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Hollidaysburg's Lafferty eager to build off strong freshman season at Brown - 07-14-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Sam Lafferty knows quite a bit about history.

A native of Hollidaysburg in Blair County, he's more than familiar with the significance of the Horseshoe Curve near Altoona. The curve is a stretch of rail line which bends and weaves through the Allegheny Mountains. It was a vital piece of infrastructure for the United States in getting troops, supplies and materials from the Midwest to the East Coast during World War II. Nazi Germany even targeted the curve for sabotage during the war.

His grandfather had a role in protecting the curve.

Lafferty is also well versed in a subject of far less importance, Penguins history. He's hoping he can be a part of their future.

A fourth-round pick in 2014, Lafferty, 20, spent his freshman season at Brown in 2014-15. Centering the Bears' second line, he scored scored 12 points (four goals, eight assists) and was named Brown's freshman player of the year.

Yesterday, following the first day of on-ice workouts at Consol Energy Center during the team's prospect development camp, Lafferty talked about his grandfather, his freshman season and his future.

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Your grandfather helped protect the Horseshoe Curve?

“During World War II, my granddad was real little. One of his jobs … the little kids in town, their jobs at night were to go around town and make sure everyone's lights were out so in theory the bad guys couldn't target the Horseshoe Curve which was a major supply channel during the war.”

You centered the second line at Brown in your freshman season.

It went really well. I really like it there. It's a great fit. Our team was pretty young this year so we had our ups and downs but towards the end of the year, we started doing really well and I started doing really well. A good year for growth and I just need to guild off that for next season. We're pretty excited.

What was it like going from high school to college hockey?

The level was an adjustment definitely from high school. I started to gain more experience. Played with two good linemates, Max Willman and Tyler Bird. So we started to develop some chemistry towards the end of the year. Three freshmen, hopefully we can build off that going forward.

What does your offseason entail?

"I live in Hollidaysburg, there's a rink in town [Galactic Ice in Altoona] so I work there, train there and just work pretty closely with a trainer."

Lasts season, you were listed at 176 pounds. This season, you're listed at 184 pounds. Is that just natural maturity or did you try to add some weight this past season?

"A few pounds yeah. Definitely getting bigger and stronger is important for me. Just getting mature and bigger. Definitely some effort going into that as well."

You played on Brown's golf team during the spring?

"It was just a fun thing in the spring. I;m still able to do all my workouts and my training and was able to play on the golf team. The schedule worked out. It was a fun thing. Hopefully I'll be able to do it next year.

What's the next step for you?

"Here at camp, just try to soak it in. It's really a great opportunity to learn and get better. Continue that through the summer. Keep training how I've been training. It's a long process for me. Coming into the season for Brown ready to go and start to take over, us young guys, at Brown."

You seemingly had half of Hollidaysburg here cheering you for the scrimmage at last year's development camp. Do you anticipate a similiar turnout this year?

"I don't know if it will be quite the turnout as last year but I know quite a good bit of my friends are coming. And family. It will be quite a bit of fun."

(Photo: Brown Athletic Communications)

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Empty Netter Assists - New start for Biggs - 07-15-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-Forward Tyler Biggs (right) is looking for a fresh start with the Penguins after being traded by the Maple Leafs.

-What does Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goaltender Matt Murray do for an encore after a historic season?

-"You know you're playing hockey on an NHL contract for another year. You can't take those things for granted." - Forward Bobby Farnham on signing a one-year, two-way contract.

-Forwards Oskar Sundqvist (hamstring) and Josh Archibald ("upper body") are dealing with injuries.

-The Penguins have hired Andy O'Brien as "director of sport science and performance." He has served as center Sidney Crosby's personal trainer since 2000.

-EN Says: Absurdly worded title aside, O'Brien's hire and the departure of former strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar last week illustrates a change in direction for the Penguins in how they want their players to train. Considering all the man games they have lost the past few years, a new direction can't hurt.

