The concluding scrimmage for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2013 development camp was somewhat out of the ordinary. Playing two 25-minute halves instead of three periods, a shootout round after each period and penalty shots instead of power plays (with the offending player chasing the guy who drew the penalty) put a different spin on your usual hockey game as this was a learning experience.
Despite the unusual twists for this Penguins prospect scrimmage, many elements remained the same for this scrimmage at CONSOL Energy Center as the team did their best to make the atmosphere as true to a real game as possible. The players saw fans fill the lower-bowl seats opposite their two benches, heard Penguins PA announcer Ryan Mill take a break from his vacation to call the goals all the way from South Carolina, and flinched at the horn volume for every goal of Team White’s 5-3 victory.
“I didn’t realize how loud the horn was actually going to be when we scored,” forward Matia Marcantuoni joked. “The support they gave us is unbelievable. It was amazing … Looking forward to that in the future hopefully.”
Marcantuoni, a fourth-round draft selection by Pittsburgh in 2012, opened the scoring for Team Black nine minutes into the first half. Top defense prospect Derrick Pouliot dished a cross-ice pass from the right side of the goal and Marcantuoni fired a one-timer slapshot above the left shoulder of goaltender Eric Hartzell.
“[Marcantuoni] has NHL speed for sure,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. “You can look down the road and think he can be a top penalty killer because of that speed and his tenacity.”
The only other first-half goal came on Scott Wilson’s penalty shot for Team White with 1:11 left, going top shelf on goaltender Sean Maguire. Maguire did not allow any regulation goals over his 25 minutes in net, and denied all three shootout chances at the end of the half.
“I think that our defense was really sound today,” said Maguire, another fourth-rounder from the 2012 draft. “Players are definitely high-caliber, but I think I’ve come to that level too and it’s just not feeling as fast (as it did in my first camp).”
The scoring opened up in the second half. Jayson Megna scored the final two goals for Team White: a wrist shot in traffic (he said later he had “no idea” how it managed to go in) to put his side up 4-2 with six minutes left; then an unassisted empty-netter in the final 35 seconds to cinch the victory.
“It feels great to score in any scenario, but it’s nice to be able to do it in the scrimmage today,” Megna said. “The only other competition we have really had this week is the 3-on-3, so I think we were all anxious and looking forward to today’s scrimmage.”
Free-agent invites forwards Carter Rowney and Jean-Sebastien Dea scored the other two Team Black goals against goaltender Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh’s 2013 second-round draft pick), and Team White’s Bryan Rust whacked away at goalie Matt Murray for the game-winning goal.
Saturday’s high-intensity scrimmage wrapped up the Penguins’ weeklong prospect development camp, one that Fitzgerald called the best his staff has organized.
“It’s a winning culture, and it’s going to continue,” Fitzgerald said. “The new players that come in will understand what our culture is all about.”
The entire week is about preparing prospects to eventually contribute for the Penguins and show them what it means to be a part of this organization and to be a professional. And after this week, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes specifically mentioned American Hockey League-experienced forwards like Megna, Tom Kuhnhackl and Adam Payerl as being ready to try and challenge for playing time in the upcoming 82-game NHL season.
“Over the course of the season … you’re going to have that influx of young legs,” Hynes said. “Young energy that would be able to come up and help Pittsburgh.”