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College vs. Juniors at Pens Practice

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

DENVER, Colorado – Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis never went to college, but he became an honorary collegiate on Thursday afternoon.

“I felt smart for a couple minutes,” Dupuis joked.

With the Penguins holding a Thursday afternoon practice at University of Denver’s Magness Arena, the team split into two squads: college players vs. junior players. However, needing extra bodies, Dupuis and Richard Park were adopted by the College team.

“We were able to draft a few of the smarter junior guys because we needed an extra body or two,” Dartmouth alum Ben Lovejoy said. “They received their honorary bachelor’s degree before the game. They’re two of the brighter junior guys. It was a seamless transition. You can tell that they went to school and were educated.”

The College Team even went the extra mile, wearing Denver University jerseys. Although some of the college players didn’t mind wearing the Maroon and Gold, others had some trepidation.

“There were some guys that played in the WCHA that were hesitant to wear a rivals jersey,” Lovejoy said. “For me I don’t care. I never played against Denver. If they asked me to wear a Cornell or Harvard jersey I would have a problem with that.”

Head coach Dan Bylsma was even sporting a DU hat for the practice.

“We were in DU’s barn, so we had to make a couple trades today to get some guys a little bit smarter and put them on the college side,” Bylsma said. “But we tried to even out teams. Just had a little fun with some games, but still tried to incorporate some of the skills we want to have in our team with some of the games on the ice.”

There were mixed feelings on the Junior Team over the defections of Dupuis and Park.

“(Arron) Asham is not my friend today,” Dupuis said laughing. “I switched from Junior Team to College Team to be on Dan’s college team. That’s what he keeps saying, that Dan and I are buddies now.”

Forward Eric Tangradi, who played with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League, didn’t mind losing the duo.

“I think those guys wished they had a diploma and went to college, so we let them go to the dark side,” he said.

With the help of Dupuis and Park, the College Team won the competition, leaving a sour taste for the Junior Team.

“There might be an asterisk next to the competition,” Tangradi said. “It was competitive and a good, fun skate as well.

“It added a little competitive edge to it. Having three coaches that all went to college, us Junior guys feel that we deserved better, but it was a lot of fun.”

For both sides, the atmosphere at Magness Arena was an enjoyable experience.

“It was fun to be here. Coming back to college brings back memories,” Lovejoy said. “Some of the best years of our lives were spend in college locker rooms like this. It’s fun to reminisce.”

“Being a guy that never went to college, seeing the campus and the university is neat for me,” Tangradi said.

But of course, it was extra sweet for the College Team.

“We had a winner and a loser,” Bylsma said, “and it was no surprise to me that the college guys won.”

There was an added bonus to the victory as well.

“We won,” Lovejoy said. “The junior guys owe us lunch tomorrow.”

Note: Penguins’ 2010 first-round pick Beau Bennett attended the team’s practice. Bennett plays for Denver University, but has been sidelined for the past few months with a wrist injury. He spoke to the media (his comments posted here).

ROOT SPORTS Pittsburgh will be airing a feature on Bennett and fellow Pioneer Ty Loney, son of former Penguin Troy Loney, during Saturday's broadcast of the Pens-Avalanche game.
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