-Happy 61st birthday to former Penguins forward John Flesch. A free agent signing midway through the 1977-78 season, Flesch's Penguins career amounted to 29 games and 12 points that campaign. He was released in the 1978 offseason.

-Happy 64th birthday to former Penguins all-star forward, coach and scout Rick Kehoe (right). Acquired prior to 1974-75 season in a deal which sent Blaine Stoughton and a draft pick to the Maple Leafs, Kehoe spent 11 seasons with the Penguins as a player. He immediately showed what he could do with the Penguins in 1974-75 by playing in 76 games and netting 32 goals and 63 points. He appeared in nine postseason games that spring and recorded two assists. His numbers improved in 1975-76 as he recorded 76 points in 71 games. He failed to record a point in three playoff games that season. The 1976-77 season saw him appear in all 80 of the team's games and record his second 30-goal season with the Penguins while netting 57 points. He appeared in three postseason games that spring and recorded two assists. Kehoe's production took a slide over the next two seasons as he had 50 points in 70 games during 1977-78 and 45 points in 57 games during 1978-79. During the 1979 playoffs, he contributed two assists. He rebounded in 1979-80 with a team-leading 30 goals and 60 points in 79 games and netted seven points in five playoff games. Kehoe's finest season was in 1980-81 when he appeared in 80 games while scoring a career-best 55 goals and 88 points and recorded three assists in five games. His 55 goals were a franchise record at the time. He followed that up in 1981-82 by recording 85 points in 71 games. That spring, he scored five points in a near-upset of the defending Stanley Cup champion Islanders in a five-game preliminary round series. Kehoe scored both of the Penguins' game-winning goals that series. The decline for Kehoe and the Penguins began in 1982-83 as he was limited to 65 points in 75 games. Injuries began to take their toll in 1983-84 as he could only appear in 57 games and score 45 points. Finally, in 1984-85, Kehoe could only squeeze six games and two assists out of his battered body before retiring at the age of 33. At the time of his retirement, Kehoe was the team's all-time leading scorer with 636 points. The team brought Kehoe back as an assistant coach in 1987-88 and he held that position on and off until early in 2001-02. During that time, Kehoe was a member of the team's first two Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992. Early in 2001-02, Kehoe took over as head coach for Ivan Hlinka. Under Kehoe, the team went 28-37-8-5 and missed the playoffs. Kehoe returned in 2002-03 but once again failed to reach the postseason with a 27-44-6-5 record. He was replaced in the 2003 offseason by Eddie Olczyk. One of the team's most accomplished players, Kehoe was inducted into the franchise's hall of fame in 1992. He is the franchise's fifth all-time leading scorer with 636 points trailing only Mario Lemieux (1,723), Jaromir Jagr (1,079), Sidney Crosby (853) and Evgeni Malkin (702). Appearing in two all-star games (1981 and 1983) and winning the Lady Byng Award in 1981, Kehoe is fourth all-time with the franchise in games played (722), fourth in goals (312), eighth in assists (324) and fifth in power-play goals (95). In 37 postseason games he scored 21 points. He currently works as a professional scout with the Rangers.

-Happy 64th birthday to former Penguins forward Chuck Arnason. Acquired midway through the 1973-74 season along with Bob Paradise in a deal which sent Al McDonough to the Atlanta Flames, "The Rifleman" spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins. Following the trade, Arnason appeared in 41 games and scored 18 points for the Penguins in 1973-74. His only full season in Pittsburgh was 1974-75. Primarily playing on a line Pierre Larouche and Bob "Battleship" Kelly, Arnason played in 78 games and recorded 58 points. He also contributed six points in nine playoff games that spring. In 1975-76, after 30 games and 10 points, Arnason was traded to the Kansas City Scouts along with Steve Durbano and a draft pick in exchange for Simon Nolet, Ed Gilbert and a draft pick. In 169 games with the Penguins, Arnason scored 86 points, 98th-most in franchise history.

