PALMER — Jared Hanson’s hockey dreams are becoming a reality.
Hanson, a Palmer native and former Palmer High standout, has committed to play for the Colorado College Tigers next season — one of the top Division I hockey programs in the country.
“It’s every kid’s dream growing up,” Hanson said Monday by cellphone from Lincoln, Neb., where he plays for the Lincoln Stars of the Tier I United States Hockey League. “I’m very excited about it and am looking forward to it a lot.”
Hanson, 19, who left Palmer after his sophomore season to play at a higher level, is in his second full year with the Stars. The 6-foot, 190-pound forward is second on his team with 22 goals and third on the squad with 43 points and a plus-27 rating. In 97 career games, Hanson has tallied 31 goals and 36 assists with a plus-39 rating.
“Jared’s a great example of someone who has worked himself into a complete hockey player,” Lincoln head coach Chad Johnson said in a press release issued by the USHL. “He leads by example, is a great team guy and scores big goals in crucial times. We’re excited for him to have this opportunity at a school like Colorado College.”
Hanson has four game-winning goals this season and six in his USHL career.
His play with the Tier I franchise caught the attention of a number of Division I scouts, including the coaches of the storied Colorado College program.
Penn State, Ohio State and Harvard were among the Division I squads battling for Hanson. Ultimately, Hanson opted for a future at the Colorado Springs, Colo., school.
“The hockey program is one of the best in the country annually. The coaching staff is great, not to mention great academics,” Hanson said. “It was kind of an easy decision for me.”
Hanson said he seriously considered schools such as Harvard and Penn State. Northeastern and St. Cloud State also were in the mix.
A number of things stood out about the CC program. The Tigers are among the national powers joining the new college hockey super conference for the 2013-14 season — the National Collegiate Hockey Conference — that also includes Denver, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota.
“I wanted to be in a good conference,” Hanson said. “There’s a lot of great competition and an opportunity to get better, as well as play in front of tons of scouts from every pro league in the world.”
Hanson also will have a chance to play immediately for the Tigers, who finished the regular season fifth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference with a 15-12-1 mark.
“I actually feel great about it,” Hanson said of his chance to see the ice as a freshman.
The Tigers are graduating three forwards and another, just signed a NHL contract.
“That puts me in a good spot to play,” Hanson said.
Hanson will be one of at least four Alaska players to suit up for CC next season. Anchorage’s William Rapuzzi will be a senior next year and Anchorage’s Scott Wamsganz will be a sophomore. Another Anchorage native, Hunter Fejes, recently committed to CC. Fejes has been playing for Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a Minnesota prep school and hockey factory.
Hanson said he’s excited to head to a school where Alaska players have had success.
Hanson said he is not sure which degree program he will pursue at CC.
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to study,” Hanson said. “I have a pretty good idea I want to go to medical school eventually, but I also want a degree I can use if I decide not to go. I want to be able to use my four-year degree.”
Hanson said he also wants to play hockey after his time at CC.
“It’s everyone’s dream to play in the NHL,” Hanson said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.