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Three Impressions from Rookie Tournament Game #2

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

LONDON, Ont. – Tom Kuhnhackl scored the deciding tally in the shootout as the Penguins prospects won their second straight game of the 2014 rookie tournament with a 5-4 victory over Chicago at Budweiser Gardens.

Jean-Sebastien Dea, Anton Zlobin and Josh Archibald all scored in regulation for the second straight game, while Matia Marcantuoni netted his first goal of the tournament. Tristan Jarry made 40 saves for Pittsburgh. Here’s our three impressions from the game…

On Sunday, we got our first look at the rule changes to overtime that the American Hockey League approved this summer and will implement this season.

The sudden-death overtime period is now seven minutes, preceded by a dry scrape of the entire ice surface. The teams play 4-on-4 until the first whistle following three minutes of play, at which time full strength is reduced to 3-on-3 for the rest of the overtime period. If the game is still tied following overtime, a winner will be determined by a three-player shootout.

The only noticeable hiccup this afternoon was that the teams didn’t change ends at the start of overtime like they were supposed to, instead switching after the first whistle. But other than that, WBS head coach John Hynes was grateful for the chance to experience the new scenario for the first time.

“It was interesting. It’s the first time I had ever gone through it as a coach,” he said. “I think it got a little bit squirrelly when they changed the goalies. The 4-on-4 wasn’t that different because we had that in the past and it’s a little bit more common, but when you got to the 3-on-3, it was interesting. Sometimes you used two defensemen and one forward, or two forwards and one defenseman. It was nice to be able to go through it in preseason there and get a feel for what you like and have the guys go through it a little bit.”

Opinions will surely be divided on the whole 3-on-3 aspect, but at least one player we asked about it was a big fan.

“I personally think it’s great,” Kuhnhackl said. “You can use your speed, you can just pick up speed and find the open ice. If you beat your man, you have a lot of room to create scoring chances and score goals.”

The Pens got a lot of practice on the penalty kill this afternoon, as they were shorthanded five times. And every one of those times, Hynes sent Marcantuoni over the boards first.

Taken by Pittsburgh in the fourth round (92nd overall) in 2012, Marcantuoni is a guy who’s always noticeable at events like this with his blazing speed. And he’s using it to build a niche for himself at the professional level as a guy who can kill penalties.

As Hynes said the other day, the players who have gotten top shorthanded minutes with WBS have been able to step into that same role with Pittsburgh whenever they’ve gotten the opportunity (Brian Gibbons is a prime example). That’s a role Marcantuoni hopes to fill in his first professional season.

“I know my role with the team. It’s kind of something they expect from me,” he said. “PK is a big thing for me because I have speed and I’m willing to block shots and get the puck down the ice. I definitely think that’s one of my biggest attributes.

“Growing up I was more of like a playmaker, a skill guy. But at the pro level, I feel I’ll best fit in as a role player and PKer and speed guy. Pretty similar (to Gibbons). I haven’t raced him or anything, but I’d say we’re similar.”

While the organization feels Marcantuoni could develop into a top penalty killer because of his NHL speed and tenacity, he’s certainly capable of more. Today, he showed that as the goal he scored was a thing of beauty. Marcantuoni received a pass at the top of the crease and despite the limited amount of space, somehow managed to roof a backhand shot into the top corner.

Tristan Jarry
still has a ways to go before he reaches the NHL, but he’s one of those exciting young prospects that you look forward to watching no matter what. Especially since the 19-year-old is coming off a season where he led his junior team, the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, to the Memorial Cup championship in his first year as the starter.

Jarry wasn’t tested much in the first period on Saturday, and easily turned aside all the shots he faced. But the Blackhawks, who had a quick turnaround after playing on Saturday night at 7 p.m., found their legs in the final 40 minutes and challenged Jarry a lot more. He faced 36 shots in regulation, four in overtime and turned aside three of four Blackhawks in the shootout to get the win.

“It’s the first game of the tournament, so I wanted to just to get the nerves out and have a little bit of fun with it,” Jarry said. “I think that’s just what I did tonight, I had a little fun. The guys really helped me out there and they did everything they could, blocking shots, getting the puck out and I thought it was a well-played team game.”

The organization views Jarry as a potential starting goalie in Pittsburgh someday, but with the Penguins’ roster situation heading into training camp (three netminders signed to one-way deals) it’s very unlikely to happen in the near future. So Jarry's mindset and mentality at a tournament like this is, as he put it, just to do the best he can.

“Every day I want to improve and show the Pittsburgh staff I’m making improvements as each game goes on,” he said. “I think that’s what I’m trying to do throughout the tournament and throughout my rookie camp, just try to make some improvements each day.”

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