Vermont senior goaltender Rob Madore grew up following the Penguins as a Peters Township resident. Needless to say, being extended a free-agent invite to Pittsburgh’s prospect development camp last week was a surreal experience for the 23-year-old.
So what was Madore’s ‘pinch me’ moment of the week?
|Madore in action at Vermont. (Credit: Brian Jenkins) |
No, it wasn’t the fact that he was using Marc-Andre Fleury
's locker room stall, who is his favorite athlete. It had more to do with the designated locker room duty given to Brent Johnson
“I guess when I got to run the music in the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room and I got made fun of for my tastes,” Madore joked, adding that playing pop star Britney Spears to a roomful of young men is “probably a no-go.”
Madore started playing the sport when his dad Rob Sr., who grew up in State College and was “always a football guy,” decided to give hockey a try.
“He always needed someone to shoot on, and I think hitting my mom with hockey pucks would probably be bad for their relationship,” Madore said with a smile. ”So instead, the duties fell to me. I was outfitted in the finest cereal boxes and pillow leg pads around.”
Madore eventually ditched his makeshift equipment for some authentic gear, playing for the SHAHA Panthers, the Pittsburgh Predators, the Pittsburgh Hornets and Peters Township High School (where he won two Penguins Cup championships at Mellon Arena).
He’s really enjoying it. It shows a lot about his work ethic, his character, how much he appreciates the invite. He’s going to do everything he can to take advantage of this opportunity. He’s going to be a senior at Vermont and we look forward to watching him play. - Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, on Rob Madore
He then left to play juniors in Chicago before suiting up for Vermont – the same school that produced Bruins goalie and 2011 Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas.
“Now I’m here and I get the opportunity to put on a Pens jersey,” Madore said, who idolized Penguins goalies like Tom Barrasso and Frank Pietranglo as a youngster. “It’s not from a store – this is actually the real deal. It’s been absolutely a blast and just a lot of fun.”
But in all honesty, Madore’s local ties were just an added bonus in terms of earning an invite to development camp, as the Penguins have been monitoring the netminder for some time.
“They said they had been watching for a couple of years,” Madore said. “They wanted to get me into town, meet the guys and get a feel for the organization. It’s been a great experience so far. I’m really fortunate they thought of me. I’m very honored.”
Madore started his college career off with a bang, as he backstopped the Catamounts to the Frozen Four – where they fell to eventual champion Boston University – as a freshman in 2009. As a sophomore, he led Vermont to a second-straight NCAA tournament appearance as they advanced to the West Regional semifinals.
Last season, Madore shouldered a heavy workload as he played in all 36 games – finishing the season with a 2.98 goals against average and a .907 save percentage – and earned the team’s John C. Cunningham Most Valuable Player Award for his efforts.
|Rob Madore (Credit: Brian Jenkins) |
“I’ve grown a lot,” Madore said. “As you get older – especially as a goalie, the thing that improves the most is your mental game. I’ve learned to deal with adversity a little better, as well as how to deal with a disappointing season and how you can get over that and work hard the next summer looking forward to the following one.
“I’ve seen a lot of different things, a lot of situations at Vermont and I think that’s only made me a stronger player and person.”
And though Madore’s on-ice talent is what initially caught the Penguins scouts’ attention, the friendly, likeable young goalie’s enthusiasm is what really stood out to the Penguins staff during his time in Pittsburgh.
“He walks over with the staff members at 6:30, 7 o’clock in the morning,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald on the last day. “He doesn’t leave until 5, 5:30 p.m. He’s really enjoying it.
“It shows a lot about his work ethic, his character, how much he appreciates the invite. He’s going to do everything he can to take advantage of this opportunity. He’s going to be a senior at Vermont and we look forward to watching him play.”