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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published January 25 2011

Men's hockey: Panzarella commits to Sioux

GRAND FORKS – Andrew Panzarella’s numbers don’t stand out.

That is, if you don’t look at penalty minutes.

Panzarella, a defenseman who committed to UND late last week, has made a name for himself in the United States Hockey League as a tough, character player. He will bring that game to Grand Forks beginning next fall.

“He plays simple and hard,” Waterloo Blackhawks coach P.K. O’Handley said. “I don’t think he’s going to wow you in any way. He makes the first pass, he defends pretty well, he competes and he has a mean streak as long as the day.

“I think the fans in North Dakota will appreciate how hard he plays.”

Panzarella, a 6-foot-2, 191-pound stay-at-home blue liner, is from Columbia, Md., but has spent the last four years in the USHL.

His totals: eight goals, 28 assists, 615 penalty minutes.

“He’s got the ability to provide offense, but that’s not his game,” O’Handley said. “He’s the type of guy you want on your team.”

Panzarella, a 20-year-old who will be 21 at the start of his freshman year, also is the captain of his Waterloo team. He previously had stints with Des Moines and Tri-City.

“He’s a very good leader, a very humble guy,” O’Handley said. “There aren’t a lot of guys I’ve had over the years that have a way about them that guys just follow.”

O’Handley had one more piece of good news.

“I told the coaches at North Dakota that I believe his best hockey is going to be when he’s 22, 23, 24 years old,” O’Handley said.

Panzarella should join the mix for playing time right away. UND will lose three senior defensemen in captain Chay Genoway and alternate captains Jake Marto and Derrick LaPoint.

The Sioux will bring in Indiana Ice defenseman Nick Mattson, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Chicago Blackhawks, and Panzarella.

Other defensemen are expected to be Ben Blood, Andrew MacWilliam, Joe Gleason, Derek Forbort, Dillon Simpson and Ryan Hill.

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald