Panzarella’s UND career has had ups and downs
GRAND FORKS - Nothing has ever been glamorous for Andrew Panzarella and his hockey career. He started by playing in Sacramento, Calif., where his home arena had just a half sheet of ice and holes in the roof. Parents had to bring umbrellas to the...
GRAND FORKS – Nothing has ever been glamorous for Andrew Panzarella and his hockey career.
He started by playing in Sacramento, Calif., where his home arena had just a half sheet of ice and holes in the roof. Parents had to bring umbrellas to the games and the ice would frequently be covered in puddles.
Later on, Panzarella spent four years playing junior hockey, waiting for NCAA programs to give him a shot.
When he finally got to UND, he found out that simply getting in the lineup was a difficult task. Panzarella played just seven games his sophomore season and has been in the lineup just four times as a senior. He has, more often than not, been the odd-man out on defense because of the program’s deep defensive corps.
“I’ve obviously had a lot of ups and downs, on and off the ice,” Panzarella said. “I really think it has helped me become a man and mature.
“It’s definitely difficult. It hurt me more when I was younger, because I wasn’t used to it. You need to realize that everyone that comes here is a great player and it’s not going to be easy. You have to do the little things right all the time and I wasn’t doing it. I think it helped in the long run to focus on what I can control and don’t worry about other stuff.”
Panzarella may play this weekend when UND hosts Niagara in its final nonconference series of the regular season (7:37 p.m. today 7:07 p.m. Saturday). There’s also a chance that he might not.
That’s been the norm for his career.
He has gone through several stretches in the past four years of not playing for more than a month. He was a scratch for the first eight games of his senior season.
But during the time off, teammates and coaches say that Panzarella’s preparation never changes. He frequently works with assistant coach Dane Jackson during off days to improve his skillset.
“I don’t think everyone could do what Panz has done,” classmate Brendan O’Donnell said.
“Panz is a special player and a special person,” senior Mark MacMillan said. “He’s had a tough role his four years here. He’s an unbelievable team guy.”
UND coach Dave Hakstol said: “It’s not all purely results-based, but when Andrew has gone into the lineup for us, our team has been successful. That tells me that Andrew has been prepared and he’s mature enough to take care of his routine and do the work that you need to do when you’re out of the lineup so you can be ready to come in and help our team win.”
Panzarella said he considered going to Nebraska- Omaha, but knew that UND was the spot for him after his official visit. Panzarella canceled his last visit and committed to North Dakota.
He was immediately thrust into a key role as a freshman for a team that had so many injuries that it couldn’t fill out a full roster.
Panzarella played 40 games that season, but when UND restocked the cupboard the next season, Panzarella frequently was a scratch. He only played seven games that season.
A year ago, UND asked Panzarella to switch positions to forward for the stretch run. He ended up being a key piece to a team that made a surprising run to the NCAA Frozen Four.
“Panz has done a phenomenal job,” O’Donnell said. “I don’t think he’s gotten the credit he deserves. Going from defense to forward. . . playing good in a game but being out the next. . . that’s not easy to do. But every time he comes in, he plays well and he’s a factor and helps us win. I can’t give him enough credit.”
Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald