Joining a new team in the middle of the season, Mike Parnell was unsure what lie ahead, but his time in an Aberdeen Wings uniform has left any concerns far behind.
The 5-foot-9 defenseman from Roseville, Minn., is starting his second season with the Wings, having come over via trade with Springfield (Ill.), where he played for two seasons. Parnell had heard about the Wings before coming to Aberdeen.
“I knew a little bit about them,” Parnell said. “Just out of high school, (Coach) Pete (Sauer) offered me a tender to come play here.”
Parnell said the experience of playing in front of large crowds at the Odde Ice Center has been memorable.
“When I first got traded, and met the team in Austin (Minn.), I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the fans or the team,” Parnell said. “I was pleasantly surprised. It’s unbelievable to play in front of that many people. They are crazy and love the Wings. I couldn’t be happier with how they support us.”
Parnell serves as a team captain for the Wings, and with that role comes various responsibilities. Sauer said Parnell has done a great job in that capacity.
“He has been one of the finest captains I’ve had in my career. He’s easy to work with and gets things done,” Sauer said. “He is very organized and I have a lot of trust in Mike. He is very respected by the team and by myself.”
Parnell, 20, switched between forward and defenseman early in his career, but has played defenseman since coming to Junior Hockey. As with being a captain, Parnell has certain duties to fulfill on the ice as well.
“The number one thing is to not let the other team score,” Parnell said. “Play hard and block shots, and anything that you can do to help the goalie, and try to get the puck to the forwards.”
Parnell is no stranger to hard work, as he constantly strives to improve his game.
“I have worked on improving my game defensively and trying to cut down the amount of times I’ve been scored on,” Parnell said. “The coaches have helped me out tremendously.”
Working to improve is part of what makes Parnell a solid player, Sauer noted.
“We have been very happy with him,” Sauer said. “He has been incredibly coachable and always wants to know what he can do to make himself better.”
Having a cousin get into the sport helped open the door for Parnell as well.
“I have a cousin who is my age, his parents signed him up for hockey,” Parnell said. “I found out he was signed up, I made my parents sign me up. I enjoyed it so much, I just continued to play it over the years.”
Parnell played prep hockey at Totino Grace High School in Fridley, Minn., starting for the varsity for three years. The experience was a valuable stepping stone on the way to the NAHL.
“They have had hockey there for a long time and have managed to win a lot of games, even a state championship,” Parnell said. “It was an honor to be part of that program.”
Along with playing in Aberdeen, Parnell has a couple road venues that he enjoys as well.
“I enjoyed playing at Bismarck last year, they are a huge rival. Playing at that rink is a lot of fun,” Parnell said. “And at Brookings, they had a lot of fans and were pretty energetic. That makes for a good atmosphere.”
Following two losses at Austin, Minn., over the weekend, the Wings have a record of 2-6 on the young season. Parnell feels as the season progresses, hard work will enable the squad to get on the right track.