Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Nice Tim Leone Article Worth Taking a Look At

For those of you who don't regularly follow Tim Leone's coverage of the Hershey Bears over at this is a nice look at two of the Capitals newest prospects Steve Pinizzotto and Sean Collins, who were both signed last week after finishing up their collegiate seasons.

2 College Stars Take First Pro Steps
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Their college careers finished, newly signed Steve Pinizzotto and Sean Collins began their education in professional hockey yesterday at Hersheypark Arena.

The duo got a quick bonus seminar in logistics. They needed directions back to the appropriate locker room from Hershey Bears head coach Bruce Boudreau after practice concluded.

"Not there, that's the bathroom," professor Boudreau told Pinizzotto. "One more over."
Pinizzotto, a forward from Rochester Institute of Technology, and Collins, a defenseman from Ohio State, hope their first tentative pro steps are the start of a journey to the NHL.
Both were undrafted free agents who signed two-year entry-level contracts with the Washington Capitals (and amateur tryout deals with Hershey) last week.

"It's pretty intense," Pinizzotto said. "I didn't expect it to be like that. Being off the ice for a month, it shows what you have to do to be game-ready."

The 6-1, 195-pound Pinizzotto, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, opted to go pro after completing his sophomore season at RIT. The 22-year-old led the Tigers in scoring this season with 44 points (13 goals, 31 assists) and displayed an edge with a team-high 76 penalty minutes in 34 games.

"I felt I needed a change and I knew that if I would come up with better players and adapt to their pace of the game, it also makes you a better player, too," Pinizzotto said.
"I would just like to play my hardest every game and try to help the team win another Calder Cup."

College and junior-eligible players rarely have much of an immediate impact when they hit the AHL.

"When the college kids come and the junior kids come, their idea is to let's see what pro hockey's all about," Boudreau said. "Sometimes you get really lucky with a [Mike] Richards [Philadelphia] or a [Jeff] Carter [Philadelphia] or Andrew Alberts [Providence], but most of the time it's giving them a little view of what pro life is going to be like so when their next year comes they know what's coming and there's no surprise.

"Sometimes juniors that come in think that this is going to be easy, but the American League is a very good league and the eyes are opened very quickly."

Collins, 23, was Ohio State's captain this season and a second-team All-CCHA pick. The 6-1, 215-pounder led the Buckeyes in scoring with 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 28 games.
"It was exciting," Collins said of his first practice. "There's a lot of anticipation. I was real anxious.

"It's definitely quicker. The passes are harder. It's tough for me because I'm out of game shape right now. I've been off for about two weeks. I really look forward to getting into the swing of things and getting in shape. It's the most exciting time of the year, and I'm stepping right into an exciting time. It's awesome."

Collins, a Troy, Mich., native, was teammates with Bears centerman Dave Steckel at Ohio State in 2003-04. It was Steckel's senior year and Collins' freshman year.

"It's real nice to come in and know someone that's been here for a little bit," Collins said. "He's a great guy, so he's helping out a little bit."

Pinizzotto is the first RIT player since the school moved from Division III to Division I in 2005-06 to leave early and go pro. The 22-year-old missed the first nine games of his freshman season in 2005-06 due to a torn ACL, but he made it back two months after suffering the knee injury to produce 18 points in 24 games and enjoyed a breakout season in 2006-07.

"I got a lot of my points on the power play [eight goals]," Pinozzotto said. "I had a lot of good players to play with, so that helped me out a lot."

Boudreau said he doesn't have much of a read on Pinizzotto and Collins as players after one practice.

"I didn't want to start teaching today," Boudreau said. "They can both skate and shoot. But junior B players can do that, so we'll see. The big thing is to see how they can adapt to systems and the speed of the game.

"At some point, they're going to play. It's just a question of when. I'd like to get them in sooner rather than later. You don't want to have to put them in for the first game when we're battling for first place."


The Springfield Falcons, poised for a fourth straight season out of the playoffs, visit Giant Center tonight amid a big off-ice week for the franchise.

Formal announcement came Monday that the Edmonton Oilers will replace the Tampa Bay Lightning as the club's NHL affiliate next season. With the Chicago Blackhawks switching their AHL affiliation to the expansion Rockford, Ill., franchise next season, Tampa Bay is expected to affiliate with Norfolk.

Boudreau is friends with Springfield general manager Bruce Landon. He said he talked to Landon Monday and lauded the Edmonton prospects he's seen play for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.

"He's pretty excited about the whole thing," Boudreau said. "He's a good guy, and I hope it works out."

For the Bears, tonight's game will be a glimpse at some players they'll be seeing more of next season in the East Division, assuming the alignment remains the same and Tampa Bay actually affiliates with Norfolk.

"I know those players pretty good," Boudreau said. "I follow Springfield because Bruce Landon is such a good friend of mine.

"Anytime a team changes an affiliation, you see the NHL team make an extra effort to put a good product in. I believe that they're going to be a good team next year [in Norfolk]."

Norfolk became the first AHL team to clinch a playoff berth. Hershey's magic number to clinch an East Division playoff berth is four points; any combination of Bears points gained and Albany points lost that adds up to four will cement a Bears' postseason slot.

Albany visits Worcester tonight. Thus, the Bears could clinch tonight with a win over Springfield and a regulation loss by Albany.

BLUE LINES: Stephen Werner and Marc Busenburg practiced with Hershey yesterday, but one or both soon could be ticketed back to South Carolina (ECHL). "South Carolina is in quite a terrific race to make the playoffs," Boudreau said. "We don't want to steal players from them if we don't have to. If we can get a guy back, we probably would." ... Injured Scott Barney remained sidelined, and Matt Hendricks also sat out practice. ... Chad Wiseman has begun off-ice rehabilitation in the wake of sports hernia surgery. ... Two Notre Dame caps were among the hats tossed in the wake of Kyle Wilson's hat trick Sunday against Binghamton. Bears interns Andrew Telega and Dave Corsones had the inventive presence of mind to station them as props at Fighting Irish fan Boudreau's postgame interview table.

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