Friday, June 13, 2008

Frank Pietrangelo

Frank Pietrangelo came out of nowhere to pleasantly surprise the Pittsburgh Penguins brass when he first appeared in the NHL in 1987-88.

Frank was the 64th overall draft pick in 1983 and played 4 years with the University of Minnesota and one year with the IHL Muskegon Lumberjacks. Yet he was never considered to be a top NHL prospect.

However the Pittsburgh Penguins were desperately seeking help between the pipes. Despite having offense to spare with Mario Lemieux and company, it was defense and goaltending that were holding the franchise back. That was when the Pens gave an opportunity to Frank Pietrangelo - "the goalie with three first names."

Pietrangelo stepped in and played passionate, inspiring hockey. Despite posting a losing record - 9 wins, 11 losses - and a high 3.98 GAA, Pietrangelo was quickly becoming a crowd favorite. His numbers were inflated because he played with the defensively atrocious Penguins

Pietrangelo's play not only made the Penguins reconsider the future of their goaltending, but revise it. Rumors all year long had the Penguins being the top team in the Andy Moog trade derby. Some insisted that the Pens actually held a right to obtain Moog for a first round pick as part of the earlier Paul Coffey deal. However Pietrangelo's exciting play cooled any sense of urgency to acquire Moog or any other goalie.

Moog eventually was traded to Boston, and Pietrangelo never proved to be the answer in Pittsburgh. He played sparingly in Pittsburgh for the next 3 1/2 years, behind Tom Barrasso, who the Pens acquired from Buffalo to become their number one goalie.

A highlight in Pietrangelo's career must have been the Penguins first Stanley Cup victory in 1991. Frank even contributed nicely when Barrasso missed a few games due to injury. Frank posted a 4-1 record and picked up a shutout. Oh, and "The Save."

"Well, "The Save", as it’s know in Pittsburgh, is now part of the Stanley Cup history," remembers Pietrangelo. "The Devils had just beaten Pittsburgh in game five to take a 3-2 lead home in New Jersey for game six. To make matters worse, Paul Coffey sustained an eye injury and would be out for at least the next game, and Tom Barrasso had a shoulder injury keeping him out for the remainder of the series at least. As back-up goaltender, I was thrust into the limelight. Late in the first period of game six, with us [the Penguins] holding a 2-1 lead, New Jersey was on a power play, there was a point shot taken which I made the original save on. The rebound went directly into the front of the crease, and there, all alone, was Peter Stastny with nothing but net in front of him. He fired the puck towards the open net, but somehow I just reached back and the puck went into my catching glove. It was just a natural reaction for me, but it ended up being one of the great memories in Penguins history, and fortunately enough for me, I was involved."

Late in the 1991-92 season Frank was moved to Hartford, where he spent much of the next two years backing up Sean Burke. He actually finished the 1993-94 season in the minor leagues.

Frank signed with the New York Islanders for the lockout shortened 1995 season, but never appeared for the Islanders, bothered by serious knee injuries. He never played in the NHL again, finishing his career with 5 seasons in Europe.

"When I first started my pro career, never would I have imagined that it would last 15 years! There were many ups and downs throughout my 10-year pro career here in North America, spending time in the IHL and AHL before solidifying my position as an NHL goaltender. However, I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world. The final five years of my hockey career were spent in Europe, and once again they were very memorable."

The Stanley Cup championship was the highest point of his career, but Pietrangelo is also quick to point out the relationships he made.

"I can’t help but be thankful for the opportunity to play and become friends with some of the greatest hockey players and people in the game. Being teammates with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Coffey, Bryan Trottier, Joe Mullen and Mark Recchi to name a few. This will definitely give me some great memories to share with my grandchildren some day."

After retiring from hockey Frank Pietrangelo became a player agent with clients on both sides of the Atlantic. Pietrangelo had a degree in business management from the University of Minnesota.

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