After finishing strong at the second annual NHL Youth Cup Tournament presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods, the Penguins Elite proved why they are one of the premier youth hockey organizations not only here in Pittsburgh, but also across the country.
The 2004 Penguins Elite grouping stole the show Sunday afternoon at Robert Morris University’s Island Sports Center after dominating their age grouping in the tournament. They beat Philadelphia’s Team Comcast in the finals, 8-2, to take home the championship for the second straight year. Head coach Ray Conway and assistant coach Jeff Hannan backed the team to their victory.
“We’re fortunate with what we have in the coaching staff throughout the organization,” Hannan said. “We’re fortunate enough that the parents can afford to do this because it is expensive and it’s a lot of hard work that a lot of people don’t see.
“It’s our second year in a row winning it, so we had some new kids this year that got to experience it for the first time, which is really neat.”
Rick Boysen, father of Pens Elite player Ryan Boysen, agrees with Hannan.
“The Penguins Elite is a great organization and they develop the kids well, but they remember the fundamentals of having fun at all levels,” Boysen said. “It’s great for these kids to get together to bond as well and travel around the country.”
The NHL Youth Cup featured eight AAA NHL-affiliated youth teams across six age divisions, including the Pens Elite. Pittsburgh hosted one event for each “major” birth year (2000, ’02, ’04) for the tournament, while Philadelphia hosted one event from each “minor” birth year (2001, ’03, ’05).
In addition to the Pens Elite, the tournament played host to Team Comcast, the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, the Mid Fairfield Rangers, the Suffolk P.A.L. Islanders and the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes, as well as the Nashville Jr. Predators and Washington Little Caps, who are new to the event.
“It was good,” Hannan said about the tournament. “We put a lot of hard work into it. Bringing in all these NHL clubs was great. It’s good to see the kids’ hard work pay off.”
Scott Sroka, whose son Owen plays on the 2004 team, enjoyed seeing his boy have success again in this tournament and attributes their success to the coaching staff.
“It’s great,” Sroka said. “We were in Philadelphia last year and we won that year and we won again this year, so it’s a great opportunity to showcase the sport and the elite level teams with the NHL Youth Cup.
“The kids worked really hard this year and overcame some great obstacles and won again this year. They worked harder than ever and had great coaching.”
The tournament was a big success and entertaining for all involved, and the players and their families even received a special treat after the event concluded. Lord Stanley’s Cup made an appearance in the lobby of the Island’s Sports Center, where people gathered around to snap photos with the Cup and gaze at the names of champions.
“That’s really cool for them,” Hannan said. “Especially since a lot of those kids see it on T.V. and have seen the Penguins win it in the past. To see it first hand is really cool for them.”