DECISION TO STAY IN PITTSBURGH A NO-BRAINER FOR RUHWEDEL


by Mike O’Brien

It can be a daunting choice, one to which most everyone can relate.  At some point in life, it comes time to mull over a job offer.  Many hours and some sleepless nights are spent weighing the pros and cons, determining if the next opportunity is the right one.

Hockey players go through a super-charged version of this process come the start of free agency each summer.  Life decisions are crammed into a few hours as players must quickly choose which contract, which organization, which city is the best fit.

Even if defenseman Chad Ruhwedel had a crystal ball at his disposal last summer when he signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he might have had difficulty foreseeing the path the lay ahead.

Ruhwedel had been at this crossroads before.

The San Diego native had an outstanding junior campaign at the UMass-Lowell, helping the Riverhawks to the Frozen Four while being named an All-American.

At the same time, the undrafted defenseman was being pursued aggressively by the Buffalo Sabres, who signed Ruhwedel at the conclusion of the 2012-13 college season.  He hopped right into the Sabres line-up, making his NHL debut on Apr. 13, 2013 in a 1-0 win over Philadelphia as part of a seven-game stint with Buffalo.

The following season, Ruhwedel’s first full campaign as a pro, would provide the blueliner with a highwater mark for games played in the NHL.  He appeared in 21 contests for a rebuilding Buffalo squad, while also splitting time in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans.

A restricted free agent in the summer of 2014, Ruhwedel re-signed with the Sabres, but saw his time in NHL diminish to just five games in Buffalo over the next two seasons.

Fast forward to July 1, 2016.  Ruhwedel was at another proverbial fork in the road. Though there were many conversations with his family and agent leading up to the start of free agency, the final decision ended up being a pretty easy one.

“That was pretty hectic the week before free agency.  We narrowed it down to a few contenders,” Ruhwedel stated.  “When Pittsburgh’s name came up, to be honest, it was a no-brainer.”

The 27-year-old joined a Penguins organization that boasted a very deep bench on defense.  He began the season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and immediately slotted into the top pairing for the AHL club.

When injuries befell the blueline corps in Pittsburgh near Christmas time, Ruhwedel was recalled to NHL.  He hit the ice for his first game with Pittsburgh on Dec. 20, and scored his first NHL goal a game later versus the New Jersey Devils.  His steady play endeared Ruhwedel to the coaching staff in a short amount of time.

“The reason Chad stuck is because he earned his spot,” said Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan. “He earned it through his performance and his work habits each and every day.”

Ruhwedel set career highs with 34 NHL games played, two goals, eight assists and 10 points.  Those stats and time spent in Pittsburgh probably would have been enough to justify his choice to join the Penguins, but it only got better from there.

With the defense corps at full health to begin the postseason, Ruhwedel initially found himself a spectator through the opening round series versus Columbus and much the second round against Washington.

But, when Trevor Daley suffered an injury in Game Five against the Capitals, it was Ruhwedel who got that call from Sullivan.

The Penguins closed out the Caps in seven games, and Ruhwedel was also in the line-up through the first four contests of the Eastern Conference Final versus Ottawa – including 21:25 in Game Three.

As Daley returned from his lower-body injury, Ruhwedel was again relegated to the press box, but was on the ice in Nashville to hoist the Stanley Cup with the rest of his teammates.

Suffice to say, Ruhwedel felt good about electing to sign with Pittsburgh.  It is hard to imagine the season unfolding more perfectly as he described the year as one that “exceeded all expectations.”

Still, after the most successful season of his career, Ruhwedel headed into the off-season once again as a free agent and with a choice to make.  Ruhwedel re-signed with the Penguins on July 22, signing a two-year, one-way deal.  From the sound of it, he spent way less time on the decision this time around.

“It was really easy to decide to re-sign.  They wanted me back and I really wanted to be back,” Ruhwedel stated. “It’s just a good mutual relationship and I think it’s a good fit for both of us.”

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

GUERIN JOINS LIST FOR GOAL IN ONE GOLF CLASSIC


United States Hockey Hall of Fame member, Stanley Cup champion and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins general manager Bill Guerin has joined the roster for the team’s GOAL IN ONE Golf Tournament, presented by GWC Warranty.

Guerin joins an impressive lineup of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton alumni, including the Pittsburgh Penguins’ two-time Stanley Cup winning coach Mike Sullivan; current New Jersey Devils head coach John Hynes; Devils assistant Alain Nasreddine; and Glenn Patrick, who guided the Penguins during the team’s first four seasons in the American Hockey League.  Former Penguins players Dennis Bonvie and Chris Kelleher will be on hand, as will current Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coaches Clark Donatelli, Chris Taylor and J.D. Forrest.

The two-day event will feature a VIP reception at the Westmoreland Club on Sunday, July 16, followed by the 18-hole, captain and crew format tournament at Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club on Monday, July 17.  Golfers will be treated to continental breakfast, lunch on the course, hors d’oeuvres and a pig roast dinner, as well as an open bar during the meal, and a special gift for each participant.

