortable Blazing Her Own Trail Between The Pipes

 

It takes a special type of person to survive an Alaskan winter. With an average of six hours of daylight from November through February, it can be a cold, dark existence that can test one's resolve.

So, when summer rolls around and the sun shines until well past midnight, most locals make up for lost time. For Hannah Hogenson that means endless hours of fishing, camping and riding ATVs in the Alaskan wilderness. 

"The winters can get a little daunting. You go from the darkness outside into the dark hockey rink and back out into the darkness again. It can get a little overwhelming," she says. 

"The summer is your time to make sure you're active and getting outside, which I think is really important mentally just to get that break."

Still, with the sun hanging high in the June sky, Hogenson packs her skates and heads inside the Wells Fargo Sports Complex on the campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage to help coach the next generation of puck stoppers at the Alaska Goaltending Academy. 

It wasn't that long ago that she was a student at the camp. These days, she's more of a celebrity around here, passing on her knowledge to young girls who look up to her.

"It's nice having someone who's recently gone through the same process that they are going through now," Hogenson says during a lunch break. "I tell them there are so many different paths you can take as a girl. Being able to talk to them about the path that I took and let them know that they can make their own path as well."

Hogenson's path may seem a bit unconventional, but it's one that has provided her with a number of opportunities so far, and potentially many more in the future.

After moving to Anchorage when she was 4, Hogenson tried several sports, including wrestling, before her soccer coach Brian Gross suggested she join a girls' hockey league. With no full-time goalies in the program, she gravitated into the net and has been there since.

"Once I finally rotated into the net it just kind of stuck," she said. "And from there I switched to boys' hockey the next year and then just kind of went with it."

It's proven to be the right move, partly because there weren't always that many options to play high level girls' hockey in Alaska and partly because she found her niche playing with the guys. 

"I've had a few coaches [try to coax her onto a girls' team]. I've heard what they have to say and I've weighed the values, but I feel like the teams that I've played with have been really rewarding for me. So, I like staying the course," she says.

That course has proven to be the fast track to success as last season she backstopped her South Anchorage High School boys' team to the state title, and came within one game of leading the Alaska Oilers to a USA Hockey National Championship in the Tier II 18 & Under 1A division.

Playing with the same group of guys has become second nature for both Hogenson and her teammates, who appreciate what she brings to the ice.

"I think that she has a lot of respect from everyone because they all know how good of a goalie she is, even though she's a female playing with the older boys. They've seen her go to battle and know that she's the backbone of the team," says Matt Thompson, who has coached Hogenson for the past several years.

Not that there aren't challenges that she's learned to adapt to and overcome, like constantly changing in the women's bathroom instead of a locker room. And, of course, there will always be players who will try to get under her skin. From his perch on the bench, Thompson said he's seen the 5-foot-4, 135-pound netminder stand her ground with the best of them.

"Some teams will try to bury people in front of the net and compete with her, and she's not afraid to give it back to them," he says. "There might be a little bit of a slash to the back of the leg if they're trying to take up space in her crease or try to screen her. She doesn't back down from that battle by any means."

As Hogenson approaches her senior year, the 18-year old has some unfinished business before packing her hockey bags and heading to Bemidji State University, where the lakefront campus and remote location made her feel at home. Having a shot to start right away didn't hurt either.

If and when that happens, it won't be much of an adjustment because Hogenson has had plenty of opportunities to prove that her game fits well at any level.

Last year she caught the eye of national team coaches who named her to the U.S. Women's Under-18 National Team. While she didn't see the ice during the IIHF Women's Under-18 World Championships in Obihiro, Japan, the experience was well worth the journey halfway around the world.

"I took a lot away from that trip," she says. "Obviously not playing was a different role than I'm used to. It was good for me to step out of that role and learn how to be a team player. Just the feeling you get putting on the [USA]  jersey, even if you're not even getting on the ice for a game, is an indescribable feeling."

As another day ends at the Alaska Goaltending Camp, Hogenson trades in her skates and sweat suit for shorts and sandals before saying goodbye to her fellow coaches, who all happen to be men. 

On her way out the door she stops to chat with several female campers, praising their work on the ice before heading out in the afternoon sun. It's an uncharacteristically warm day in Anchorage and with hours of daylight still remaining, she can't wait to take advantage of it. 

 

Issue: 
2019-10

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