For Tom Parisi, there will likely never be a better feeling playing hockey than winning his and his school's first NCAA National Championship last April at the TD Garden.
The fashion in which Providence College won the sport's ultimate prize less than an hour away from campus made it that much more special. After faltering in the Hockey East Quarterfinals, the Friars needed help to just squeeze into the national tournament. Then, trailing 3-2 in the third period, Parisi's fluke goal from the neutral zone evened the score before Brandon Tanev scored the game-winner just over two minutes later.
"It was a surreal feeling," explained Parisi.
Now that last season is in the rear view mirror for the senior captain and the rest of his comrades, the Friars are set to take off on a new journey.
"Once it was over, you have to look forward. It's obviously something we appreciate. We want to get back there. We have a great team this year and we want to do it again," Parisi said.
It was a busy offseason for the Commack, NY native who spent the summer training and working on his game.
"I went back home to New York for May and June. I came back to school in July to take a summer class and train on campus with the guys. August, I went back home to relax a little and to work out," said Parisi, who also attended the Montreal Canadiens Prospect Camp as a non-roster invitee.
Parisi, who will wear the 'C' on his sweater alongside fellow senior Kevin Rooney, is excited for the challenge of leading a team that will now be more under the spotlight each and every night.
"It's a great honor personally," said Parisi of being named captain. "Every shift is a battle. Every game counts. You can't take shifts off. Instilling that every day matters," Parisi added, of what he will preach to his younger teammates.
Parisi has quietly become one of the more coveted free agent prospects in college hockey. He will be watched closely by several NHL teams this season. While he doesn't possess the flash of some defensemen in college hockey, he's the total package. He does everything well, makes very few mistakes and thinks the game extremely well.
"I want to have a strong season and help the team in anyway I can," Parisi commented. "I'd like to continually get faster and stronger. You can never get fast enough."
Parisi has had a big supporter in his head coach, Nate Leaman. There is definitely mutual admiration between the two. Leaman, who has established himself as one of, if not the best, young head coach in the country by being a diligent worker and never letting up, has instilled much of the same in his senior captain.
"Coach has always pushed me to consistently work as hard as I can. He wants me to join the offense, be a two-way defenseman and always be on the attack. He wants his defensemen to use our feet and close space," explained Parisi.
Parisi came to Providence in large part due to the vision that Leaman sold during the recruiting process.
"He had a vision. He instills that vision in his players. He wanted me to be a part of it. Commit to that vision," Parisi said.
Parisi didn't mince words when explaining what makes his head coach so successful.
"He's such a good coach. He really emphasizes the process, getting stronger every day. He pushes for the ultimate goal," said Parisi. "His work ethic enabled him to accomplish his goals and he pushes us to get better and have the same."
In order for Parisi, Leaman and the rest of the Friars to accomplish the ultimate goal again, some key figures in last year's championship run will need to be replaced. Gone are Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player Jon Gillies, captain Noel Acciari and offensive standout Ross Mauermann.
Despite losing Gillies to the Calgary Flames, Parisi is confident that his fellow blue liners and the goaltending tandem of Nick Ellis and Hayden Hawkey can get the job done.
"I'm very confident in our defensive corps. We're quick, mobile and move the puck. There's no doubt in my mind that we're more experienced. With more experience under our belt, we'll have a very strong defense."
"It's Nick Ellis' chance to step up. He's a worker. He's accepting the challenge. He's gotten to learn under the best," said Parisi of the junior who backed up Gillies the past two seasons.
"Hayden will challenge for playing time. He's ready for the opportunity if called on," added Parisi of the freshman who's property of the Montreal Canadiens.
Providence steps right into the gauntlet this weekend with a two-game road trip to face the Miami Red Hawks, the team it upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.