Sophomore Jake Parenteau took the road less traveled to Mariucci Arena.
The Gophers defenseman played high school hockey for Chisago Lakes -- hardly a prep power. Next he accepted the only offer he had, from the St. Paul Lakers of the MNJHL.
After one season of Tier III Junior A hockey, he spent two seasons in Wasilla -- famous for being Sarah Palin's hometown, less well-known for harboring the Alaska Avalanche of the North American Hockey League.
The Gophers spotted him in the NAHL.
"We liked [Jake's] ability to skate," Gophers coach Don Lucia said, "[and] we liked the fact that he was one of those kids that paid his dues."
Parenteauplayed only eight games as a Gophers freshman. But this has been his breakthrough season. Parenteau is one of the Gophers' six regulars on the blue line, pairing with Nate Schmidt.
"[Jake] is a smart, solid, fundamentally sound defenseman who moves the puck quick," Schmidt said. "And he just doesn't make mistakes."
Parenteau has given up the fewest goals of any Gophers defensemen -- six or seven, according to his coaches.
"His talent was obvious, but [Jake] had never played at a high level," then-Avalanche coach Dave Boitz said when the Gophers offered Parenteau a partial scholarship. "He absolutely worked his way, on and off the ice, into being one of the best players in the league."
In his last season with the Avalanche, Parenteau tied for the NAHL lead in points by a defenseman with 47. He has two assists in 23 games this season.
"I told him at the beginning of the year, the only stat I cared about is your plus/minus," Lucia said. "I don't care if you get a point all year long."
The 5-11, 196-pound Parenteau is a plus-7 player on the nation's fourth-ranked defense, which is holding opponents to 2.07 goals per game.
St. Cloud State, this week's opponent, is about an hour from his home in tiny Franconia, Minn. The Huskies also recruited Parenteau and were his second choice.
"My heart was definitely here at the U because my dad played here along with my uncle," Jake Parenteau said. Tom Parenteau, his father, played for the Gophers from 1981-85, and Mike Anderson, one of his uncles, from 1982-86.
"[My father] was pretty jacked for me to come here," Jake Parenteau said. "He knows it has been my dream since I was 2 years old."
Mike Anderson's daughter, Stephanie, is a freshman forward on the Gophers women's hockey team.
A recent family tragedy brought Jake Parenteau and Stephanie Anderson together to mourn this past week. Nicole Anderson, 24, Stephanie's sister, died Jan 16 of a blood clot in her lung.
There was a moment of silence for her before the Gophers men's game against Colorado College last Friday at Mariucci. Jake Parenteau wore a decal on his helmet with the initials NA as did Stephanie Anderson and her teammates against Bemidji State at Ridder Arena.
The funeral was Tuesday.
"It is surreal; it is still a bad dream to me," Parenteau said.
Hockey helps him deal with the pain a little.
"As long as I can remember, I have been skating and playing hockey," Parenteau said.
His skating brought him home even if was by the long way.