Pacarenuk showing ‘Gladiator’-like effort

As Kim Pacarenuk was being interviewed at the Ice for Kids Arena here last week, it was fitting that the P.A. system started playing an orchestral piece from the epic movie, “Gladiator.”
It was the synapse-firing music heard when Maximus Meridius (played by Russell Crowe) left the Coliseum after beating the undefeated gladiator, Tigris, in a match filled with obstacles and boundaries.
It was fitting to hear that music because Pacarenuk has faced her own challenges throughout the season, albeit not in the form of attacking tigers or sword-wielding gladiators.
But she has shown true grit and heart at a different level.
Here’s the plot—Pacarenuk while playing in Kenora with her house league team early in the season (well, let’s let her tell it . . .)
“It’s kind of funny because I went down into the butterfly and I made a save, and I had it covered,” she recalled. “And one of my own players came in and she was trying to push a girl out of the way and that player moved and my own player fell on me.
“I still was in the butterfly so my knees were out sideways and she pushed me back, so I was lying on my back and it just hurt so much,” she added. “It was just wrong.”
Big deal, right? She can rest her injury. She can take some time off and heal. Wrong.
She’s the only goalie (repeat—the only goalie) for the Muskie girls’ hockey team, and she has shown the traits of a gladiator as she has not backed down by backing away from the team.
Rather, she has shown up for every practice and every game without complaint.
“It’s kind of like if I’m injured, then they can’t play,” said Pacarenuk.
“It’s only been two weeks [since the injury], but I don’t care. I just want to play. I want to practice,” she stressed. “I want to improve, so I can ignore this and it’s not that bad.”
Her Muskie teammates are fully aware of her debilitating injury and are appreciative of the effort she brings day in and day out.
“We appreciate what she does for us. She’s like our hero,” forward Francine McCabe said after their game in Kenora, where Pacarenuk gave a great effort in stopping 29 of 36 shots in a 7-1 loss.
“I know they appreciate that I’m killing myself out there, and I appreciate what they’re doing,” Pacarenuk said of her teammates.
It’s not just her gutsy effort that warrants attention, but also her superb play between the pipes. In the Muskies’ first win of the season (over the International Falls Broncos), she was sensational; in their overtime loss to the Dryden Eagles, she was a rock.
In their win over the Baudette Bears, she was consistent; and in another narrow loss to Dryden, she was startling.
Pacarenuk, 17, in her fourth and final year with the black-and-gold, said while it’s hard to compare this team to previous ones, she still believes this year’s edition of the Muskies is the best in its five-year existence.
“It’s a lot more like a team now than it ever was,” she remarked. “Talent-wise, I think that it’s getting better just because we’re playing like a team.”
Before arriving with the Muskies, Pacarenuk had never played the goalie position. But she has relished the experience and has come to appreciate the job.
She enjoys being “the last line of defence.” She enjoys the fact that “it’s something that not anybody can do.” She enjoys “the pressure.” And finally, she simply “loves it.”
“Everybody asks me, ‘How can you get up at 5:30 in the morning [when they had early-morning practices], put on a bunch of equipment, and go stand there and have little pieces of rubber come flying at you?’
“Because I love it. I enjoy it.”
So does she take satisfaction in stopping someone else’s efforts?
“As mean as it is, yes. I remember one game against Kenora. It was overtime and they got a breakaway, and she comes down and she’s so sure that she’s got me, and I just robbed her.
“And I was like, ‘Oh, didn’t that hurt?’” added Pacarenuk, who is looking at going into mechanical engineering after high school and then possibly streamlining into a heavy auto mechanic position.
Due to the team’s early-season success, Pacarenuk has noticed more people paying attention to the team and taking them seriously, which is something she hadn’t seen in previous years.
And why shouldn’t people around town finally start to take notice. They are a group of young, talented women who work hard and not only represent ‘M’ emblem well, but also the town.
“I have people coming up to me saying, ‘I heard you guys are doing good this year and I’ll come out this season’” said Pacarenuk. “We’re representing Fort Frances and if the town could come out and help us, then that would be great.”
The Muskies take to the ice this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the ’52 Canadians Arena and then again Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at the Ice for Kids Arena to face the Red Lake Rams in NorWOSSA action.
It’s good hockey. Fundamental hockey. “Emphasis on the team” hockey.
“Put your head down and just give her,” related Pacarenuk. “Just work hard and everything will come together.”