Mighty Penguins proudly hosted USA Hockey’s National Sled Team’s training camp weekend at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Our very own Dan McCoy hit the ice with the team, which included many of the players who won the gold medal in the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Our Mighty Penguins players enjoyed the opportunity to see their sled hockey heroes take the ice in our hometown. It was inspiring for them to see firsthand what they can achieve one day with hard work and dedication to their sport. Thanks to the National Sled Team coaches, staff and athletes for inspiring our Mighty Pens!
Special thanks to Pittsburgh Penguins skating coaches Ty Hennes and Matt Herr for working with the team over the weekend and sharing your knowledge and passion for the game. Hockey Is For Everyone!
By Abby (age 17)
Over the weekend, a handful of our Junior team and their families traveled to London, Ontario for a very exciting weekend. The players were: Alex Brown, Darrion Allensworth, James Humphreys, Abby McCormick, Danny Shanholtzer, Ellie Shanholtzer, Dominic Tarquinio, AJ Vazquez, and Brea Vazquez. I had midterm exams that morning so my family and I drove up Friday afternoon and unfortunately missed the first game at 4:45 p.m. against the Ohio Arctic Wolves. The rest of the team worked extremely hard and won with a final score of 6-1! Goals were made by Alex Brown, Darrion Allensworth, James Humphreys, Danny Shanholtzer, and Ellie Shanholtzer. Our second game took place on Saturday morning at 10:15 and was another huge success! We defeated the Buffalo Sabres with a score of 7-0! There was a lot of great teamwork shown during this game and a lot of great saves by our goalie AJ Vasquez and I even scored my first tournament goal! This has definitely been the highlight of my first two years playing sled hockey. The third game was against the Hamilton Sledgehammers at 4:30 p.m. We won again with the final score being 5-0. Darrion, Alex and James scored during this game. We were all ecstatic to be undefeated and make it into the Semi-Finals the next morning! It was quite a different feeling from last year when we didn’t win any games at this tournament. To celebrate our success, we all went to dinner at a restaurant called Shoeless Joe’s and had a lot of fun together. Unfortunately, we lost in the Semi-Finals to the Durham Steelhawks. It was a very close game ending with 4-3. We went home with 3rd place out of 8. Overall, we had an awesome tournament with a lot of incredible teamwork and scored a total of 21 goals throughout the weekend. Everyone played a huge part in our success throughout the weekend. We also could never do this without the help of our awesome coaches! This was definitely one of my favorite tournaments yet.
A few of our players bring you into the game action at the SPIDA Sled Hockey Tournament in Columbus, OH January 14-15. The Mighty Penguins entered two teams–first time ever (Go Black & Gold)! We continue to grow and develop our players now over 50 strong. Enjoy reading about the games through the eyes of our amazing players!
An Epic Weekend of Hockey in Columbus, Ohio
By Ekow (Age 10)
My name is Ekow, and I am on the novice team with the awesome Mighty Penguins. Last weekend, I went to a sled hockey tournament in Columbus Ohio and it was amazing! I enjoyed every moment, not only because I got to spend more time with my coaches and teammates, but also because I stayed in a fun hotel with a pool and got to eat out with my family and friends. Who doesn’t like to eat out?! This was my very first tournament away from Pittsburgh since I am new to the team this year. It was also my first time playing defense because I was goalie for the last tournament. I don’t mind being goalie, but playing defense was much more fun.
We played four games in all, against Nashville, Johnstown, Columbus and Cincinnati. We won 2 games and lost 2, but I felt our team kept getting stronger and stronger. My favorite game was the one against Nashville. They had a very strong team that made it to our side of the rink often. That meant I had lots of chances to defend our goal. It was a tough and exciting game, and the Cincinnati team played hard and fast. I really enjoyed negotiating my way through all those players, finding the puck and shooting it across the ice to the other side. Four minutes on the ice felt like 4 seconds! We ended up winning that game 2 to 1 but did not make it to the championship game.
For me, this was an epic tournament. I had the best time in Columbus and I wish I could go back every single weekend. I have started begging my parents to take me to all the remaining tournaments. Thank you to our hosts in Columbus for being so nice and welcoming, and to my coaches and teammates for making hockey such a fun experience for me. See you at the next tournament!
Fun Weekend in Columbus
By Danny (Age 9)
We just got back from a sled hockey tournament in Columbus, Ohio. It was really fun! The Mighty Penguins sent two teams. They were called Pittsburgh Black and Pittsburgh Gold. I was on the Black team.
On Friday, my dad and I drove 3 hours to get there. Our first game was on Saturday morning against the Nashville Sled Preds. They were really fast and hard-hitting. We lost, 4-1. I was disappointed to lose the game, but it made me feel a little better because I scored a goal. That was only my second goal ever in a game.