-Happy 29th birthday to former Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy (right). A fourth-round pick in 2004, Kennedy spent parts of five seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2007-08, "TK" was called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL and appeared in 55 games while recording 19 points. He also appeared in all 20 of the team's playoff games that spring and contributed four assists. In 2008-09, Kennedy played in 67 games and netted 35 points. In the playoffs, he once again played in all 24 of the club's playoff games while recording a team-leading three game-winning goals and nine points and helped the franchise win its third Stanley Cup title. Kennedy's numbers took a tumble in 2009-10 as he only appeared in 64 games and scored 25 points. In 10 postseason games that season, he failed to score a point. He rebounded in 2010-11 by reaching career highs in games (80), goals (21), assists (24) and points (45). That spring, he appeared in seven postseason games and contributed three points. In 2011-12, injuries limited Kennedy to 60 games and 33 points. During the 2012 postseason, he saw action in six games and recorded six points. The 2012-13 season saw Kennedy play in 46 games and score 11 points. Kennedy appeared in nine postseason games and scored five points. Last offseason, Kennedy was traded to the Sharks in exchange for a draft pick. In 372 games with the Penguins, Kennedy scored 168 points, 50th-most in franchise history. In 76 postseason games, he had 27 points. Kennedy is currently a free agent.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Devils re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Eric Gelinas to a two-year contract worth a total of $3.15 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $900,000, Gelinas' new deal will have a cap hit of $1.575 million. Gelinas, 24, appeared in 61 games last season and scored 19 points (six goals, 13 assists). This signing avoids arbitration.

-EN Says: With the Devils rebuilding, Gelinas is poised to be a big part of their future. A large player (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), Gelinas is blessed with offensive abilities including a large shot. He still needs to work on his defense. This could serve as a bridge contract towards a larger deal.

-The Rangers signed restricted free agent forward Emerson Etem to a one-year, two-way contract. The Rangers acquired his signing rights in a deal with the Ducks.

-The Rangers re-signed restricted free agent minor league forward Oscar Lindberg to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.3 million. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $675,000, Lindberg's new deal will have a cap hit of $650,000. Appearing in 75 games with the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack last season, Lindberg scored 56 points (28 goals, 28 assists).

Atlantic Division

-In the wake of his recent arrest for impaired driving, Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly is expected to be referred for evaluation under the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.

-The Sabres re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mark Pysyk to a two-year contract worth a total of $2.25 million. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $870,000, Pysyk's new contract will have a cap hit of $1.125 million. Pysyk appeared in seven NHL games last season and scored three points (two goals, one assist).

-EN Says: Pysyk is a former first-round pick (No. 23 overall) in 2010 who has never quite nailed down a full-time role at the NHL level. He has puck moving abilities. With the Sabres in a re-build, he will have ample chance to claim an NHL role.

-Coming off their second straight season in 30th place, the Sabres have hiked single-game ticket prices.

-The Sabres re-signed restricted free agent forward Michael Bournival to a one-year, two-way contract.

Central Division

-Unrestricted free agent Johnny Oduya (right) will not re-sign with the Blackhawks.

Pacific Division

-The Coyotes re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Philip Samuelsson and forward Brendan Shinnimin to one-year, two-way contracts. Each signing avoids arbitration.

Norris Division

-Former Kings/Islanders/Oilers/Rangers/Capitals/Flames/Canucks/Ducks forward Josh Green has joined KooKoo of Finland's Liiga.

-Former Robert Morris defenseman Denny Urban has joined the Straubing Tigers of Germany's DEL.

(Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images, Jeff Gross/Getty Images, Nick Laham/Getty Images, Mitchell Layton/Getty Images, Jim McIsaac/Getty Images and Penguins Hockey Cards)

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Despite records, Murray not focused on shutouts - 07-14-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

In the span of six months, Matt Murray went from nondescript mid-level prospect to being a record-breaking goaltender.

When the 2014-15 AHL season began in October, Murray was sitting on the bench as the backup of the the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins behind starter Jeff Zatkoff.

