Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Partacz not quite ready to leave Marquette

By Mark Evans/Marquette Rangers

Marquette Rangers forward Dustin Partacz says it hasn’t really hit him yet that his time playing junior hockey is coming to a close.

However, the Naperville, Ill., native says that if he had it to do all over again, there are very few things he would change about his time in the Upper Peninsula.

“My time here has gone by unbelievably fast,” Partacz said before his team faced the Motor City Machine this past weekend. “I can’t believe three years came and went this quick, and that it’s time to start looking at the next chapter in my life, but I’ve loved my time in Marquette and with the guys here on the team.”

Partacz is the last remaining member of the original Rangers team which took the ice for the 2006-07 North American Hockey League season. Jim Gallagher, a University of Connecticut recruit, joined the Rangers that year right after the beginning of the season.

Gallagher will also be aged-out of juniors at the end of the season, along with forwards Aaron Pietila and Colin Smith, defenseman Reed Rushing and goaltender Mike Jarboe.

Partacz, who has played in 160 games over his Rangers career (second only to Gallagher’s 166), came to the Rangers after playing high school hockey in the Chicago area, as well as with the Midget AAA Chicago Chill. He said he left Chicago for Marquette not knowing exactly where it was he was going.

“I didn’t even know the U.P. existed before I made the team,” he joked. “I actually had to look it up on the map. I thought it was in Canada at first. But after being here for awhile, getting to know the people and the way of life up here I’m so glad I made Marquette my home for the past three seasons. The people I’ve met here have really helped me grow and become a better person and become who I am today.

“I’m really grateful for the friendships I’ve made both in and out of the locker room during my time here”

Partacz said that the biggest thing to get used to, was the rural setting in Marquette compared to the hustle and bustle of the big city.

“Total culture shock," exclaimed Partacz. "When you grow up in a huge city like Chicago, you never see the same people from day to day. But here you see the same people every day which took some getting used to. It was odd at first with all these trees, too, but I’ve learned to love the outdoors by being here and I think I’ll actually miss the snow.”

Unlike many of his Rangers teammates, Partacz says the next step in his life probably won’t involve organized hockey.

“I had a few offers, but I want to go into radiology, so I’m looking for a school that offers that program; that’s what matters to me most right now," Partacz said. "I could go somewhere and just play hockey, but that wouldn’t be right. As I look at the rest of my life and my education, I want to do what’s going to take me the farthest and that’s getting my degree.”

With his Rangers career winding down, and his team in the midst of a playoff run, Partacz was quick to acknowledge the people in the area who have adopted the team over the years.

“The fans have been great,” he said. “They’ve made playing here a lot of fun and I can’t thank them for all they’ve done for us over the years. I think I’ll be pretty emotional after this Saturday. Hopefully, we’ll be in the playoffs so I’ll have another chance to wear the uniform before I go home.”

Marquette concludes the regular season with two games this Friday and Saturday against the Traverse City North Stars at Lakeview Arena.

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

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