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On the Wings of Tomorrow

Petruzzelli a big man on Quinnipiac campus, Larsson rebounding well from surgery in Denver and more in the February prospect report

by Bob Duff @asktheduffer / Special to

Keith Petruzzelli is a big man on campus.

He can't help but be.

When he walks to and from class around Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Conn., people take notice of the 6-6, 190-pound sophomore. But when they notice that he's part of the Bobcats' athletic program, fellow students are caught by surprise when they find out which Quinnipiac team makes use of Petruzzelli's talent.

They're certain that he works on the hardwood for the basketball team and are stunned to learn that he performs between the pipes for the hockey team.

"I get asked that all the time," Petruzzelli said of whether he's a basketball player. "When I take my travel letters around to my professors, they all ask, 'Oh, you're on the basketball team?'

"People who say that have never seen my jump shot."

When the Detroit Red Wings saw Petruzzelli performing in the net, they jumped at the chance to get him, selecting the Wilbraham, Mass.-born goaltender 88th overall in the 2017 NHL entry draft.

That outcome instantly allowed Petruzzelli to make school history as the earliest a Quinnipiac player had been selected in an NHL entry draft.

He's hoping to make more school history this year, as the No. 4-ranked Bobcats seek to bring the school their first NCAA hockey title.

Quinnipiac was the losing finalist in the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13 and 2015-16.

"Our senior class has really shown the way," said Petruzzelli, who has taken on the load of the No. 1 goalie in his second season with the Bobcats.

He's already appeared in 13 games this season, two more than during his freshman campaign. Petruzzelli is 8-3 with three shutouts, a 2.32 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.

"My first year was a bit of a struggle," Petruzzelli admits of his frosh season. "I've learned how to handle the class load, worked on my practice habits."

He's grown into his body more this season and also grown to understand how he can utilize his massive frame as a puck-stopping weapon.

"It's been about quieting my feet, using my size," Petruzzelli said. "As long as you're hitting your angles, staying square, using quiet body movements, my size can be a real advantage. "Being 6-6, a lot of pucks will just hit me if I'm in the right spots."

Petruzzelli is also hopeful that more and more people will spot the size now in evidence at NHL rinks, whether it's 6-6 rookie forward Michael Rasmussen with the Wings, or 6-7 goalies like Mikko Koskinen of the Edmonton Oilers and Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars, and recognize that hockey, like basketball, can be a big man's game.

"The game has changed so much in the last 5-10 years," Petruzzelli said. "There's so much more skill. There's a place for the small, quick, skilled guy and there's also a place for the big guy."

COMMITTING LARSSON-Y: If it isn't Petruzzelli's Bobcats who cop the NCAA Frozen Four title, perhaps Filip Larsson can backstop the Denver Pioneers to glory and become the first Red Wings prospect to win an NCAA title since Justin Abdelkader scored the game-winning goal for the Michigan State Spartans in the 2007 NCAA final.

Larsson, selected 167th overall by the Wings in the 2016 NHL entry draft, is enjoying a spectacular freshman season with the Pioneers.

He was just named the goaltender of the week for the second time this season after posting 76 saves on 78 shots, a 0.96 goals-against average and a .974 save percentage in Denver's consecutive 2-1 wins against North Dakota.

It's the second time this season that Larsson of Stockholm, Sweden has been recognized as the conference's goalie of the week. He was also goalie of the month in December.

Larsson is 7-2-3 with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in his rookie season.

Rebound control is vital to a netminder's success and Larsson has rebounded nicely from a beginning of the season setback that shelved him until late November.

A nagging groin injury that he picked up about a year ago while playing for the USHL's Tri-City Storm appeared to have subsided, but it flared up again when the Pioneers began training in the fall. He underwent surgery to repair the problem in September.

"I went to development camp in the summer in Detroit and it was much better, so I just kept going," Larsson said. "When I came to Denver and went on the ice, I didn't feel like I used to. They did an MRI and we saw that it hadn't healed correctly. They took some scar tissue away and I needed to rest and rehab for about two months and then I was ready to go."

And go he did.

Once Larsson took up residence in the Denver goal crease, he adopted the policy of the black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

None shall pass.

Larsson started his NCAA career 6-0-2. He's allowed one goal or less in five games this season, including a 1-0 shutout of Omaha.

"It was frustrating at the beginning when I was thinking about starting with the team," Larsson said. "They wanted me to be the starter and I had to do the surgery on the injury that I had for awhile.

"I wanted to get back, I wanted to play. I think I started out pretty good. It took awhile to get back into it after being away from the game for so long. I had things to catch up. I think I've played pretty good and it's been getting better every game."

Arriving in Denver also has Larsson seeing red, but he's very comfortable with that notion.

Red is a principal color of Denver's uniforms and it's the main color in the schemes of all his teams -- the Red Wings and Manchester United, his favorite soccer team since he was a child.

"My team in Sweden (Djurgardens) are also red," Larsson said. "I think red and black were my favorite colors when I was young. I like it."

His father Goran was a professional soccer player and years ago, Goran's Swedish side played a friendly against the mighty Manchester United squad, creating an affinity for the club within the whole family.

"My dad, he's been a fan and actually played against them one game when he was in his 20s," Larsson said. "My older brother (William) is also a United fan, so it came really naturally to me.

"I started watching every game when I was young. I spent weekends with my dad and brother always watching the games."

After coach Jim Montgomery left for the NHL's Dallas Stars and several other players departed from the program, the Pioneers were supposedly entering a rebuilding phase, but new coach David Carle has them in the title chase.

"We have a great new coach," Larsson said. "All the new guys have really bought into his system from the beginning. Our freshmen are really talented. I think we got a good start and just built on that.

"Even though we are a young team, we play really good every night. I like to think we are one of the top teams for sure."

Denver has won eight NCAA titles. Only the Michigan Wolverines (nine) have won more.

ZABLOCKI A VIPER: Right-winger Lane Zablocki (79th overall, 2017) was on the move again at the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline.

Zablocki, 19, was released by the Kelowna Rockets.

"It wasn't an easy decision to release Lane," Rockets GM and president Bruce Hamilton said.

Zablocki produced 4-8-12 totals in 28 games with the Rockets, which was his fifth WHL team. He's also played for the Regina Pats, Red Deer Rebels, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Victoria Royals.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Zablocki, 20, signed with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL, where he has put up 4-4-8 numbers through his first eight games.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Frolunda HC, the Swedish team of defenseman Gustav Lindstrom (38th overall, 2017), captured the European Champions League for the third time in club history via a 3-1 victory over Germany's Red Bull Munich in the Feb. 5 final.

Instagram from @gustaavliindstrom: Europamästare 🏆

Though he didn't dress for the Cup final, Lindstrom was good for 2-4-6 totals and a plus-4 rating in 11 games through the duration of the competition.

Photo of Keith Petruzzelli by Rob Rasmussen/Quinnipiac University.

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