OLSH's Johnson signs with Pitt

Written by Mike White on .

So is WPIAL Class A Section 1 the new hotbed for Pitt basketball recruits?

It sounds strange, doesn't it? But hey, the six-team section in the WPIAL's smallest classification had two Pitt recruits this season.

In a move that surprised many, Cam Johnson of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Coraopolis signed with Pitt today. Johnson had some scholarship offers from mid-major Division I schools, but Pitt offered him only yesterday - and it didn't take him long to accept. Pitt offered after coach Jamie Dixon came to watch Johnson work out at OLSH.

Johnson is a 6-foot-7 senior guard who you could call a late bloomer. He has grown five inches since last spring. He played point guard for OLSH. 

The other player from Class A Section 1 who is a Pitt recruit is Lincoln Park's Maverick Rowan, who is only a sophomore. Rowan accepted a scholarship from Pitt last summer.

Who could've ever predicted that two players from one Class A section would be Pitt recruits? When was the last time Pitt had two recruits from the same section, let alone the same Class A section?

Johnson (pictured) was the second-leading scorer in the WPIAL this past season and averaged 26.9 points a game. He used to attend Moon High School, but transferred to OLSH as a junior. He was OLSH's quarterback in football as a junior, but didn't play football this past season.

Johnson's father, Gil, is a former Pitt player. Cam Johnson has one older brother and two younger brothers. Aaron Johnson scored more than 1,000 career points at Moon. He now plays at Clarion University.

Cam Johnson visited Marist, Bryant and Toledo either last fall or during the season. He visited Penn and Rice since the season ended. 

You could call Johnson a sleeper because he was not recruited heavily by major colleges. He always played guard at younger ages and stayed at the position despite his growth spurt in the last year. He has a nice shot and obviously has great size for a guard. And he has good ballhandling skills. He is very thin, though, and needs more muscle, which should come as he grows into his body. He is not super quick, but is a pretty good shooter. He got sick late in the season and his weight eventually dropped to 168 pounds. He also sustained a fractured ankle while playing in a pickup game at Pitt's Trees Hall last month. He came back and played in the Roundball Classic two Saturdays ago and played well.

Johnson is now back to about 185 pounds, his playing weight at the start of the season. Pitt had been showing interest in Johnson for a while. But obviously, Pitt didn't pull the trigger on a scholarship offer until yesterday.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said, "We probably surprised everyone with this announcement, but to be honest he surprised us with how much he grew and we really didn't even start recruiting him until late in his senior year. He is one of these classic late bloomer guys who grew a lot in the last year. And he is actually almost a year younger than most graduating seniors so he may not be done growing, which is exciting."

Johnson turned 18 March 3.

"We certainly will have to get him into the weight room, get him bigger, get him physically stronger," said Dixon, "but he is a kid that I think a lot of coaches are going to be kicking themselves and saying 'I wish we would have grabbed him' and we are lucky to be the team that got him." 

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'When you're walking, you realize there's so much in Pittsburgh'

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

Two Point Park University freshmen woke up on Friday before dawn to properly capture Pittsburgh in its morning glory with a camera and smartphones in hand. Now that winter has finally loosened its grip, the day was promising to reveal Pittsburgh wide awake: sunny day, slightly chilly air. Good morning, Pittsburgh!

Victoria Mikula and Jake Owens, both 19, are photojournalism majors who often work on projects together. Mr. Owens has a final project due soon, and professor Chris Rolinson suggested he emulate New York Times photographer Todd Heisler’s “Once Around an Island.

Knowing Pittsburgh and its perimeter neighborhoods have plenty to offer visually, they set off on foot from Point State Park at 6:30 a.m.

From there, they went across the Smithfield Bridge and through the South Side.


“We realized we were starving, so we stopped at Nadine’s Diner and got breakfast,” Ms. Mikula said.


From there, it was across the Hot Metal Bridge to the most brutal hill they encountered that day: Bates Street up to Oakland.


Mr. Owens captured the day for his project with an actual camera, while Ms. Mikula shared the journey live through an Instagram hashtag.


Neither grew up here — she’s from Hershey, he from Red Lion — so the journey became a way to explore some of Pittsburgh's corners they hadn’t gotten to know yet: from Bates to Schenley Park to Flagstaff Hill, Carnegie Mellon’s campus and then Shadyside.


By the time they reached Allegheny Cemetery, they were exhausted.


Still, Ms. Mikula said, “I’ve never been to a cemetery that looks so beautiful. I know that sounds weird, but it’s breathtaking.”


Since Lyft and Uber now operate in Pittsburgh, the classmates opted against riding the bus back and instead called a ride-share service.


“When you drive through, you’re going too fast,” she said. “You don’t really get to stop and observe anything, but when you’re walking, you realize there’s so much in Pittsburgh.”


They plan to finish the walking and photographing with a return to the cemetery this week. From there, they’ll head toward the North Side.


A dog on Friday outside Starbucks on East Carson Street. “He was just hanging out at 7 a.m. and didn’t have a care in the world,” Ms. Mikula said.