Our second game was against the Johnstown Sitting Bulls, one of our rivals. It was an exciting game. We fell behind, 1-0, but then my teammate, Phoenix, scored to tie the game. Then James, Kristofer, and Phoenix scored to put us ahead, 4-1. Johnstown scored to cut into the lead, but then I scored again to make the final 5-2.
Our third game was early on Sunday morning. It was against the Columbus Blades. They were fast and communicated well on the ice. We went ahead early in the first period, but they came back and tied it before the break. Neither team scored in the second period. It was 1-1 starting the third period. Both teams played hard, but Columbus scored and then held on to win, 2-1.
Our fourth game was versus the Cincinnati Ice Breakers. They had some big players, and their novice line was really good, but we won, 2-1. Phoenix scored both goals, and Abby had some great stops on defense, especially when Cincinnati had a power play.
It was a great tournament. We finished with 2 wins and 2 losses. So did the Gold team. Our goalie, AJ, played for both teams. He did a great job. So did all of my other teammates, including our novices: James, Owen, Nathan, Ekow, and Callie. For some of them, it was their first away tournament. I can’t wait for our next tournament!
Written By: Mighty Penguin Alex (Age 11)
On the weekend of November 12, 2016, the Junior-Novice team took part in a tournament in Wooster, Ohio. There were three other teams in the tournament: Wooster, Nashville, and Grand Rapids. On Saturday, the 12th, my dad and I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and drove two and a half hours to Wooster. We were the first people at the rink, and ready for an exciting day of hockey.
Our first game at 7:40am was against Wooster. The first two goals scored were by Wooster and it was 2-0 at the end of the second period. In the middle of the third period, Darrion Allensworth scored twice and tied the game. The game ended in a tie at 2-2. Our second game was against the Nashville Sled Preds. The first goal was scored by Nashville to make it 1-0. In the second period, I tied it up. Nashville took the lead back and it was 2-1. In the third period, Darrion scored to tie it at 2, and that was the final score. That was the end to an exciting day of hockey in Wooster.
Later, my dad and I went to the hotel to check in. We had plans to go to dinner with my grandparents and a few other players. We went to dinner and had fun with each other with stories of the games we played that day.
Early Sunday morning we had a game against the Grand Rapids Sled Wings. The game definitely was not our best work and we lost 5 to 0. We were on to the constellation game against Wooster. We took the lead early with a novice goal by Jacob Buchanan. Then Wooster tied it up in the second period to make it 1 to 1. In the third period, Darrion scored to give us the lead 2 to 1. We held on to our lead and won the game. We came in third place and were 1-1-2 through the tournament. It was a great tournament and I can’t wait for the next one!
In an exciting finish to the 7th annual USA Hockey Sled Classic presented by the NHL, Pittsburgh’s Mighty Penguins Senior team was crowned Tier 2 Champs, defeating Keystone State rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, 7-3!
The Mighty Penguins Adult Intermediate Team also made it to the championship in the Tier V division and finished 2nd with a heartbreaking loss to Carolina 3-0.
This year’s NHL Sled Classic was hosted by the Nashville Predators at the Ford Ice Center in Antioch, Tennessee and included a record 24 teams, each affiliated with an NHL club. The Mighty Penguins were proud to send both of our adult teams for the 2nd year in a row. A huge thanks to the Nashville Predators, USA Hockey Disabled Section & the NHL for sponsoring another great tournament!
For full coverage of the NHL Sled Classic, click here
The Mighty Penguins has partnered with DICK’S Sporting Goods who has provided generous donations of equipment and jerseys to our athletes over the years. We are excited to be an early adopter of their latest venture, Team Sports HQ. Through their affiliate partner, Blue Sombrero, DICK’S is able to offer this unique service to teams.
Our Mighty Penguins FanWear Store offers several price points of apparel items including Under Armour for youth, women and men. You can customize colors to create your favorite look. Items are shipped directly to you from the FanWear Store and Blue Sombrero handles returns. A percentage of each sale will go directly to Mighty Penguins fundraising efforts.
Don’t see what you are looking for? We are open to suggestions! More products are being added throughout the year. The Mighty Penguins has our prior inventory of products available, too including hats in our equipment room for sale.
Check out our Store at link below:
Dan McCoy’s reflections on DICK’s Sporting Goods Contenders program, the 2016 Rio Olympics & Paralympics, and his personal Paralympic success at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics!
Team USA Best of….
The USA and the world witnessed the top athletes from around our great country compete for their nation, families and friends, and themselves. These athletes displayed amazing feats of courage, strength, and perseverance throughout 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics this summer. The media in the USA tried to capture what it was like for the athletes as they trained and competed on the world’s biggest stage. Simply watching the games on TV, however, doesn’t do justice to the hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice that goes into competing at the top level of a sport.
