Alexandria native Parker Revering has taken the long road to playing Division I hockey, but he did not have to wait long to experience the biggest thrill of his athletic career once he got there.
Revering is a freshman defenseman for American International College, a private school in Springfield, Mass. with an enrollment of 1,372 students. The Yellow Jackets play Division II in every other sport but hockey, and even in hockey Revering admits that not many people knew about them. That's changed dramatically in the last week after AIC pulled off what some are calling the greatest upset in college hockey history by beating No. 1-ranked St. Cloud State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on March 29.
"It was unbelievable," Revering said. "I played three sports pretty much my whole life, and it's hands down the greatest experience I've ever been a part of."
Not many people gave AIC a chance in the opening round of the Western Regional in Fargo, N.D. that night, but Revering said he and his teammates never doubted themselves.
This is a close group. A team that had already wrapped up the first-ever NCAA Tournament berth in program history after winning the Atlantic Hockey Conference Tournament.
The Huskies (30-6-3) came in as the dominant team in college hockey almost all season, but it was the Yellow Jackets (23-17-1) who never trailed in the game. Joel Kocur and Brennan Kapcheck scored in the first and second period, respectively, before Easton Brodzinski scored SCSU's only goal on the power play at 9:27 of the third. The Huskies never got the equalizer as the final minutes ticked off the clock and the reality of the situation set in for AIC.
"The atmosphere in the building, that probably made the experience 10 times better," Revering said of an announced crowd of 4,220 people. "The building was electric the last five minutes or so. They kind of had the puck in our zone too, so you couldn't really tell what was going on. Those last two minutes, I think the whole building was on their feet. I know I was shaking. It was an unbelievable experience."
Revering is one of just two Minnesota-born players on the Yellow Jackets' roster, so he knows as well as anybody on the team what hockey means in this state. He was a fan of the Huskies and the other dominant Minnesota college teams as he grew up.
"Going into it, there was a lot of talk about us playing the No. 1 team," Revering said. "I saw some people tweeting that it's a cake walk, a couple things like that, so when we did beat them it made it that much better."
Revering, who graduated in 2015 from AAHS, was a standout player in all three of his sports in high school-hockey, baseball and football. He did not get on the ice during the win over St. Cloud, or in the 3-0 loss to Denver in the regional finals that ended AIC's season on March 30.
Every athlete that makes it to a Division I roster was a standout on their team growing up. For Revering, he saw the upperclassmen on the blue line in front of him and knew he would have to welcome taking on a new role this winter.
"I've never been on a team with so much depth," he said. "Most people would think they have a couple good lines, but our depth is unbelievable here. I was the only freshman (defenseman), so it was tough to get in the lineup all year."
Revering played in 17 games. He blocked 17 shots and put 12 shots on net himself. He was proud of being a part of one of the best teams in AIC history.
"It's definitely a learning experience," he said. "Those first couple weeks, it kind of slaps you in the face. It's a different level, a step up from anything, but it's so much fun."
Revering knew nothing was going to come easy at this level, and he was used to that after playing three years of juniors in the NAHL for the Brookings Blizzard. He had an offer to play with Army after year two in Brookings before deciding to come back for a third season. Revering earned his role as a captain for the Blizzard that last season and put up 22 points (5 goals, 17 assists) as a physical defenseman who is content doing the dirty work for his team.
"I'm going to be honest with you, it's tough," Revering said of his road to Division I hockey. "I'm not a top-end guy. I'm not going to shine and put up huge numbers. For guys like that, it's a tough route. The experience and how you grow each year of juniors is super important. I think juniors definitely helped me big time to prepare."
Revering learned how to work for his opportunity, and that's exactly what his plan is with AIC going forward. He said he will focus a lot on his skill development in the offseason. At about 208 pounds now, he is also focused on getting in the weight room.
"For me in my hockey career, when I have problems, it's always been a mental issue," Revering said. "That's a big part of it. That confidence comes from being in the weight room and getting bigger and better."
The Yellow Jackets got back from the Western Regionals at about 2 p.m. on a Sunday. The next day, guys were already in the weight room preparing for next year.
The win over St. Cloud State put AIC on the map among college hockey followers. Revering and his teammates want to make sure they do everything they can to stay there.
"The coaching staff here is really professional and they teach professionalism," Revering said. "You're always thinking about what you're eating, doing a little extra stretching, all that extra stuff, but you want to now. You want to win games, and now that we know we can play on that big stage, it pushes you even more."