CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. – Pittsburgh Penguins director of player development Scott Young raved about the team’s development camp that ended Friday night with a three-on-three, four-team tournament. But he didn’t have to single out any of the young players as the stars of the event.
That honor went to two guys who skated earlier in the day, much to the wide-eyed delight of the players from the camp. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and goaltender Matt Murray were in town and got in some offseason on-ice work at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, site of the development camp.
“We’re so happy when they come around, and our development camp guys can get out there and watch them,” Young said. “It’s June 29 and they’re out there working skating, going through drills. They’re in excellent shape right now. It’s just such a great example. Some of the guys here at our camp are pretty young. Their jaws were wide open. It really does a lot for trying to get the message across for how to be a pro.”
If Murray had stuck around, he would have seen Team Murray, coached by Young, win the three-on-three tournament with 8-4 and 7-4 wins and claim the first Michel Briere Cup.
Statistics were not available.
Considering the multiple shots off posts, stretch passes for breakaways and two-on-ones, it didn’t seem ideal for the four camp goalies. Unless you ask the one on the winning team.
“Very nice for the goalies, for sure,” Alex D’Orio said. “Three-on-three is not really a defensive game. For me, I had a lot of fun. A couple of breakaways.
“I love it.”
As far as Pittsburgh Hockey Now knows, D’Orio didn’t take any shots to the head that might account for his rather odd upbeat view on what could have been a goalie’s nightmare.
D’Orio was one of three players at last year’s development camp who came on a tryout basis, went on to participate with the Penguins in a fall rookie tournament and then got signed by the team.
Young isn’t ruling out that happening with one or more players this year who were free agents here on a tryout basis.
“A lot of guys opened eyes,” Young said.
One was winger Lewis Zerter-Gossage, who has one more year at Harvard – where he noted he takes elective courses such as Egyptian history – but who could remain on the Penguins’ radar.
“He looks like a pro. Acts like a pro. He’s got the body. Good hands,” Young said of Zerter-Gossage. “We’ll let him go back to school, and we’ll probably talk to him after that.”
Dan Kingerski’s Impressions
The three-on-three format lends itself to the quick, talented players. It also takes away much of the hockey sense and physicality. Don’t count me a fan.
One player who was clearly giving maximum effort was Carter Robertson. The undrafted player from the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL quipped to PHN, “My agent told me to be gritty.” Robertson performed perhaps the only intentional body check of the night.
The college players had a clear advantage over the 18-year-old junior players. Their skill and game level put them a step ahead. One of those players, at least in the first game, was Will Reilly. The defenseman from RPI was a standout, who jumped into the play and was physically superior. Reilly, 20, is 6-foot 2 and 197 pounds. He was the Penguins 2017 seventh-round choice.
Local player Andrew Gaus, from Wexford, had a pair of goals in the first game between Team Murray and Team Guentzel, too. Gaus was one of the myriad of Ivy league players (Yale).
Casey Dornbach, 20, was specifically praised by Young. Dornback isn’t an NCAA product–he played in the USHL (Lincoln).
The goalies stole the show, for a while. D’Orio and Ferland put on a show in the first half of the first game. The oohs and aahs from the crowd were not for pretty goals but impressive saves. Eventually, D’Orio’s team faltered and a goalie can stop only so many breakaways and two-on-ones.
The players had to be under 23…because if they were any older, two 14-minute periods of three-on-three hockey, played in back-to-back games would require oxygen tanks.