by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
GRAND FORKS, N.D. Jordan Parise has spent much of his time involved with collegiate hockey proving others wrong.
After bouncing around three different junior leagues, while playing for four different teams, Parise received little fanfare on the recruiting trail. Only two schools, North Dakota and Massachusetts-Amherst, offered the goaltender a scholarship.
Many Sioux fans didn't exactly embrace Parise with open arms when he stepped onto campus in the fall of 2003. There were whispers floating around that the only reason he received a scholarship was because his younger brother, Zach, was a star forward at UND.
A UND student went as far as creating a group called "Jordan Parise Will Never Ever Ever Be His Brother" on facebook.com, an online directory that connects college and high school students. One student added to the group's discussion, "Haven't you guys ever been to a hockey game last year, Parise was terrible besides a few good games, the only reason why we got so far was because of our offense and decent defense not because of our goalie."
The college programs that passed on him and Sioux fans that doubted him have only helped Parise.
"Once I put everything in perspective that was kind of my motivation," Parise said. "Not just with hockey, but just trying to live my life in a way where I can say to myself at the end of the road I proved you wrong.
"I don't want to go back in time and say anything to those people, but I just want to silently go about my way. It's more of saying to myself, if he doesn't believe in me I just have to believe in myself that much more and work that much harder, go the extra mile."
It is that drive and determination that has helped Parise become one of the greatest goaltenders in UND history. He is the school's career leader in save percentage (.919) and goals against average (2.09).
And his numbers become even more impressive during the postseason. Parise's 6-2 NCAA tournament record makes him the active wins leader among Division I goalies in the nation. To go along with that, he has a 1.51 GAA and .939 save percentage.
Those gaudy postseason numbers have earned Parise a lot of confidence among his teammates. Sioux forward Drew Stafford said if he could pick one goalie in the nation to start a big game, like Thursday's Frozen Four semifinal against Boston College, "I'd take Jordie in a second."
Maybe the biggest improvement in Parise's game this season has taken in the locker room. He has emerged as a leader on a team with two seniors, including just one that regularly cracks the lineup, and 13 freshmen on its roster.
Parise isn't the most vocal guy in the Sioux locker room. But according to UND head coach Dave Hakstol, he has found his own way to step up as a leader on such a young team.
"It is something he has developed into over the past three years," Hakstol said. "The good ones develop their own style and Jordan has done that."
The style that Hakstol referred to is one of leading by example.
"He pretty much keeps to himself in the locker room, but if something needs to be said he'll say it," Stafford said. "He's pretty much the backbone of our team."
Parise is known as having one of the best work ethics on the team, and is something that has rubbed off on his teammates this season. He thinks it would be foolish if Sioux players did not take advantage of the excellent training facilities Ralph Engelstad Arena has to offer.
"We have all the ice that you can imagine," Parise said. "We have one of the nicest weight rooms and nicest facilities anywhere in the country. I think that in the past people haven't taken full advantage of that, and I'm just trying to show guys here that if they do take advantage of that good things can happen."
And good things have happened. A little less than seven ago it looked uncertain to whether or not UND would even qualify for the NCAA tournament. Since then the Sioux have become perhaps the hottest team in the nation, winning 11 of their last 13 games, and are riding a six-game winning streak heading into the Frozen Four.
One reason for UND's position on the bubble in early February was regularly playing 10 freshmen. The Sioux first-year players have made all the adjustments necessary, and playing in front of a goalie the quality of Parise has had something to do with that.
"Mistakes happen when you're such a young defenseman in such a young league," UND freshman defenseman Taylor Chorney said. "Having a guy like Jordan back there gives you confidence that if you mess up he's going to be there to stop it. If you are afraid to make mistakes you aren't going to play well, so it gives you a chance to be the player you can be."
As the season has progressed the freshmen mistakes have become less and less, and is a big reason why UND is one of four teams still playing hockey. As a rarity, however, Parise is not the hottest goal heading into a big game. Neither Boston College's Cory Schneider nor Wisconsin's Brian Elliott in two games at their respective regionals two weekends ago, while Parise allowed three at the West Regional.
"It's motivation to me to try and elevate my game to where they are at," Parise said.
That should be noted with the Sioux two games away from winning a national championship, because Parise has shown in the past that he can make a little motivation go a long way.