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Hartzell's first professional season a learning experience - 09-20-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

 

In the winter and spring of 2013, Eric Hartzell was the big man on campus at Quinnipiac. Becoming a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, the goaltender lead the Bobcats to the NCAA's championship game. After wrapping up his collegiate career, he signed with the Penguins and was exposed to a professional environment of a team which advanced to the Eastern Conference final.

Last season, Hartzell didn't experience nearly the same level of success in his first professional season which was split between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Wheeling. Overall, he appeared in 25 AHL games, was 10-8-1 record with a 2.48 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. While he did win the AHL's goaltender of the month award in January, he did not record a win past Feb. 7 as veterans Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Peter Mannino served as the AHL Penguins' primary starter in net.

With Hartzell a candidate to become the organization's No. 3 goaltender, he's hoping for a big rebound in 2013-14. Yesterday, he talked about his first professional season:

How do you evaluate your first season as a professional?

Definitely a unique experience. There was a lot of things that you learn in college and you can bring to the next level. Then when you get to the next level, there’s a bunch of stuff to learn. So I think last year for me… I had lots of success and there was definitely a lot of rocky moments. But I think the year in general, the ups and downs, really helped me learn about myself and my hockey game. I really benefited a lot this summer from having that experience. Working on the things that I struggled with my first year [professionally], I was able to recognize that, analyze it and respond in the summer. Ultimately, it made me a better player and a better person.

What was it like bouncing between the AHL and ECHL?

I’ve never experienced something like that before. Having the experience last year was a little bit tough not really understanding why. If you get called down or you get called up, just continue doing what you’re doing and keep working on your game. The mental aspect of the game I learned a lot from. I was able to get the right people in my corner this summer and work on it. I’m definitely ready for if anything like that happens again.

What's the biggest difference between the college and professional levels?

Oh, honestly it’s a list full. As far as the play, the players a lot better. They shoot a lot better. The playmaking on the ice is a lot better. The biggest adjustment is the mental game. It’s a lot longer season. You’ve got to be able to maintain your body. Maintain your head a little bit.

Two seasons ago, you had so much success at Quinnipiac and last season, there were struggles. What was it like in that respect?

For me it was a learning experience. At the time, I wanted everything to come quick. If success doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of time and a lot of experience. The downs might have even been what I learned the most from. [Head coach John Hynes and assistant coach Alain Nassreddine] and all those guys, they really helped, especially at the end of the year. They talked to me a lot. They explained what I need to work on mentally and physically this summer. I did that. The game feels good right now. I try to keep that stable mentality and hopefully that will help my whole season.

Do you have any specific goals this season in terms of games played, wins, etc.?

I definitely have my own goals I don’t think I’m going to share with anybody. One thing I will share with the media and everybody else is that I just want to help wherever I’m at. I want to help that team win. Obviously you want to win a championship and all that but those but those are long-term goals. I’m just focused on the short-term and for me that just keeping stable mentally and taking it day by day. Next puck, next puck.

You played with two veterans last season. Did you learn anything specifically from them?

Never too high. Never too low. Deslauriers was a good guy to look after. I think Mannino was the greatet of all time really. He’s a really down to earth guy. He’s a veteran. He’s open. He always wants to talk and help coach you. Those guys did a really great job. At the end of the year, they gave me their [phone] numbers and I was able to call them this summer and talk to them a little bit and ask them certain questions and pick their brains.

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GameDay: West Virginia (2-1) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (3-0)

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — This is gonna be fun.

Milan Puskar Stadium will be packed tonight as West Virginia and No. 4 Oklahoma go under the lights again to open the Big 12 season. The Sooners are 4-2 all-time against West Virginia, but the last two wins couldn't have been any different; it was 50-49 in Morgantown two years ago and 16-7 in a slopfest last September. You can bet this one'll be another shootout.

"It is going to be insane," linebacker Isaiah Bruce said. "A night game in Morgantown is just insane.”

Quarterback Clint Trickett and the West Virginia offense will hope to blitz Oklahoma like they did Maryland in a 40-37 win last Saturday. They took 108 snaps last week, much to the chagrin of Maryland coach Randy Edsall, who said, “I think there’s problem in college football, I really do, with that many plays” being run.

Receiver Mario Alford was on the field for all 108 plays, making 11 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He grinned at Edsall’s comment.

"I wasn't as tired as I thought I would be," Alford said.

