The road to the 2001 Frozen Four for Jeff Panzer went through Worcester, Mass.
Now the former North Dakota star’s road to the NHL goes through the same place.
Panzer, the WCHA player of the year and Hobey Baker Award runner-up, signed a two-year contract on Monday with the St. Louis Blues, who assigned him to the Worcester IceCats of the American Hockey League.
Panzer, who said he hasn’t skated with a team since the Sioux lost the national championship game to Boston College on April 7, could be on the ice for Game 3 of Worcester’s second-round AHL playoff series against Providence on Tuesday.
There, he could be playing against former teammate Lee Goren, who skates for Providence.
“[St. Louis] is a great organization, dedicated to winning,” Panzer told Virg Foss of the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. “It’s the kind of place I’d like to go.”
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Grand Forks native scored 228 points in four collegiate seasons.
But his senior season was the one he’ll be remembered for. He led the nation with 81 points on 26 goals and 55 assists. He centered one of the best lines in the country, alongside Ryan Bayda and Bryan Lundbohm.
At the NCAA East Regional in Worcester, he assisted on all four goals — two by Bayda and two by Lundbohm — in a 4-1 victory over Colorado College that sent the Sioux to the Frozen Four.
He finished tied for second with BC’s Brian Gionta in the Hobey Baker voting, behind winner Ryan Miller of Michigan State.
In Worcester, he’ll be coached by Don Granato, a former Wisconsin player and a coach in the United States Hockey League when Panzer was a junior player.
He won’t be the only former WCHA player on the IceCats’ roster. Forwards Mike Peluso (Minnesota-Duluth), Darren Clark (CC) and Mark Rycroft (Denver), and defenseman Dan Trebil (Minnesota) all play for Worcester, which is down 2-0 in the series with Providence.