More names will be added to the lineup in the near future.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Penguins GOALS Foundation, which provides young people and families with the opportunity to experience the game of hockey firsthand, as well as the Blue Chip Farm Animal Refuge in Dallas, PA.

Registration for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins GOAL IN ONE Golf Tournament, presented by GWC Warranty, is $1000.00 per foursome.  Spots are extremely limited.  To reserve your team’s spot in the tournament, contact the Penguins at 570-208-5425, or email Shari Zbegner at szbegner@wbspenguins.com for more information.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

STANLEY CUP CONNECTIONS

They did it again.

The Pittsburgh Penguins won their second consecutive Stanley Cup Championship on Sunday, June 11, defeating the Nashville Predators, 2-0, to keep the treasured trophy in the Steel City for another year.

In a few weeks, the Cup will see the names of more than four dozen Penguins players, coaches and support staffers etched onto its base.  And, as in both the 2009 and 2016 championship seasons, there will be no shortage of connections to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins there.

Twelve Pittsburgh Penguins players who qualify to have their names on the chalice have played at least one game with the AHL Penguins.  Kris Letting and Marc-Andre Fleury become the first three-time champions to pass through Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, while Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Matt Murray, Tom Kuhnhackl, Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta have been members of both of the Pens back-to-back teams.

Joining that group of repeat winners are newbies Carter Rowney, Jake Guentzel, Josh Archibald and Scott Wilson.  Wilson was a member of Pittsburgh’s Cup run last spring, but due to injuries and a lack of games played, did not qualify to have his name on the trophy.  Rowney, Guentzel and Archibald all spent parts of this season in NEPA.

Head coach Mike Sullivan spent part of the 2015-16 season guiding Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before being promoted to Pittsburgh, and is now the first head coach since the great Toe Blake in 1956 and 1957 to guide a team to Stanley Cups in his first two years behind an NHL bench.

Three other former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton staffers figure to see their names written in hockey immortality for a second straight season as well.  Patrick Steidle spent more than a decade with his hometown team before joining Pittsburgh’s athletic training staff in 2013.  Jim Britt worked his way up from intern in Wilkes-Barre to his current position as the Pens team services manager.  And Andy Saucier parlayed two seasons as the AHL team’s video coach into the same position with Pittsburgh.

Players and coaches with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ties have been featured on the Stanley Cup in seven of the past nine seasons.  Here’s a year-by-year view of some names you probably know.

2017 (Pittsburgh Penguins):  Josh Archibald, Brian Dumoulin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jake Guentzel, Tom Kuhnhackl, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Matt Murray, Carter Rowney, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson, Mike Sullivan

2016 (Pittsburgh Penguins):  Brian Dumoulin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Tom Kuhnhackl, Kris Letang, Ben Lovejoy, Olli Maatta, Matt Murray, Kevin Porter, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Jeff Zatkoff, Mike Sullivan

2015 (Chicago Blackhawks):  Daniel Carcillo, Michal Rozsival

2013 (Chicago Blackhawks):  Daniel Carcillo, Michal Rozsival

2012 (Los Angeles Kings):  Rob Scuderi

2011 (Boston Bruins):  Andrew Ference

2009 (Pittsburgh Penguins):  Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Goligoski, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Miroslav Satan, Rob Scuderi, Max Talbot, Dan Bylsma, Mike Yeo

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

MIKE SULLIVAN TOPS GUEST LIST AT GOAL IN ONE GOLF TOURNAMENT


Stanley Cup winning head coach Mike Sullivan will headline a stellar group of guests at the 2017 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins GOAL IN ONE Golf Tournament, presented by GWC Warranty.

The two-day event will feature a VIP reception at the Westmoreland Club on Sunday, July 16, followed by the 18-hole, captain and crew format tournament at Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club on Monday, July 17. Golfers will be treated to continental breakfast, lunch on the course, hors d’oeuvres and a pig roast dinner, as well as an open bar during the meal, and a special gift for each participant.



In addition to Sullivan, who spent part of the 2015-16 season behind the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton bench and has guided the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive season, the tournament will feature several other current and former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coaches.

Current New Jersey Devils head coach John Hynes, as well as Devils assistant Alain Nasreddine, will be on hand, as will Glenn Patrick, who guided the team during its first four seasons. Current Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coaches Clark Donatelli, Chris Taylor and J.D. Forrest, will participate as well.

More names will be added to the lineup in the near future.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Penguins GOALS Foundation, which provides young people and families with the opportunity to experience the game of hockey firsthand, as well as the Blue Chip Farm Animal Refuge in Dallas, PA.

Registration for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins GOAL IN ONE Golf Tournament, presented by GWC Warranty, is $1000.00 per foursome, and is open now. To reserve your team’s spot in the tournament, contact the Penguins at 570-208-5425, or email Shari Zbegner at szbegner@wbspenguins.com for more information.