Jeff True has watched Maggie Hanzel play since she was young.
He watched her develop into a shut-down defenseman as a freshman for Rochester Lourdes two years ago.
True saw Hanzel become one of the best two-way defensemen in Section 1 and all of Class A last season, her sophomore year.
And this season?
Well, Hanzel has taken yet another step as a junior.
“The skill set has always been there, it’s always been the same,” True, the Rochester Lourdes girls hockey coach, said. “It’s her hockey IQ that makes her so special. It’s the way she sees the game, feels the game, the way she makes everyone around her better.”
Hanzel has made herself into the best. Or, at the very least, one of the best high school defensemen in Minnesota.
The Boston University commit has added accuracy to her heavy shot. She’s added muscle. And she’s added even more hockey smarts.
Hanzel also leads all defensemen in Minnesota in scoring, with 35 points.
“Going into this season, I came in with a different attitude after playing with a lot of really skilled players over the summer and watching how they played their position as a defenseman,” said Hanzel, who has 12 goals and 23 assists through 19 games for the No. 9-ranked Eagles.
“I’ve been trying to incorporate more offense into my game, but still be a shut-down ‘D’ first. I’ll pick my times when I can jump up into the play.”
More than half of Hanzel’s points this season have come on the power play, where she runs the point. Her 12 power-play assists are third in the state among all players and her six power-play goals are sixth among all players.
Hanzel was quick to credit her high-scoring teammates, including the team’s leading scorer Emma Schmitz (16-24--40) and senior center Sarah Dravis (20-16--36).
“Basically my role is to read what the other team is doing on their penalty kill and find the open person,” Hanzel said. “Fortunately we have a lot of skilled players, so I’m able to … pretty much any decision I make is the right one because I’m passing it to a great player. I just read whoever is open and usually it generates a goal.”
And those goals usually start with Hanzel, whose father Matt scored 50 goals and had 101 career points at Notre Dame from 1985-89.
Maggie Hanzel has followed in her dad's skates. She's had a hand in 40 percent of Lourdes’ goals this season.
“She has such a strong shot and it’s more accurate now than it’s ever been,” True said. “There aren’t too many defensemen who can run the power play the way she does, and when it’s going and clicking well, she’s benefited from that.
“It’s a testament to her teammates, but Maggie also just makes so many players better. The game just comes so easy to her.”
Hanzel is admittedly a hockey-aholic. She lives and breathes the game. If she’s not playing or practicing, odds are she’s watching a game on TV or online.
After helping Lourdes earn its first-ever state tournament berth last winter, she spent her entire offseason playing with and against some of the best players in the state and the country.
In addition to summer workouts with her Lourdes teammates, Hanzel played in the High School Elite League last fall, and she traveled to Vermont with the Minnesota Jr. Whitecaps U19 team to compete in the North American Hockey Academy’s international tournament over Labor Day weekend. The U19 Whitecaps -- a team assembled by former Minnesota Ms. Hockey winner and current Minnesota Whitecaps forward Winny Brodt Brown -- won the tournament that included teams from Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto, Boston and Chicago.
“I was able to play with the best players from Minnesota against some of the best players in North America,” Hanzel said. “It was a really cool experience to play with such skilled players.”
Once late October came, Hanzel’s focus turned completely back to the high school season and doing her part to help the Eagles win a second straight section title.
“It doesn’t always show on our record, but we play against a lot of great teams with the best players in the state and that’s what’s going to prepare us for playoffs and hopefully the state tournament,” Hanzel said. “The tough parts of a season are what makes a team strong. If we had a lighter schedule, we wouldn’t be as prepared to take on the tougher teams when February gets here.”