Thursday, April 19, 2007

North Stars defender off to WSU this fall

Like father, like son.

Traverse City North Stars defenseman Phil Partyka is following in the footsteps of his dad, heading to Wayne State to play hockey for the Warriors next season. Partyka tallied just four assists over 57 contests for Traverse City in 2006-07, but his rock-solid consistency and cerebral presence attracted Division I scouts from around the Midwest.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Partyka, a Washington native. “It’s pretty much everyone’s goal in juniors to get to college, so in that sense it’s pretty satisfying.”

The elder Partyka played baseball at the midtown Detroit university in the 1970s when the school’s nickname was still ‘Tartars.'

“There’s kind of a neat symmetry to it,” said Phil Partyka, who plans to major in accounting.

Wayne State is a member of College Hockey America, a Division I conference featuring schools from Niagara to Alabama. The campus is home to more than 33,000 students and boasts several graduate programs including a law school and medical campus. The Warriors, 12-21-2 last season, play their home games at the Michigan State Fairgrounds on the city’s north side.

“Phil was just as steady as you could ask for this year,” said Stars head coach Scott Gardiner. “He was a top-2 defenseman in his consistency all season long. He wasn’t a flashy player, but he was right there every night.”

At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Partyka’s size and reach are huge assets, but as Gardiner points out, his academic orientation made Partyka an easy sell to collegiate scouts.

“He’s very committed to the academics,” Gardiner said. “He’s quiet compared to most guys in the locker room, but you get to know him just a little bit and you find out that he’s a smart, funny guy. He’s a great kid and everyone here is very happy for him to get the chance to play on.”

Partyka says that his seasons with Bay State (2005-06) and Traverse City gave him a look at varied facets of the game that should prepare him for the rigors of Division I college hockey.

“At Bay State, the EJ (eastern Junior Hockey League) it was more of a finesse game,” the 21-year old explained. “And then to come here with a more physical style that the North American league affords, I got to be around two very different styles. Hopefully, I can take a little bit of what I learned at each stop to the next level.”

With Partyka at WSU, the North Stars will have at least six alums playing Division I college hockey next season, and as many as 12 at NCAA and ACHA programs overall. Patrick Nagorsen and Travis Paeth are set to play for Western Michigan in the fall, Steven Oleksy will be a junior at Lake Superior State, Danny Dries has committed to New Hampshire and Eric Elmblad will begin his sophomore campaign at Michigan.

Kory Kaunisto could take his game to Northern Michigan for 2007-08, but is leaning toward returning to the North Stars for another year of juniors. Nick Von Bokern and Mike Glaesmer have also taken visits to and from numerous schools, with signings imminent for both, according to Gardiner.

“With those guys and the guys we have at Division III schools and ACHA schools, it’s a pretty darn good start for a two-year old franchise,” he remarked.

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