PITTSBURGH — Matthew Barnaby was one of several former Pittsburgh Penguins to return to the city where they spent portions of their NHL careers to take in the USA Hockey Tier I National Championships over the weekend.
“I don’t think there is another place I would rather be,” Barnaby said of the national championships. “To have nationals here and to be able to bring my son to a city where I played, to me, that’s what it’s all about.”
Barnaby is the head coach for the 14U Buffalo Regals, where his son Matthew is a forward. The two got to take in a Penguins’ game, visiting Consol Energy Center, the locker room and different members of the organization.
“To see the landmarks, the place where I lived, and that the Penguins were part of my life, and now part of his, I think he really understands how passionate the fans are for hockey in general,” Barnaby said. “The experience and memories we will have when we leave makes it extra special that Pittsburgh was the place.”
Kevin Hatcher, a bruising defenseman who played for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1996 to 1999, was an assistant on the Honeybaked 14U national championship team. Shawn McEachern, on the Penguins’ 1991 Stanley Cup-winning team, also coached the Massachusetts-based East Coast Wizards.
Honeybaked overcomes injuries
Honeybaked, like many other championship teams, overcame plenty of adversity to win the USA Hockey Tier I 14-and-Under national championship Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Honeybaked, which is based out of Detriot, missed two key players in the final against Shattuck-St. Mary’s and had two more who played injured.
Forward Igor Larionov played just 12 games this season, while forward Luke Cowan had shoulder surgery.
“He’s a guy we rely on heavily,” Honeybaked coach Pat Peake said.
Additionally, Noah LaLonde, who Peake called one of the best forwards in the league, played on Sunday, but is scheduled for shoulder surgery next week, while defenseman Mitch Eliot played in Sunday’s championship game after spending time in the hospital after Saturday night’s game.
“He blocked a shot in a 6-1 game and started coughing up blood,” Peake said. “He gets back to the hotel after spending five hours at the hospital, the doctors cleared him, and he said he’s playing [in the championship].
“He was great.”
Redemption for Honeybaked’s Lewandowski
Honeybaked standout forward Mitchell Lewandowski finally won a championship.
Lewandowski got close before, but previous Honeybaked teams he was part of came up short. He made sure to lead Honeybaked to the 14U national championship with two goals against Shattuck-St. Mary’s, including the game-winner.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Lewandowski said. “I’ve wanted this since I lost it last time, and before that.”
The times Lewandowski was referring to include two years ago as a Peewee and last year when Honeybaked lost in the semifinals.
“That was heartbreaking,” Lewandowski said.
But Lewandowski won his championship. He also helped Honeybaked gain a measure of revenge against Shattuck-St. Mary’s with its second win in three games against the Minnesota prep school.
“The whole year we had a battle with them,” Lewandowski said. “It was just great to come out on top.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.