Both teams are without a star: Oklahoma running back Keith Ford is out with a fractured bone in his foot. He had six touchdowns in three games. West Virgina will be without cornerback Daryl Worley, who was suspended indefinitely after word of an altercation with a female at a Morgantown nightclub early Sunday morning — he was arrested and arraigned Wednesday on battery charges. Worley had two interceptions, West Virginia's only takeaways of the season.

The Sooners offense will be plenty dangerous without Ford; that starts with the pitcher-catcher duo of quarterback Trevor Knight and receiver Sterling Shepard, who has had more than 100 yards receiving the past two weeks and would have been covered by Worley.

And then there's that offensive line.

“They've always had big, athletic guys up front," head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They've got two NFL tackles. They've got one of the guards returning, and then the center — they had to replace their all-conference, All-American center, but they're doing it with a coach's kid who understands what's going on.

Tom “Scrap” Bradley added, "You look how big they are. I think when they get on the scale it must say, 'One at a time, please.' They're all 330. I don't know when they weighed them. I'd imagine after a couple snacks it could be 340. That's a big group. The center is the smallest guy, obviously, but everybody else is 329 and above. I don't know when they weight them, but I don't think it was Weight Watchers day."

Yes, this one, it appears, will be on Trickett's shoulders. He's carried the load so far, ranking top-five in nearly every quarterback category. Receiver Kevin White has 32 catches for 460 yards, both second-most in FBS. Alford has 21 catches and 206 yards and three touchdowns. It's not quite Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who torched Oklahoma in every way two years ago, but it's getting closer.

"It’s tough, because you don’t know which one to guard, and you can’t double team both of them because then we have Squirt (Jordan Thompson), we have the run game, we have Daikiel (Shorts)," Trickett said. "It's a good problem to have. I’m not complaining one bit, because I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

"I watched Hard Knocks and you have Roddy White and Julio Jones out there with Matt Ryan. At Maryland, they put safeties 30 yards deep, and I'd never seen that before. I thought it was pretty comical. That just shows you how good of a deep threat we have in both of them. Mario had two touchdowns, and Kevin had 200 yards, so it’s hard to stop that."

Indeed it is. And it's West Virginia's best shot at toppling another giant today. On ESPN's College GameDay set, Lee Corso predicted another 50-49 Oklahoma win, but Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit both said West Virginia will score the upset.

Either way, it's gonna be a fun one.

Check back here for injury updates and news bullets throughout the day.


SCOUTING REPORT

Matchup: West Virginia (2-1) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (3-0), 7:30 today, Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W.Va.

TV, Radio, Internet: FOX, Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius 138, XM 199.

West Virginia: Offense is averaging 39 points per game, up 12.7 points from last season. … Trickett has thrown for 1,224 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. … Trickett has thrown for 408 yards per game, fourth-most in Division I.

Oklahoma: Has won seven games in a row, including wins against then-No. 6 Oklahoma State and then-No. 7 Alabama in consecutive weeks last November. … Is 4-2 against West Virginia. … Has won its first three games this season by an average margin of 33.6 points.

Hidden stat: West Virginia had just one play of 30-plus yards before last Saturday, when the offense exploded for seven plays of at least 30 yards.

Follow: @stephenjnesbitt and @AllEersPG.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

• The Mountaineers couldn't have asked for a tougher first month, but they've escaped No. 2 Alabama, Towson and Maryland 2-1, and that's a best-case scenario. It doesn't get easier today. Here's today's preview of West Virginia vs. No. 4 Oklahoma, a game where the underdogs have a true shot at an upset.

• West Virginia's specialists are a funky bunch. Kicker Josh Lambert, the Mountaineers' savior last week, can bench press 400 yards and is all sorts of interesting. Meet him and West Virginia's merry band of specialists. They lift together, and they live together.

• Don't miss the first episode of the Post Route Podcast, spanning the Backyard Brawl battleground.

• For the Worley saga, here's the explanation of his Wednesday arrest. It won't be easy for West Virginia to replace Worley, but it does return Ishmael Banks from academic suspension this week, which will certainly help — he's the most experienced defensive back. For that and more, here's Holgorsen's full Tuesday presser recap.

• Trickett's report with his receivers is paying off in a big, big way. He was named Walter Camp player of the week and Davey O'Brien QB of the week after a 511-yard passing day against Maryland.

• By the numbers: How West Virginia stacks up statistically in the national rankings. Hint: It's much better than last year.


