The Penguins wrapped the female portion of tryouts for the team’s first-ever Ice Crew on Sunday morning as 22 finalists gathered at the team’s Iceoplex at Southpointe practice rink to put their best skills on display in hopes of securing one of the coveted roster spots.
Following a three-hour session which included a more extensive round of interview questions and on-ice skating drills, Ice Crew coordinator Laura Spencer and her group of evaluators pared the finalists down from 22 to the eight girls who will comprise one half of the co-ed team.
“This was a really tough competition, but everything was really well organized and it went a lot faster than I expected it to,” Lauren Thomas said. “The interview was a little intimidating with a panel of 12 people standing in front of you, but it was still a great experience.”
The team will be complete when Spencer holds male auditions on Wednesday, August 11 – also at Southpointe.
Day Two of tryouts began on Sunday with the 22 finalists once again interviewing before a panel of judges. Unlike Day One, Sunday’s interviews were one-on-one instead of groups. The girls were also asked a handful of questions as Spencer attempted to get to know each one’s personality.
Each girl was given a different set of questions, although all of them were instructed not to talk about what questions they were asked until everyone was done.
Just like Saturday, some of the girls entered and exited the interview room eager to strut her stuff, while others felt more of a nervous feeling.
“It was a little nerve-wracking because some girls came out happy while others were a little shaky,” Erica Corteal said. “That got you wondering, ‘What are they going to ask me?’ They asked me who influenced me the most and what were the most inspirational words they have said to me. I told them my parents because they have always told me to have fun and be myself.”
Another of the finalists, Sarah Cammarata, was confident that she had a good interview, a fact she credited to Spencer and the judges.
“They did a great job to make sure that you felt comfortable,” Cammarata said. “One of the things they asked was what would be the most challenging part of being on the Ice Crew? I told them being on the dirty ice in hockey skates because I am used to clean ice and figure skates.”
Besides questions based upon getting to know the girls, Spencer also had some Penguins’ trivia questions ready for the girls just like she promised on Saturday.
“My hockey question was to name my favorite player,” Corteal said. “I said (Marc-Andre) Fleury because who doesn’t love Fleury? He’s like the best goaltender ever. I just love his accent.”
“My hockey question was to name the years the Penguins have won the Stanley Cup,” Cammarata said. “I got it right because I spent time going over all my trivia.”
Not all of the girls were asked hockey-related questions, and a few were actually disappointed because they had taken Spencer’s advice and went home and brushed up on their Penguins’ trivia.
“They actually didn’t give me a hockey question,” Thomas said. “I have good knowledge of the Penguins so I was wondering where my trivia questions were!”
After each girl finished her 5-7 minute interview, the women laced up their hockey skates and hit the ice for the second half of tryouts.
Sunday’s on-ice session saw Spencer add a higher degree of difficulty as the girls had to skate two drills with the large shovels they will use to clean the ice during games.
The first time the girls started along the far boards at center ice. With the shovel in hand, they skated to center ice, stopped, held the shovel in the proper upright position and waved towards the crowd. Then they skated into the far zone where they did a figure-eight around the faceoff circles. They completed the drill by skating the length of the ice along the benches, where they had to keep the shovel against the boards.
For their second routine the girls started in a hockey position along the goal line – again with shovel in hand. They sprinted towards center ice, stopped, waved to the crowd and came back to the goal line.
“I was really surprised because I thought the shovel was going to be very hard to carry and very heavy,” Kelli Murawski said. “Actually, it wasn’t. It was very easy to move around the ice.
“I don’t think that it really changed your balance all that much. You just had to use more force because there was more weight you were pushing.”
“It was pretty heavy so it made skating a little more difficult,” Cari Breed countered. “You had to push it really hard because if you didn’t push hard then it would go wherever it wanted.
“You had to put pressure on it because it had to stay along the ice. Skating around with it the wind kind of takes it if you don’t keep it straight. You just had to bend your knees and really get into it.”
After the girls went through the on-ice testing they returned to the holding room on the other side of the rink where they awaited their fate.
“I think they had really hard decisions based upon how well everyone performed,” Murawski said. “I think that these tryouts went very well.”
Following a brief meeting with her fellow panelists, Spencer emerged in front of the group. She thanked everyone for trying out, congratulated them on an outstanding effort and said that she hoped to see all the girls try out again next year.
Unfortunately 14 girls had to see their dream come to an end this season, but the eight girls who were chosen to help comprise the Penguins’ first-ever Ice Crew represent a hard-working, talented and all-around gifted squad which will make the Penguins’ organization and the city of Pittsburgh very proud in 2010-11.RELATED ARTICLE: Eight Talented Females Selected to Represent Half of the Penguins Ice Crew RELATED ARTICLE: Ice Crew Auditions: Day One Recap RELATED ARTICLE: Ice Crew Finalists Pumped For Sunday's Tryout