The Ohio State University men’s ice hockey team has tapped into a recent talent pool pipeline in Western Pennsylvania.
Sophomore forwards C.J. Severyn (Beaver) and Sergio Somma (Plum) and freshman defenseman Matt Bartkowski (Mt. Lebanon) all hail from the Pittsburgh area. The trio will return to their hometown when the Buckeyes play Robert Morris in the Pittsburgh College Hockey Showcase on Friday night at Mellon Arena at 8 p.m.
This will be the second time in two years the two teams will meet in the showcase. They skated to a 5-5 tie in last year’s showcase before a crowd of 4,301 at Mellon Arena. Somma and Severyn took part in last year’s matchup.
“It was unbelievable,” Somma said. “It was fun to play in the arena where, growing up I was watching the Penguins play. You get to play in front of all your friends and family.”
But Severyn’s first game on the Mellon Arena ice was way before his Ohio State days.
“I played there when I was about 7 (years old) in between periods when the Penguins were playing,” he said. “They have the little kids come out on the ice and play five minutes or so. I was a little kid skating on the Penguins ice. I had one shot but I’ll never forget that time on the ice.”
The three men, as well as a plethora of other Pittsburgh area hockey talents, are the byproducts of Mario Lemieux’s influence on the region. Not to mention, a couple of championship seasons in Pittsburgh.
“When I was 5 and 6, (the Penguins) were winning Stanley Cups,” Somma said. “That generation of kids really got into it when Mario Lemieux came to town.”
The Penguins popularity created a spike of interest in hockey and produced a lot of rinks in the surrounding areas.
“One night my family took me to skate at a public session,” Severyn said. “I just fell in love with the sport. You couldn’t get a stick out of my hands when I was 3 or 4 years old. I went for one little skate and never stopped playing.”
Now that Lemieux-influenced generation is all grown up and producing NHL-caliber players. Severyn was selected by the Calgary Flames in the seventh round (186th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Bartkowski was chosen by the Florida Panthers in the seventh round (190th overall) this past June.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be drafted or not,” said Bartkowski, who notched a goal and an assist in last weekends sweep of Michigan State. “I knew it was a possibility. It was a really exciting experience.”
“I sat down with Calgary that morning of the draft,” Severyn said. “They ended up taking me in that draft. It’s a feeling that I’ll never forget. (The draft) was actually in Columbus at the Nationwide Arena. I went down with some friends. It’s something I’ll take with me forever.”
Despite his current scarlet and black jersey, Somma is still black and gold at heart.
“I came back home for Game 1 (of the Eastern Conference Finals) against the Flyers,” Somma said. “That was awesome. That was the best game I’ve ever been to. They just ran them out of the building.”
On Friday night, the trio may put on their own show in that same building.
"It will be a real nice experience to play at home in front of family and friends," Bartkowski said.