‘Living the dream’

In Pat Morelli’s 21 years of coaching hockey, he crossed paths with several dreamers.

For boys and girls lacing up skates in the Peace Garden State, playing for the University of North Dakota is the pinnacle. But few accomplish that goal.

A couple of attributes set Allison Parizek apart from these dreamers. First, she was talented enough to play on the MHS varsity as a seventh-grader – which is when she first shared her college aspirations with Morelli, then the Majettes head coach. Second, she had the drive to make it happen.

“With her, for whatever reason, you knew she wasn’t just saying it,” Morelli said. “She believed it. From day one, playing for our team as a seventh-grader, she said ‘I’m playing for the Sioux.’ She said it and she just believed it.”

Parizek has appeared in all but two games for UND the last four seasons. Her freshman year, the team went 8-22-4. This season, UND (26-11-1) received an at-large bid into the NCAA quarterfinals and plays top-ranked Minnesota at 4 p.m. today.

It’s been a steady four-year career for a player who was originally told she wasn’t good enough to suit up for the state school.

Sixth-year UND coach Brian Idalski was in the beginning of his stint with the program when he met with Parizek. Morelli overheard the gist of the conversation with his star player, who finished third in the state in scoring her senior season and was a Ms. Hockey finalist.

“He said, ‘I think you can play Division I hockey, but right now we need more talent,’ ” Morelli said. “For her to hear that and still come through and make that team, she always had our respect, but that earned her even more.”

Said Parizek: “I wasn’t ready to give up on that dream yet. I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to play for the college that I always dreamed of. Just like (when) you’re a little kid, you always dream of something and mine was to play at the University of North Dakota.”

After graduating from MHS, Parizek attended Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minn., and played for a now-defunct traveling team called the Minnesota Crunch. While attending school part-time – which didn’t take away any of her Division I eligibility – Parizek and the Crunch took trips to Canada and New York and played against talented Minnesota select teams.

The following season, Parizek tried out for the UND team and made it. Her focus was so singular on making the team that she didn’t know how to react once she’d accomplished the task.

“Once I got here, it was like, ‘Oh, shoot. What should I major in? Now that I’m on the team, I might as well figure out what my majors are gonna be,’ ” Parizek said. “Hockey was always my goal and it really got me to where I am and I’m thankful for that.”

Despite what the previous comment may suggest, academics have been far from an afterthought during Parizek’s time in Grand Forks. She’s on pace to graduate in May with majors in psychology and exercise science and wellness, and has been named a Western Collegiate Hockey Association scholar-athlete the past two seasons.

Parizek plans to pursue personal training and possibly attend graduate school for kinesiology.

On the ice, the Minot native earned Idalski’s trust as a forward he can plug into any line based on matchups. Idalski said Parizek’s largest improvement is in her ability to process the fast-paced Division-I game.

“She’s always trained and put in the time and she’s always been a good skater,” Idalski said. “The biggest difference is really her ability to think at the speed of the game to where she’s handling the puck and making plays.”

Parizek, who once set a single-game North Dakota high school scoring record with eight goals and two assists, acknowledges she’s a role player at the college level.

“I’m a speed kid, I’m an energy booster,” she said. “My job is to forecheck and to help bring momentum to the game. I’m not a very skilled kid, but I’ll bring energy to the game.”

Parizek has tallied 37 points in her UND career (14 goals, 23 assists), and said her lone overtime goal is her favorite. Her family was in attendance when she netted the game-winner in a 4-3 win against Bemidji State (Minn.) in Grand Forks on Feb. 8.

Parizek’s college career could come to an end this evening. Minnesota (38-0) is the defending national champion and has already defeated UND five times this season.

But even as Parizek appears for her 144th game in a North Dakota uniform, a part of her remains the aspiring young athlete who’s thrilled to be playing for her home-state school.

“Every day I’m at the rink, I still get butterflies,” she said. “I’m still living the dream. This weekend is gonna be the highlight of my career.”