When the regular season came to an end in April, Murray owned the AHL's records for longest shutout sequence (304:11) and most shutouts by a rookie goaltender (12). His accomplishments earned him the AHL's rookie of the year award.

What could Murray, a third-round pick in 2012, possibly do for an encore?

Earlier today, following on-ice workouts for the Penguins' development camp at Consol Energy Center, Murray talked about his historic season.

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How do you encapsulate the type of season you had?

"It's kind of hard to put it into words. Everything just kind of came together at the right time. That definitely hasn't changed. I was very motivated as a rookie coming in to show what I could do. I think that went a long way in going towards the season that I did."

The Penguins had quite a bit of organizational depth last season with yourself, Jeff Zatkoff and Eric Hartzell. Did you anticipate taking the reins as the primary starter in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton you did?

"Coming in as a Pittsburgh draft pick, I realize how how deep they were at he goaltending position. My first couple of years, I didn't really know what to expect. Where I was going to be. Really, at the end of the day, that's completely out of my hands. I try not to focus on the depth chart or anything like that. I just try to play my heart out anytime I go on the ice. The rest will take care of itself."

What do the shutout records mean to you?

"It's great but at the end of the day we lost in the second round of the playoffs. It's nice to have your name in the record books I guess, but at the same time, it's about winning championships and we weren't able to do that. That's what I think about more than any of those records. I've kind of moved past that now."

What was the biggest difference between junior and professional hockey?

"Definitely, just for me, it was my depth in the crease. Obviously, shooters are better in pro hockey. I think in junior, with my size (6-foot-4, 178 pounds) I was able to get away with staying in deeper and reading the play a bit more and still being able to make the save on an open shot. I noticed kind of early in the season last year, that staying deep, I was definitely getting beat over my shoulders and high in the top corners. I definitely had to step out a few feet and make the adjustment."

What do you do for an encore after such a great performance last season?

"I don't look at it as an encore. It's going to be a tough season to duplicate. Obviously, everything fell into place. Every season is a new season that produces new challenges. I'm going into it with an open mind and really not trying to expect anything. Just to compete and play my heart out every time I'm on the ice. It's all you can do."

(Photo: Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice)

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'10 for 10' No. 8: West Virginia emphatically enters the Big 12

Written by Craig Meyer on .

In this college football desert of July, and with this upcoming season marking the 10th anniversary of West Virginia’s 2005 team that won the Sugar Bowl, I’ve decided to count down the 10 most important Mountaineers games of the past decade.

Over the next three weeks, we’ll work from 10 to one, with one entry appearing every few days. Lists like this are arbitrary by nature, but the hope here is to find the games that had the biggest impact on the West Virginia program both at that time and well into the future. So, before we get going, a disclaimer: these aren’t necessarily the best, most compelling games, but rather the ones that had the most profound role in steering the Mountaineers to where they are today.

After a few days off, we’re on to No. 8.

West Virginia 70, Baylor 63; Sept. 29, 2012

http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/ac1394dbdcca6a36cbf486633b129cd813095ac3/r=x404&c=534x401/local/-/media/USATODAY/gameon/2012/09/29/usp-ncaa-football_-baylor-at-west-virginia-4_3.jpg

(Photo: USA Today)

It only took one game for West Virginia to profoundly announce its arrival in its new conference.

In a league now synonymous with exotic passing offenses and cartoonish numbers, the Mountaineers, separated by 850 miles from the next-closest school (Iowa State), proved in just their first game that although they were an awkward geographic outlier, they were a perfect stylistic fit for the Big 12.

Their victory against the Bears was the highest-scoring game in Big 12 history and Geno Smith’s eight touchdown passes tied a conference record (his 656 passing yards just missed out on setting another mark). For good measure, he finished the afternoon 45 of 51, giving him more touchdown passes than incompletions.

“Can you please tell me how you can improve on that?” Dana Holgorsen said after the game.

Not to be outdone, Baylor’s Nick Florence threw for 581 yards, breaking a school record set by his predecessor, Robert Griffin III, who won the Heisman Trophy the previous season.

