Holiday Break Provides Opportunities

It seems like the holiday break couldn’t have come at a better time for the Jr A Penguins this season.  The break afforded many of the out-of-town players a chance to go home for the holidays before beginning their second half of the long 48-game regular season.

While most of the NA3HL JR Penguins were enjoying their unprecedented holiday break, goaltender Sean Keating had other plans.  Sean, a senior in high school who hails from Smithtown, NY, was a call up to the Jamestown Ironmen in the NAHL.

Sean was in the lineup for all three of the Ironmen’s games over the New Year’s weekend, enjoying two Jamestown victories in three games over visiting Traverse City.  Congrats to Sean on a well deserved call up to the NAHL.

During the break, the Jr Pens didn’t let any grass grow under their feet.  The down time also gave the front office staff time to go to work while the players enjoyed an unusual but well deserved 10-day break in competition.  To that end, the team added some pieces to the puzzle during the break that paid immediate dividends in their first weekend back.

Newly signed forward Alexander Lysyuk (’92 Forward from Mezhdurechensk, Russia) scored in his first game in a Jr Penguins sweater.  It was a third period game tying goal in Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the League leading Cleveland Jr Lumberjacks.  Cleveland scored two late third period goals to best the Jr Penguins in a very fast paced, skilled game that showed how good the competition is in the NA3HL.

Nicholas Randazzo (’94 F orward from Holbrook, NY) kept his scoring streak alive vs Cleveland, recording 2 Power Play goals and chipping in with an assist in Saturday’s loss.  In his last 3 games against Cleveland, Nick has 7pts (4G, 3A). Team Captain Evan Mulvihill (’92 D from Elizabeth, PA) recorded his first goal of the season in what was their 3rd close game in a row vs Cleveland.

However on Sunday the 8th, Pittsburgh looked to rebound where their additional holiday break player acquisitions took a key role in securing a 2-1 victory over Cleveland.  Tyler Stepke, (’92 Goalie from Mars, PA) returned home (from North Iowa) to make his debut for his hometown Jr. Penguins backstopping 32 of 33 shots from the Jr Lumberjacks.

Stepke came to the Jr Penguins in a trade with North Iowa, which also brought along some young blood in a ’95 Forward, Reed Gregory (Franktown, CO).  Reed was effective on special teams as well as bringing speed, grit and talent to the Jr Pens.  Stephen Budkey (’94 Forward,  Pittsburgh, PA) and Stephen Shirk (’91 Forward, Export, PA) provided all the scoring punch that would be needed that day.  For the Jr Pens, it was a collective effort of team D to secure the win.

Adding these three new players (Lysyuk, Gregory and Stepke), not only gives the Jr Penguins experience and depth, it allows for the team to continue to grow as a collective unit towards their goal of consistency in play throughout the second half of the season.

Next up are the NA3HL Metro Jets who come in to Pittsburgh for a two-game set the weekend of Jan 21-22.  The Jr A Penguins hope to make up some ground on the Jets who they trail in the 3HL Eastern Division Standings.