Justin Parizek likes his Wings hot, and they are sizzling.
After enduring an 18-game losing streak earlier this season, team captain Justin Parizek and his Aberdeen Wings have settled in nicely under Travis Winter, the team’s third coach this season. The Wings have won six of their last 10 games, beating some of the best playoff-bound teams in the North American Hockey League.
Parizek quickly gives the assist to his coach and teammates for turning things around for the third-year franchise with a loyal fan base that remained strong even when the Wings struggled.
“Travis has been unbelievable,” said the 20-year-old Parizek, who will age-out of the junior hockey league for ages 16 to 20 after this season. “He is just a great coach who has changed a lot of things for the better.
“We are a lot more organized. We are competing harder, and the team energy is just different,” Parizek said. “Everyone is up on their feet on every good play we make. When we were losing, it just seemed everyone was down and we couldn’t break out of it. Being the team captain and the leader, I felt like I wasn’t doing my job right. We went through a lot of players, but we are finally locked down. We have turned things around, and now that we are beating the top teams in the division, it feels great.”
It is common for teams that aren’t going to make the playoffs to trade their oldest and best players to playoff teams. Parizek, who has drawn the interest of a number of Division I college hockey teams, didn’t want to go that route even though the Wings’ playoff hopes have almost evaporated.
“I couldn’t leave all this behind,” Parizek said. “I wanted to finish my junior hockey career in Aberdeen. I love these guys and playing for Coach Winter. We are like a family. We have guys from all around the U.S., Austria and Sweden. We hang out together, compete together and try to make each other better hockey players every day. It is a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but it is a blast. I love playing junior hockey with these guys, and I love playing in Aberdeen.”
Parizek also loves his host family and the Aberdeen fans.
“We have the best fans here, and we play to a sold-out arena every night we have a home game. It is really fun to play hockey in this kind of atmosphere, and I feel very fortunate to have played here the last year and a half.”
Parizek’s effort has made an impression on his coach.
“Justin has brought a consistent work ethic every day in practice and in games,” Winter said. “That has been the biggest reason he is having the success he is having. He has the ability to make a difference in a game with his skills and hockey sense. He has experience in this league, but first and foremost, it is his work ethic that is leading the way.”
Winter said Parizek has a bright future in hockey.
“Justin is going to be a really good college player. The sky is the limit for him.”
Parizek said he is looking forward to a college hockey career. But he will miss Aberdeen.
“It is going to be very special to play here next year,” Parizek said. “We will have the new locker rooms and weight room with the addition to the arena plus more seats. There is going to be more staff, and we have a lot of talented players returning. I expect Aberdeen to be one of the top teams in the league next year. It is exciting where this team is headed.”
Meet Justin Parizek
Age: 20-year-old hockey player for the Aberdeen Wings of the North American Hockey League. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward is the team captain and leading scorer (46 points with 17 goals and 29 assists) this season. He has been with the Wings for 1-1/2 years.
Future: Plans to play college hockey next season.
Recent honor: Runner-up for NAHL Forward of the Month award for February.
Hometown: Hockey-crazed Lakeville, Minn.
Family: Parents, Scott and Stacey Parizek; sister, McKenzie (19).
Hockey influence: Parizek has been playing hockey since he could walk. His uncle, former Apple Valley and Iowa State club standout Jason Vega, got him started.
Hockey background: Lakeville South High School; a full season of Midget hockey in Kansas City for Russell Stover. Last season, played about 20 games for Vancouver in the British Columbia Hockey League before coming to the Wings for the last half of the season.
His host family: Larry “Chop” and Sue Cook and their children, Austin (20) and Tara (22).
Busy week for Wings: At Brookings at 7 p.m. Thursday and then home at the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen at 7:15 p.m. against Minot Friday and Brookings Saturday. The Wings have 10 games left in the regular season.