West Virginia finished the game with a school-record 807 yards and the two teams combined for 1,507 yards. The Mountaineers scored touchdowns on 10 of their 14 possessions. The second quarter alone saw the two squads score 42 points.

Not even nine months after steamrolling Clemson with 70 points in the Orange Bowl, West Virginia again showcased its ability to pile up points in a way teams typically only do against the bottom dwellers of the sport. The four-hour game thrust Smith into the role of unquestioned Heisman Trophy front-runner and transformed the Mountaineers into perhaps the most compelling team in the country.

In front of a frenzied, blue-and-gold checkerboard clad crowd, West Virginia’s first Big 12 game represented a new excitement for a program that, one year earlier, looked like it may be left behind in a conference on the verge of disintegration. And it came with a team and an offense that, on that afternoon, perfectly embodied that thrill and exhilaration.

 

Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Farnham still hungry - 07-14-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

 

It would be a stretch to say Bobby Farnham made a significant impact on the Penguins' fortunes during his 11 games at the NHL level. He failed to score a point while only averaging 7:10 of ice time per game.

Farnham certainly did try to make a literal impact with his style of play. Crashing into opponents and boards with a blend of speed, aggression and recklessness, Farnham managed to rack up 24 minutes of penalties during his time in the NHL while also making an impression with fans and opponents.

Farnham also made enough of an impression with management which signed him to a one-year, two-way contract yesterday.

Late last night, Farnham talked by phone about his new contract, his future and his style of play.

For someone who had to fight - literally in some cases - to get to the NHL, what is it like to get another NHL contract?

"It's always great when you sign another NHL contract every summer. You know you're playing hockey on an NHL contract for another year. You can't take those things for granted. It's always great to sign that and have that in your back pocket going into summer."

Your style of play is pretty straight forward but is there another level you can reach as an NHL player?

You always like to think that. Twenty-six years old. The prime of your career. You just have to keep working at the things that you really need to get better at. A lot of that has to do with stick work and plays in tight and providing an offensive flair as well. There's always things you can get better at and there's always another level I think.

With forward Steve Downie gone as a free agent, can you replace some of the toughness he offered?

"I did learn a lot from Steve from being up [with the Penguins] last year. He's done that for years at the NHL level. And he's been able to score a lot of goals too. You always have to have your head on a swivel being a player like that. If there's a hit or there's this or that, there needs to be a response and that's something you want to be aware of and you want to be there when a response is needed, or a spark is needed."

What was it like finally getting to the NHL last season? What do your recall from your first game?

"It really was like … surreal. I probably didn't sleep for probably 36 hours. When I got called up, I didn't sleep the night before with the car service. I didn't sleep on the plane. No pregame nap. Like I tried. It was just I was so amped up and ready to go, I think I was exhausted 10 seconds into my first shift. It was just an unbelievable feeling. You always wonder what that feeling will be like and it was pretty much, if not better, exactly what you thought it would be."

You've shown an ability to draw penalties and put your team on the power play. How have you developed that attribute?

"It's honestly one of those things where I was always fast. I had that low stride. I've tried to use that to my advantage, especially coming on the forecheck and things like that. That's what I use it for the most. It's an asset that can help you draw penalties and get in on the forecheck. That's just one of those things that I've been trying to use since college."

Now that you've gotten your second NHL contract, is there a danger in getting too comfortable?

"I don't think there's a danger because I wouldn't ever say I get comfortable. This is the only organization I've ever been a part of and it's an organization I feel very close to. Every aspect of it. It's been such a great spot for me. There's a feeling of I guess you would say comfort but not in a way that you would not play as well or try as hard. It just kind of keeps you hungry for more. You want to prove the people that gave you your shot that you can make the NHL. That you can be a full-time NHL guy. And there's a lot of people who say you probably couldn't. You've got to prove them wrong too. You're always hungry for more, especially when you get a taste of it."

(Photo: Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

 

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