January 20, 2013
Well, maybe that headline is a little misleading after I watched Sunday's Outdoor Classic from a heated press box. But tonight's win definitely heats up a Penguins team that has put a lengthy losing streak behind them to win four-in-a-row.
And they did it in dramatic fashion with Paul Thompson's overtime game-winner.
After talking to several players at the end of the game, it appears the weather wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it would be. Actually, I think it was a little over-hyped.
With the exception of California-native Beau Bennett, just about every player on the Penguins and the Bears, for that matter, grew up playing hockey outside - whether it's a pond or a backyard rink.
And playing hockey outside isn't that big of a deal, when it comes to staying warm. I've played pickup games on plenty of ponds and it's amazing how the frozen toes and numb fingers are forgotten about once you get moving.
That's what Thompson said as well.
Once you got moving the cold wasn't a big deal. The wind died down to, so that helped, he said.
Still, it was interesting that all three goals scored tonight were from players who grew up in cold weather climates - Thompson (Maine), Riley Holzapfel (Saskatchewan) and Hershey's Tomas Kundratek (Czech Republic). Perhaps they are more adjusted to playing outside than others? Who knows.
A couple of interesting things occurred during and after the game.
Hershey coach Mark French could be seen directing words toward the Penguins' bench after the overtime game-winner. Reportedly he was upset about the Penguins pile-on celebration in the corner. If that's true, I think that's overdoing it a bit. Here's a team that has just come off a horrible streak of losing 11 out of 13 that has just won its fourth in a row, in overtime, outdoors against a division rival.
Sounds like cause for celebration to me.
And there may be more to come.
It seems like the Penguins have gotten things together now. The uncertainty of the lockout is over and their focus is simply on getting back into the playoff race.
With a home game on Wednesday, a quick turnaround means the Penguins can't dwell on tonight's win for long, but at least the momentum it generated will still be fresh in their minds.