A house in Shadyside with plenty of bird houses.


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About the Blue Jackets - Game 3 - 04-21-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Blue Jackets.

When and where: 7 p.m., EDT. Nationwide Arena.

TV: Root Sports (Pittsburgh market), Fox Sports Ohio (Columbus market), NBC Sports (Rest of the United States), CBC, RDS.

Leading postseason scorer: Jack Johnson, 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist).

Last Game: 4-3 overtime road win in Game 2, Saturday. Matt Calvert had two goals for the Blue Jackets.

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (1-1, 2.98 GAA, .911 SV%) for the Penguins. Sergei Bobrovsky (1-1, 3.00 GAA, .905 SV%) for the Blue Jackets.

Injuries: For the Penguins, center Brian Gibbons (suspected shoulder) is doubtful. Center Marcel Goc (ankle) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) are out. Right wingers Chris Conner (foot) and Pascal Dupuis (knee) are on injured reserve. For the Blue Jackets, left wingers Nick Foligno ("lower body") is probable. Right winger Nathan Horton (abdominal) and defenseman Fedor Tyutin are out.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins primary lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 19 Beau Bennett
36 Jussi Jokinen - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 18 James Neal
15 Tanner Glass- 16 Brandon Sutter - 22 Lee Stempniak
17 Taylor Pyatt/59 Jayson Megna - 46 Joe Vitale - 27 Craig Adams

7 Paul Martin - 44 Brooks Orpik
4 Rob Scuderi - 58 Kris Letang
2 Matt Niskanen - 3 Olli Maatta

-The Blue Jackets primary lines and defensive pairings at today's morning skate were:

38 Boone Jenner - 19 Ryan Johansen - 5 Jack Skille
11 Matt Calvert - 17 Brandon Dubinsky - 13 Cam Atkinson
18 R.J. Umberger - 42 Artem Anisimov (above) - 71 Nick Foligno
 26 Derek MacKenzie - 55 Mark Letestu - 26 Corey Tropp

58 David Savard - 7 Jack Johnson
27 Ryan Murray - 21 James Wisniewski
6 Nikita Nikitin - 47 Dalton Prout


-The last time the Penguins played this Blue Jackets, this happened:

-“I don't think we need them to score to win ... They know they need to be better.” - Dan Bylsma on Crosby and Malkin as well the team's top two lines.

-"This time of year, those fancy plays just aren’t there." - Niskanen on the team's power play.

-Conner was recalled from a rehabilitation assignment with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He participated in the morning skate but is still on injured reserve.

-Gibbons did not participate in the morning skate.

-Malkin has 99 career postseason points.

-Foligno is returning to the lineup after missing the first two games of the series.

-"We really believe in that room that we can go a long way and do some damage in these playoffs. You never know what can happen. We really want to win this series. That's the first step. But we have a bigger vision, a bigger goal." - Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen.

-The referees are Dean Morton (No. 36) and Steve Kozari (No. 40). The linesmen are Scott Cherry (No. 50) and Brad Kovachik (No. 71).

-Our live blog, direct from the capital of the Buckeye State, begins at approximately 6 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

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Foligno eager to return for Blue Jackets - 04-21-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Entering this postseason, Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno was one of the few players on this team's roster with any sort of playoff experience. Furthermore, he was one of even fewer members of Columbus' squad with any sort of postseason experience against the Penguins. As a member of the Senators, he fell to the Penguins in the 2008 and 2010 postseasons.

Foligno missed the first two games of this first round series with the Penguins series in Pittsburgh due to a "lower-body" injury. Even though the Blue Jackets were able to split those games, Foligno's experience as well as his style of agitating, physical play were missed. He is expected to return to the lineup tonight. At today's morning skate at Nationwide Arena, he worked on the team's third line with Artem Anisimov and R.J. Umberger.

After the skate, Foligno talked about being out the lineup, how to play against Sidney Crosby and his experiences against the Penguins.

What have the last two games been like watching from the press box?

"It’s funny when you watch from up top. The open ice that you see and the way the systems work. So maybe I had a little bit of head start on that scenario. Things happen so quick in the game. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and really just playing a physical style of game we’re playing and chip in wherever possible."

Do you think the team has been able to disrupt the Penguins game a little?

"I think so. I think with the way we play, it’s kind of our style. It’s tough. We play a grinding style of game. They’re a team that’s such a skilled, dynamic team, sometimes when you get that momentum going in your favor, it can be tough on the opponent. We know we have to play that way and to continue to play that way to have a chance in this series. They’re such a great team and they so many good things that if we don’t play that style, that physical grinding style, our game doesn’t come to the forefront and our opportunities don’t happen and that’s when Pittsburgh takes over."

Will it be challenging to come back to engage in some physical play after missing some time?

"No, not at all. I love that kind of stuff. I’m looking forward to the physicality part of it. That’s kind of where my game kind of starts to come out. I’m looking forward to that. I think it will help me get into the game even more knowing you’ve got to be ready every shift to be hit or get hit."

