MASON CITY — When Parker Dondlinger was in high school at Newman Catholic, playing hockey after he completed school was never really a thought even though he was a solid goalie for the Mohawk Hockey Club as a senior. When it came down to it, baseball was his sport.
So when high school was over, Dondlinger took off to Cedar Rapids to play baseball at Kirkwood Community College. One year away from hockey, though, was too much, and the itch to hit the ice came back. That’s when the idea to try to out the North Iowa Bulls was hatched.
“During high school I was getting looked at for baseball and I didn’t think I could really do anything (else),” Dondlinger said. “My junior year, baseball was all I was really concerned about. And then my senior year in hockey I was the guy for the first time and that was pretty awesome, and then going to Kirkwood, I really missed it.
“Coming back and seeing some of my friends play junior hockey I was like, ‘I want to do that.’ I got ahold of Coach Sanden, he gave me a shot and here we are.”
Where he’s at, even in a situation he’d never given a thought to, he likes and he fits in as one of the Bulls' goalies.
He still had to try out, though, which was not an easy thing considering he’d taken more than a year off after his time with the Mohawk Hockey Club was completed. It was there where Dondlinger really got the attention of Sanden, who had known of his skills between the pipes in high school.
“I think you have to look at his athleticism,” Sanden said. “That’s the biggest feature that allows him to do something like that. Obviously, it’s not an ideal situation, but it’s a pretty amazing accomplishment to do that.”
Dondlinger said once he started getting back into his groove, it all came back. Sanden recalled Dondlinger as being one of their top goalies in camp, and it earned him the right to make the roster. His work is not done, though.
With the Bulls’ season set to open Friday at the Wisconsin Whalers, the focus for Dondlinger is working his way back from a lower body injury that has kept him out of practice leading up to this week. When he’s back on the ice, it’s back to trying to transition into a goalie capable of playing with the speed rosters in the NA3HL possess.
“In the time that he’s been with us, he’s been good, and we’re really looking forward to working with him a little more technically,” Sanden said. “With Kevin (Murdock), my assistant, being a goalie coach and a former goalie himself, to have Parker be able to have that resource, I think it’s going to help a little bit more.
“He’s really raw right now, but he led the camp in saves – he didn’t give up any goals in the main camp, so you’ve got to feel good about a kid like that, especially since he’s from town.”
For Dondlinger, who said his only goal is to help this team win a league championship, getting the chance to play hockey for the hometown team is special in itself. He’ll be the second Newman Catholic grad to play for the Bulls, joining former star Joe Burgmeier.
“When I was younger I watched the Outlaws and I thought it would be awesome to play for them and then they left,” he said. “I’ve been watching the Bulls for the last six years and it’s pretty sweet being able to do my part, and then everybody in the community coming out and watching, that’s going to be awesome.”