Good morning and welcome to "Cats & Coffee," a weekly segment presented by Community Coffee in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.
The Florida Jr. Panthers took a page out of the big club's playbook this past weekend, traveling to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. to compete in the "Battle on the Hudson" youth hockey tournament from Aug. 25-27.
The Panthers, who wrapped up their preseason against the New Jersey Devils in a special game at West Point's Tate Rink last season, have previously visited the U.S. Military Academy for team-building trips in 1995, 2007, 2014 and 2016.
Now, it was the junior team's time to shine.
The Jr. Panthers sent four teams participate in this year's tournament -- 12U, 14U, 14UAA and 16UAA -- and competed against teams from the Jr. Islanders and other local youth hockey programs.
In addition to the on-ice action, the Jr. Panthers were also able to experience numerous facets of cadet life during their visit, including collaborative team-bonding and leadership exercises under the guidance of Florida's Executive Director of Leadership & Cultural Development, JB Spisso.
Panthers Chairman and Owner Vincent Viola graduated from West Point in 1977.
MASCHERIN GIVES BACK
Adam Mascherin found a way for his good play to benefit a great cause.
Mascherin, a second-round draft pick of the Panthers in 2016, recently teamed up with his former Kitchener Rangers teammate, Jeremy Bracco, to raise nearly $500 worth of pizza for charity by saving up gift cards the duo had received over the past two seasons as a prize for earning three-star honors after home games.
"First of all, I don't think we need to be eating any pizza, so we thought it would be a nice gesture," Mascherin told TheRecord.com. "It's something we thought a lot about and figured it would be a good idea to give back."
Mascherin, as well as his parents Sandy and Sylvie, and his billets Mike and Kelli Kuzyk, were on hand serving many of the donated meal themselves in Kitchener on Friday, alongside numerous other volunteers from Ray of Hope, a Christian-based charity that serves free meals year-round to those in need.
"One of the things we've tried to instill with the guys we billet is to be kind, giving and caring to your community and the people around you," Kelli Kuzyk said.
Mascherin, who was named Kitchener's MVP after notching a career-high 100 points (35-65-100) in 65 games this past season, certainly had plenty of pizza to give away after winning the club's annual three-star award that goes to the player with the most three-star selections after home games.
"We're so blessed to grow up and play the game we love," said Mascherin, who was named first star six times, second star 12 times and third star once after home games in 2016-17. "When you have a chance to do little things like this for people who aren't as fortunate, it's warming in the heart."
GAME OF THRONES
Miss any of the action during last night's Game of Thrones finale?
No worries, Jason Demers has got you covered.
The Panthers defenseman provided a brief, hashtag-filled play-by-play of last night's events that can still be found on his Twitter (@jasondemers5) for those of you looking for a quick, cryptic recap of where things currently stand in Westeros.
Here are some of the highlights:
CATS IN THE COMMUNITY
It might be the offseason, but the Panthers are always active in the community.
COLD COFFEE (IN CASE YOU MISSED IT)
-- In our latest Q&A, we chatted with Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad about how spending a summer playing in Minnesota's Da Beauty League has helped him prepare for a bounce-back season in Sunrise.
"I'm harder on myself than anyone," Bjugstad told FloridaPanthers.com. "I know what I'm capable of and this past year was unacceptable. I've done everything I can to enhance my game this summer and have a bounce-back year.
-- With a little help from defensemen Alex Petrovic and Ian McCoshen, the Panthers recently traveled to the island of Barbados to bring ice hockey to the southern Caribbean.
"It's pretty cool, pretty unique," Petrovic said of teaching the game on a synthetic surface. "It's a little bit different skating on [the artificial ice]. Some of the kids who come here regularly are actually really good at skating on it."
-- Jonathan Huberdeau was recently inducted into the Saint John Sea Dogs Hall of Fame.
-- Single-game tickets are on sale now!