Finally, a key to this one will be West Virginia's defense helping out with a timely turnover or five. And putting a little pressure on the quarterback will do wonders — something like this sequence ...

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GAME DAY: Pitt vs. Iowa

Written by Sam Werner on .

PittIowa14

Pitt will look to push its record to 4-0 for the first time in 14 years in just under an hour against Iowa. Before we get going, here are a few quick notes to get your game day started...

- No major injury updates for Pitt today. Obviously center Artie Rowell is out with his ACL injury, but defensive end David Durham, who missed last week's game with a shoulder injury, is supposed to be good to go. Right guard Matt Rotheram also tweaked an ankle in practice this week, but he is expected to play.

- Speaking of that center spot, redshirt freshman Alex Officer is listed as the starter on the pre-game depth chart and I'd be surprised if it's not him out there to start the game. He played all 60 minutes last week, but Paul Chryst did say that rotating between him and Gabe Roberts is an option today.

- Here's a link to my story from today's Post-Gazette on the battle on the ground today between Pitt and Iowa.

- It has been said a lot this week, but I think the key matchup to watch today is Pitt's offense against Iowa's defense, both on the ground and in the air. Obviously, if the Panthers can run the ball as well as they have the first three weeks, that's the easiest recipe for them to win. I think Iowa will put up some resistance, though, and Chad Voytik will need to have his best game of the season for Pitt to win.

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Empty Netter Assists - 09-20-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Welcome back Sidney Crosby (above)... to practice.

-Who will be the Penguins' No. 3 goaltender?

-After making his NHL debut and rebounding from a skate cut on his left forearm, Zach Sill returns to training camp with more confidence.

-The Penguins revealed a "new" third jersey.

-“It’s being able to read and react. We played a lot like robots last year. Everything was so ingrained in your mind. You had to be at a certain place at a certain time. Even today, on our forechecks, it was cool to [hear], ‘I don’t care who’s the second or third guy. Just go to one of these spots.’ It was more free reign that way. More read and react.” - Beau Bennett comparing new head coach Mike Johnston's first practice to those of former head coach Dan Bylsma.

-Mike Johnston speaks:

-Crosby speaks:

-The Penguins unveiled plans for developing the Civic Arena site.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-Flyers captain/forward Claude Giroux is expected to be sidelined two weeks after suffering a "lower-body" injury on the first day of training camp.

-“We’ve talked and I’ve told him he’s way more dangerous on the left side." - Capitals coach Barry Trotz on moving captain/forward Alex Ovechkin from right wing to left wing.

-Could the Rangers move forward Rick Nash from right wing to left wing?

-The Rangers are trying to work out a contract extension with defenseman Marc Staal.

-With long-time goaltender Martin Brodeur gone, forward Patrik Elias is the Devils' longest tenured player.

-After suffering yet another concussion, Devils forward Ryane Clowe has been advised to cut back on fighting.

-Could the Blue Jackets go a third consecutive season without a captain?

Atlantic Division

-The Panthers renewed their affiliation agreement with the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones.

Central Division

-Former Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney (right) is attending the Blues' training camp on a tryout basis.

-The Avalanche officially gave executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic the full title of general manager.

Pacific Division

-Kings defenseman Drew Doughty missed the first day of training camp due to a "lower-body" injury.

-Ducks forwards Kyle Palmieri (right ankle) and Shea Theodore (right elbow) are sidelined due to injuries.

-Defenseman Deryk Engelland is treating his first training camp with the Flames the same way as his previous camps with the Penguins. As competition.

-Who will be the Sharks' next captain?

Smythe Division

-Robert Morris' and Mercyhurst's men's team were each ranked No. 1 in the CHA coach's preseason poll.

-The South Korean men's and women's national teams will be granted automatic berths in the 2018 Olympic tournaments as the host nation.

(Photos: Dave Sandford/Getty Images and Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

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PG archives: Steelers, Broncos Struggle to 35-35 Tie

Written by Dan Gigler on .

In recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Steelers first Super Bowl season, we'll reprint the game story from each week of that year. This story was first published on Sept. 23, 1974
 
By Vito Stellino
Post-Gazette Sports Writer
 
DENVER — It had to be the “Gone With the Wind” of regular season pro football games.
 
After 3 hours and 49 minutes, five quarters and 160 plays, the Steelers and the Denver Broncos were still tied yesterday at 35-35. And that’s the way it ended.
 
