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UConn men’s hockey lands transfer goaltender; ‘22 defenseman

The Huskies stay hot on the recruiting trail.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s hockey added a pair of big commitments this week. Former Union goaltender Darion Hanson will transfer to the Huskies for his final year of eligibility while defenseman Owen Simpson announced his commitment to the program, a source told The UConn Blog. He’s expected to come to Storrs as part of the team’s 2022 class.

The Daily Gazette first reported Hanson’s commitment.

Hanson should compete to be UConn’s starting goaltender next season with freshman Logan Terness. Incumbent netminder Tomas Vomacka is expected to sign a pro contract with the Nashville Predators, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

“I think UConn is a good team in Hockey East, which obviously is a great conference,” Hanson told The Daily Gazette. “It’s an opportunity to come in and play, they have my program in their master’s departments, scholarship money is where it needed to be … it just all made way too much sense.”

Listed at 6-foot-3, Hanson played in 78 career games at Union, where allowed 2.55 goals against average while saving .913 percent of shots. Last season, he faced the second-most shots in the nation — behind only Jeremy Swayman at Maine — and only allowed 2.79 goals per game (.910 save percentage) despite the Dutchmen going 8-25-4 on the year.

Union canceled its season due to the pandemic and Hanson returned home to Minnesota during the fall semester. He’ll return to campus for his final semester, where he’ll have an opportunity to practice and work out with his soon-to-be former team.

UConn doesn’t often go after transfers, bringing in just three (Evan Richardson, Boston College; Tanner Creel, Army; Brian Morgan, Maine) under Mike Cavanaugh. However, Hanson proved to be too good to pass up. Along with Terness and current sophomores Ryan Keane and Matt Pasquale, the Huskies will be well-stocked at the most important position on the ice.

Simpson, meanwhile, is a 6-foot-4 defenseman with a left-handed shot out of Toronto. Born in 2002, he previous committed to Harvard back in 2019. Simpson will be eligible for the NHL Draft in 2021 and is expected to be a mid-round selection.

He’s expected to come to Storrs as part of UConn’s 2022 class, but that timeline could be moved up a year if the Huskies unexpectedly lose a defensemen — either to the pros or the transfer portal.

A program source described Simpson as a smooth-skating defenseman with a good first pass that can play on a power play. The coaching staff expects him to be a top-four defenseman as a freshman. Though most outlets list Simpson at 6-foot-2, he recently grew two inches. He weighs just 180 pounds, though, so he’ll need to add some muscle to hold up at the college level.

Last year with the Whitby Fury in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, Simpson recorded 17 points (one goal, 16 assists) in 45 regular season games.

He is UConn’s fourth 2022 commitment, joining forwards Ignat Belov, Sean Donaldson and Oliver Flynn.

Here’s a list of UConn’s future commitments. Those in italics have officially signed a letter of intent.

2021: Forwards Chase Bradley, Mark D’Agostino, Nate Hanley, Tabor Heaslip, Brandon Santa Juana; defenseman Jack Pascucci; goaltender Logan Terness

2022: Forwards Ignat Belov, Sean Donaldson, Oliver Flynn

2023: Forward Mike Murtagh

Unclassified: Forward Drew Elser