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Jake Hansen had seven points (5g-2a) in six playoff games for the Gophers.
GopherSports: Jake how would you describe your senior season?
Jake Hansen: This being my senior year, there was a lot of pressure to get back into the NCAA tournament. As soon as we lost last year we went to work. That was definitely the hardest we have worked in the summer. That is tough to do with (strength coach) Dal Dietz too, but he definitely made it tougher. It was a good season. Guys were in the best shape of their lives and we had a good team bond.
We were able to start off really hot. Obviously, you have some ups and downs during the season and we hit that streak around Christmas where we were not playing good hockey. During the middle of the season we were a .500 team, but we were able to finish the year strong.
To win the MacNaughton Cup was truly unbelievable. Then we had a tough loss to North Dakota in the Final Five where we blew a 3-0 lead, but we were able to come back the next week and beat a great team in Boston University and then we got a little bit of revenge on North Dakota and made it to the Frozen Four.
Obviously, our No. 1 goal was to win a national championship, but it is still a year to be proud of. To get to the Frozen Four is a great accomplishment and something we can look back on and be happy about. We did not win the championship, but it was still one heck of a year.
GS: You talked about pressure to get back into the NCAA tournament, but you guys did that and even more by advancing to the Frozen Four. Was there any sense of relief in doing that?
JH: There was a lot of pressure because our class took a lot of heat. The first three years a lot of guys did not play much. We had 12 or 13 guys here my freshman year and then it got down to seven after guys left early or they wanted an opportunity somewhere else. We took a lot of heat and there was a lot of pressure on us, but we ended up with a great group of seniors. There was pressure of us, but we just went to work every day and we tried to be good leaders. We just told the team over and over again that the feeling of not making it to the tournament is just brutal. Once our season started going and I realized how good we were, I had all the confidence in the world that we were going to make it to the tournament.
GS: You had a strong year individually as well, which seemed to be a little bit of a carryover from the second half of your junior season.
JH: I was happy with my year. I hit some streaks where the scoring was not there and struggled at times to get some goals, but was able to turn it on during the second half of the year and get some goals. The whole ordeal last year where Zach Budish got injured is something you never hope for, you never wish for, but I was able to get more ice time and play more because of that. This year, the chemistry between Erik Haula, Sam Warning and me was huge. I think we played our best hockey at the end of the year. Haula was on fire and Warning was playing well and had his confidence going. Our line was really clicking. For me, being on the penalty kill, the second line and the first power-play unit, getting that kind of ice time you are eventually going to produce. It also builds confidence in your own game.
GS: You also elevated your play at the end of the year, as you had five goals and two assists in six playoff games.
JH: Everyone talks about how you can do whatever you want during the season, but the biggest part of the year is the playoffs. That was something that I really wanted to do, was to play really well in the playoffs and help the team out as much as possible. I played really well toward the end of the year because our line was playing really well. I don't know if I was more determined in the playoffs, but I wanted us to get as far as we could in the tournament.
GS: Then after the Frozen Four, you signed your first professional contract. That had to be a nice feeling.
JH: Our team really was close this year. It was truly a family and we would do anything for each other. Then we lost to Boston College and you are heartbroken and that definitely killed us. But then in the next few days to be able to sign a contract was...well it was almost tough to handle because we had just lost and you still have that bitter taste in your mouth and wish you could play that game again. But to be able to sign a contract and go to play for Springfield was rewarding. Obviously, we wanted to win it all but to be able to go from the Frozen Four to signing a professional contract, you cannot ask for much better of a year than that.
GS: You played the final two games of the season with Springfield. What did you learn from those games?
JH: It was just crazy. I signed the contract on Wednesday and then Wednesday night I am flying out at 7 p.m. I got in at midnight and got to the rink the next day. There were two days left in the season and they were on the playoff bubble. I was really nervous because you do not want to step on anybody's toes. There are a lot of veterans on the team and you do not want to be that kid who comes in and irritates anyone. But they were a great group of guys and made me feel welcome. I was really nervous that first practice, but once I got in the game I felt comfortable out there and had my legs. I felt confident and felt I played well both games. We got two wins and that was something that was a great experience for me.
GS: You also picked up your first point as a professional, which was an assist. What can you tell us about that?
Hansen played in two games for the Springfield Falcons and recorded one assist after Minnesota's season ended.
JH: We were forechecking like crazy. The puck came out to Boone Jenner and he hit me and then I ended up sliding one through and he put it top shelf. It was a nice way to finish the two games there, with an assist and we were +2 that night. That was huge for me to know I can play at that level.
GS: You came back to campus after playing those two games and were back in class the next week. That had to be a little weird, right?
JH: It was weird because I went there Wednesday and played two games and was back home on Sunday night. It was weird being away from the guys for four days or whatever it was and they were all texting me. I enjoyed the experience in Springfield, but coming back and doing homework and being back in class on Tuesday was pretty weird. In Springfield, you are there to play hockey. You wake up, get some breakfast and then go to practice. Your main focus is hockey, so to come back after that and be in class again was a little weird.
GS: You will graduate this month, so it has been a pretty wild couple of weeks for you.
JH: Playing here four years and being able to get my degree is something my parents and I have always wanted. My dad has said that he cannot believe it is happening, but it is going to be amazing. If hockey does not work out, it is great to know that I will have my degree to fall back on.
GS: What are the plans for this summer?
JH: I am going to be training hard with Cal Dietz this summer. He will write a program for me and I will be in the weight room Monday through Friday. I plan on working out every day and skating every day, but I will make sure to get in a lot of golf as well.