You've had some run-ins with Sidney Crosby over the years. Is it part of the game plan to agitate him and the other team's stars?

"I don’t know if it’s a key of ours but it’s the way we play. We want to be hard on those guys. I don’t if it’s to agitate them. It’s just to take away their time and space. I think with that, it becomes the agitation. I know how dynamic those guys are. I’ve played them in two series already [with Ottawa]. You need to make sure you’re taking away their space because they can do some crazy, magical things with the puck and make you look pretty silly. That’s definitely been one of our focuses is just to take away their time and space. It’s worked so far but we know we can let our foot off the pedal in that sense."

Is there pride in being able to make the Penguins' stars play defense for an entire shift when you have the puck in their zone?

I think that says you’re doing a lot of good things as a team. Obviously, it’s a sense of pride because you’re playing the right way and making those guys play defense. Even for our [skilled] guys, it’s no fun playing defense. I think were just looking to make sure we’re doing the right things and when we do, we’re playing in the offensive zone. We’re creating cycles, creating chances and making it real difficult. Anytime you can keep the puck out of their hands, it’s going to be a good thing for us.

You mention the two previous series you played against them. Obviously you want to win this series in general but would it be satisfying to you personally to finally win against the Penguins in the postseason?

"Yeah, I’ve played against these guys twice and haven’t done well. It would definitely be nice to get a series win. Obviously, that’s you’re goal. You want to win a Stanley Cup and you’ve got to get by everyone to do so."

(Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)

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Niskanen: 'This time of year, those fancy plays just aren’t there' - 04-21-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


With a handful of Art Ross Trophy titles, it's not surprising the Penguins' power play was the NHL's best during the regular season at 23.4 percent.

While the power play has operated at a healthy clip of 27.3 percent all of two games this preseason, it has failed to score key goals at key moments, primarily in the latter stages of Saturday's Game 2, a 4-3 loss in two overtimes to the Blue Jackets. Even worse, the Penguins have surrendered two shorthanded goals to the Blue Jackets, including one by forward Matt Calvert which shifted momentum early in the second period of Saturday's loss.

The team's inconsistency and penchant for allowing short-handed scores prompted Dan Bylsma to shift to a unit during Saturday's game which featured two defensemen and three forwards. Throughout the regular season, when injuries didn't have an overwhelming impact on personnel, the team primarily used four forwards and one defensemen.

Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin were the two blue liners used with the three forward/two defenseman setup the team displayed at today's morning skate (above, with a camera man working the halfwall) at Nationwide Arena. In addition to leading the team in scoring with four points, he has led all Penguins defensemen in power-play time on ice with 5:54 per game.

Following today's morning skate, he talked about what the team needs to do different with the man advantage.

Given Columbus' success with scoring short-handed, how necessary is it to use two defensemen on the power play?

"The way things have gone, it might be a smart move. They’ve obviously have shown they’re looking for offense. They intercept passes, pressure. Even their defensemen are looking for opportunities. The way the last two games have gone, it might be better to have two defensemen."

What is key for you and Martin?

Just be responsible. You want to create momentum. You want to be aggressive. You want to do the things that make our power play good but you just got to be responsible. If there’s a breakdown - it’s going to happen, they’re going to deflect a puck, they’re going to look to go look for on opportunity – we have to be in a position where we’re able to go back and everybody has to go back. Have that mentality that we’re not going to give up momentum.

What's key for this team to have success?

"It should look a lot like our first period the other night. We were really good. That was about the best we played in a long time. We managed the puck really, really well. When we had space, when we had a play to make, we made it. We moved the puck up the ice. We had pressure. We had guys around the net a lot. Our guys backtracked a lot. Our [defensemen] had good gaps and we didn’t give them any space. Those are the things we try to do and we need to do it with more consistency."

Have the Blue Jackets done unique with their penalty kill?

"They’re not doing anything different than what most teams do. If you look at what I’d say 90 percent of the penalty kills in the league do, they’re not doing anything different. I’d say some of [their] chances are self inflicted. We’re looking to make a pretty play they’re almost sitting on it waiting for it. Just a little simpler mindset when we have the puck. A little bit more of shoot-and-recover pucks, a little more of that mentality. That takes away from their mentality."

How much of a balance is there with being selective with a shot versus just firing it at the net hoping for a goal, a tip or a rebound?

"You don’t want to just shoot everything for the sake of shooting. You don’t want to shoot from bad areas on the ice. We all know the areas we want to shoot out but they might not like to get there. I think the best way to describe it is you want to support the puck first, get everybody with a little bit of motion and then we have people going to the net at the same time the puck is going there. Really, you try to create an organized chaos situation around the net where we’re outnumbering them. Even early in a power play, if you just pound one, it might not be the best shot. You might not score on that one but it set things up and gets their box moving. This time of year, those fancy plays just aren’t there. Once in a while they are but it’s usually after a shot and their box has move and they’re in scramble mode. A little bit of a simpler mentality."

(Photo: Seth Rorabaugh/Post-Gazette)

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