Gliding out onto the ice Saturday morning, the finalists trying out for the 2012-13 Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Crew didn’t know what to expect from the final day of auditions.
They were given a little bit of a surprise when Ice Crew team coordinator Laura Spencer gathered them up before the tryout began and informed them before they began that they had all made the team.
“I had it all built up in my head that I was going to have to go through another selection process,” said Anne O’Brien, a newcomer to the Ice Crew who tried out last season but missed the final cut. “It took me five minutes I think to really understand that, oh wow this is it, I finally made it. Finally, I’m in the Ice Crew.”
Returning to the Ice Crew on the female side is Annie Federoff, Tara Coyne, Pam Gerlowski, Rhiannon Kallis, and Emily Scott. They are joined by first-time members Jordan Johnson and O’Brien.
“It’s always nerve-racking each year,” said Coyne, a third-year Ice Crew veteran. “There are so many good skaters, so you get really nervous and you hope that you’re still what (Spencer) is looking for.”
Joining the women will be male veterans Daniel Dugan, David Champe, Matt Harrison, Lee Hlavay, Cam Jurysta, Jared Manfredi, Dan Thiessen and Matt Smith. Newcomers Chris Smith and Steven Stepanian round out the group.
“To be a part of the group of guys and girls that we have, everyone is great,” three-year vet Manfredi said. “Just to be a part of a great organization like the Pens is an honor and it’s fun.”
After the 2011-12 season, the Ice Crew increased its members to 17 after 72 skaters tried out for the few precious spots this year.
“It’s really exciting,” said Spencer, who started the program in 2010. “You see how many people come out and I’m just so honored that they want to be a part of this team and a part of this great organization. I’m just so excited to see all the new faces.”
There were a plethora of skaters ranging from former hockey players to figure skaters that tried out for the coveted 17 spots on the Ice Crew roster, which Spencer says made it a tougher judging process.
“It gets harder, especially with the returning members because they are like family,” Spencer said. “You get to know them very well so it makes it very hard to make those decisions. You see how they put their emotions into it and it’s bigger then just them. You wish the best for everyone but in the end you have to take the best people.”
As the members found out they had made the final cut, many let out sighs of relief as high fives and hugs were spread around at center ice as they had finally made it through the three-day process of skating drills and intense individual interviews. It was official – they were looking at the 2012-13 Pittsburgh Penguins Ice Crew.
“Being a part of this organization, I think that’s what I take the most pride in,” Coyne said. “Not just being in front of the fans but being a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins sports organization is what’s great. To feel like you’re a part of that is really cool.”
THE 2012-13 PENGUINS ICE CREW:
From left to right: Jared Manfredi, Lee Hlavay, Steven Stepanian, Cam Jurysta, Dan Thiessen, David Champe, Christopher Smith, Matthew Harrison, Daniel Dugan, Tara Coyne, Annie Federoff, Anne O'Brien, Jordan Johnson, Pammy Gerlowski, Emily Scott, Rhiannon Kallis. (Not pictured: Matt Smith).