Nobody was asking for money back. There was no nonsense about a tie being like kissing your sister.
 
There was only mild criticism of Chuck Noll’s decision to run the ball on the final two plays from inside the Steeler 25 to kill the clock and accept the exhausted deadlock.
 
This was the first time since George Halas and his pals gathered in that auto showroom in Canton a half century ago to create the league that a regular season game in the National Football League has gone into overtime.
 
Neither team was able to break the tie ­— Jim Turner’s 41-yard field goal attempt with 3:13 left in sudden death was wide to the right — but that didn’t make the spectacle any less exciting.
 
Of course, the Steelers were bitterly disappointed in the tie. They were favored, they expected to win. They came back from a 21-7 deficit and led 35-28 midway in the final period. They even had a chance to win it on the final play of the fourth period when Roy Gerela’s 25-yard field goal attempt was low and blocked.
 
Once Gerela’s attempt was blocked, new rules in the NFL call for a 15-minute sudden death period to break the tie.
 
Noll thought 60 minutes was enough. “I don’t like the idea of overtime.
 
“I have a tired football team that has to get ready for a football game next week. If we’d have one of these every week, it’d kill our team.”
 
Naturally, Denver coach John Ralston disagreed. He likes the idea of overtime. He’s a rah-rah type who runs out onto the field before kickoffs and is always patting his guys on the back.
 
Ralston set the tempo of the game when he had Jim Turner try a successful onside kick to start the game. That didn’t lead to a score but the Broncos seemed to be higher than Mile High Stadium.
 
Before the game was 10 minutes old, the broncos were leading 21-7 — scoring 3 touchdowns on just eight plays — and the Denver fans were wondering about the Steeler defense.
 
So was Noll. “I don’t know what it was. We’ll have to look at it,” he said. “They weren’t doing anything different.”
 
What the Broncos were doing was breaking tackles, especially Otis Armstrong who rushes 19 times for 131 yards and caught five passes for 86 yards. Noll said, “When the other guys are running through your arms that’s the first indication you’re not ready to do something.”
 
The exciting play, though, had just started. Joe Gilliam was to put on what Ralston called “possibly the finest performance I’ve ever seen by a quarterback.”
 
Steve Davis ran 61 yards on a spectacular run with a screen pass for the Steelers’ first touchdown and before it was over, Gilliam would pass 50 times for 31 completions — both Steelers records. He’s now completed 48 of 81 in two games and if he keeps that pace up, he’s going to break every single season NFL record in the book.
 
Ralston devised what Noll called a “four deep zone” to take away Gilliam’s long game but Gilliam patiently ran an 87-yard drive in 18 plays in the second period to cut the deficit to 21-14 at halftime.
 
Franco Harris was especially valuable, running 20 times for 70 yards and catching nine passes — a Steeler record for a back — for 84 yards as Gilliam used the short game.
 
The Steeler defense seemed to come alive in the second half for a while.
 
Joe Greene knocked Charley Johnson out of the game with a sprained shoulder on a play that led to an interception by Mike Wagner on the third play of the second half and set up a TD.
 
Andy Russell rammed into Steve Ramsey, Johnson’s replacement, to set up Marv Kellum’s interception that led to another touchdown and Fats Holmes sacked Ramsey again to set up an L.C. Greenwood recovery.
 
These big plays gave the Steelers a 35-28 lead in the fourth quarter and possession on the Denver 32. The Steelers marched to the Denver 14 and seemed to be ready to take control of the game but Gilliam got sacked and then Calvin Jones tipped a pass and Tom Jackson intercepted it and that seemed to change the game.
 
“That missed being a touchdown by just an inch,” Gilliam said.
 
Five plays later, Ramsey threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Armstrong and the game was tied 35-35 with7:08 left.
 
It was to remain that way for 22 more minutes — although no one knew it at the time.
 
Gerela’s missed field goal — after the officials somehow let 50 seconds tick away on the clock just before Denver punted — blew a chance to win the game in regulation time for Pittsburgh.
 
In the overtime, John Rowser — a former Steeler — intercepted a pass on a third-and-22 play when third string receiver Reggie Garrett — playing because of injuries to end Ron Shanklin and Lynn Swann — ran a poor route.
 
That set up Tuner’s missed 41-yarder and neither team threatened again.
 
So, it was a tie. But it couldn’t have been more exciting. Did somebody once say something about dull, ball-control NFL games? Maybe it’s the thin air here.

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