As Wisconsin’s 10th-leading scorer, Tia Hanson was an unlikely candidate to produce the game-winners in both Badger NCAA tournament games en route to the final. She has provided yet another testament to the depth that Coach Mark Johnson has brought to the program.
Tia Hanson moves to the net in the NCAA final. (Photo: John E. Van Barriger / words-photos.com
Aside from Patty Kazmaier finalist Sara Bauer, Hanson is the only Canadian forward on Wisconsin’s roster. While Bauer hails from the vast Ontario recruiting pool, Hanson comes from the Western Provinces. A place like Alberta does not produce as many women’s college hockey players, but still remains rich in hockey tradition.
“It’s a traditional hockey town, like Red Deer and Moose Jaw,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said of Medicine Hat, Hanson’s home town. “In the old days those would be all the hot beds where you would pull out kids that would go to the NHL. Being in Canada and being around hockey all of her life, she’s hopefully fulfilling a dream of showcasing her talents in college hockey.”
While Alberta does not have the women’s hockey population of Ontario, it does have a environment that accelerates its players’ development — the Olympic Oval. The Oval X-Treme team features legions of Canadian Olympians in non-Olympic years, and players like Hanson and Minnesota goalie Brittony Chartier have had the opportunity to play with them.
Tia Hanson (29), Wisconsin’s NCAA quarterfinal and semifinal heroine, drives with the puck in the NCAA final. (Photo: John E. Van Barriger / words-photos.com
“Definitely playing with those type of players on the Canadian team strengthened me not just on the ice, but mentally and physically too, mainly mentally,” Hanson said. “It was amazing seeing how they prepared mentally for the games and how they stayed focused during the games. I couldn’t have been prepared better coming from there.”
Mental toughness is what Hanson needed to turn that fortuitous bounce into the lone goal of Friday’s 1-0 semifinal win over St. Lawrence. Upon receiving the puck on the blue line, she looked lost for an instant, but then she recovered.
“At that second, it was just shoot,” Hanson said of what was in her head at that moment. “We were talking all game, just get shots on net and look for rebounds, but luckily it went in.”
She did not shoot right away though. First she beat a defender, and then she buried the puck with a top-shelf shot. She put everything together at the right time.
“She’s got good hand skills and a good shot, and what you saw tonight was a real nice move and one of those highlight-type goals in a big game,” Johnson said.
This has been an up-and-down season for Hanson. She scored a big third period game-tying goal in the second game of the season, a 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota-Duluth. She went through a scoreless slump in January and February, but March is what counts the most.
“When you get into playoff situations, someone will step up for you,” Johnson said. “It’s just fun to watch, to see them smile after they do it… It’s nice to see the kid get rewarded.”