WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Fresh into his first AHL game with the game on the line, 2012 first round pick Olli Maatta whipped a wrist shot on net with hopes of erasing the Syracuse’s Crunch 1-0 lead late in the third period.
At the last second, Crunch goaltender Cedrick Desjardins snared the shot with his glove to keep the Penguins, and Maatta, off the scoreboard.
Being on the ice late in a 1-0 AHL playoff game seems like an odd place for an 18-year-old. But for Maatta, who just played 21 postseason games in the OHL playoffs, the chance to tie was bittersweet.
“I tried to get it on net, thought I had him at first but it was a nice save,” he said. “Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Maatta arrived in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday and played big minutes in Wednesday’s Game 3. The highly-touted prospect didn’t look out of place - a fact he attributed to his long run with London in the OHL playoffs.
Playoffs, no matter what the league, is all about intensity, he said.
“I’m still in shape and it doesn’t change much,” Maatta said. “It’s still the playoffs and everyone’s giving their best on the ice.”
Still, Maatta admitted he was a little nervous before his first AHL game. But as the minutes ticked away, so did the nerves and he grew more comfortable on the Penguins’ blueline.
Head coach John Hynes rewarded the rookie with big minutes late in the game as the Penguins tried to erase the Crunch’s one-goal lead. And he almost came through, until Desjardins’ glove stopped the puck at the last second.
“He did a nice job,” Hynes said. “He came in and didn’t know what to expect. His confidence got better as the game went on and he earned the extra ice time.”
Maatta took that as a vote of confidence - something that likely earned him another start in Game 4 on Friday.
“It was big and I really enjoyed it (playing in the third period). I felt good that they trust me,” Maatta said.