In 2014, I was blessed to be one of those athletes competing in the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi Russia. Winning a gold medal at the Paralympics was something I had dreamed about since I was 8 years old. Being able to see that dream realized 12 years later was indescribable. Watching this summer’s games brought back all of the emotions from 2014.
This September, I had the incredible privilege to attend the 2016 Best of the US Award Ceremony which honored the Rio Olympic and Paralympic athletes for their amazing performances. I was asked this year to be the Winter Paralympic representative for Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Contenders program which employs Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls who are working towards achieving their dream of competing for a chance to represent their country on sport’s biggest stage.
This was my second time attending the amazing event. I attended in the fall of 2014 as a member of the US Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. At the 2014 Best of the US Award Ceremony, we were recognized with the “Team of the Paralympic Games” award. This was just more icing on the cake of an amazing year. Having been to Best of the Games once already as an athlete, it was extremely humbling to attend as a representative and meet some of the world’s best Summer Olympic and Paralympic athletes in person.
Whether I was shaking hands with Simone Biles or chatting with Lex Gillette, we all understood what it took to get to this point. Regardless of whether one competed in the Olympics or Paralympics, our journeys have followed similar paths. The paths involved hard work, very high highs and very low lows, and ultimately tremendous perseverance to become one of the few blessed athletes to compete for our country.
As Director of Player Development for the Pittsburgh Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey Organization, one of my goals is to help players develop the athlete within each of them. By doing so, I hope that players see that working hard at a sport you love will not only improve your game on the ice but will improve your overall well-being off the ice. Overall health, self-confidence, and improved independence are sure to follow. I’ll be the first to say that the journey is not easy but it is very well worth it.
At the end of the day, it does not matter what your abilities are, it matters how you use those abilities to become the best version of yourself. Regardless of your situation, it is very important to always set goals and never quit working for what you want most in life. Never let anything or anyone limit your dreams and those dreams should be BIG! During my journey to Paralympic Gold, my motto was “My only limitations are those I impose on myself.” I hope to continue to help individuals with and without disabilities to understand this motto and believe that dreams can come true with hard work and perseverance. I just have one question for you…What’s your dream?
Director of Player Development
Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey
@mclsed14 (Twitter and Instagram)
The Mighty Penguins proudly hosted the 1st Annual “Sled Face-Off Challenge” at our home rink, UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex this past weekend. 11 teams from across the country participated in 3 youth and adult divisions including Novice, Junior and Intermediate. Competition was fierce and exciting, but most importantly, all of these amazing sled hockey athletes had fun!
A visit from Lord Stanley on Sunday morning made the weekend complete for players and their families. Seeing our littlest athletes get a surprise on-ice visit from the Stanley Cup was priceless. Thanks to the Pittsburgh Penguins & UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, our amazing athletes and hockey fanatics have a memory that will last a lifetime!
A huge thanks to all of our amazing volunteers who selflessly gave of their time this weekend. Our partnership with 2 local youth hockey organizations has been tremendous and the on-ice help from the Central Catholic Vikings and Pittsburgh Penguins Elite was invaluable. We’re not sure who had more more fun, the youth volunteers or the kids!
Thank you to all of our sponsors who partnered with us to make this tournament a huge success! Your continued support of our Mighty Penguins program is helping these athletes achieve their dreams! Thank you to the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, DICK’s Sporting Goods, Federated Investors, Fat Heads Saloon, 84 Lumber, UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Mobility Sports, Langer Material Handling, Olesnevich Fabricating, Tri-State Development & Design, Riggs Communication, Finn Chiropractic and Spina Bifida Association of Western Pennsylvania. Together, we created a fun, challenging and exciting competition for sled hockey athletes from across the country and showcased here in Pittsburgh that “Hockey is For Everyone!”
Congratulations to the winners of each division:
Novice Division: Northwest Ohio Arctic Wolves
Junior Divison: Grand Rapids Sled Wings
Intermediate Division: Texas Blades
Looking forward to seeing everyone on the ice next fall for the 2nd Annual “Sled Face-Off Challenge!”
These are the stories we love to share! Andrew Rich, a 7th grader in the Fox Chapel school district, organized a fundraiser game to benefit the Mighty Penguins for his Bar Mitzvah project. Andrew and 10 of his friends hit the ice to play our Mighty Penguins Junior team. On hand to help Andrew’s team was Paralympic Gold Medalist Dan McCoy.
The boys learned a lot about sled hockey and got a chance to experience first hand how much hard work and dedication it takes for athletes to play the game. An appreciation for the adversity our athletes overcome to play the game we all love, was a valuable lesson for all of the boys.
Dan McCoy graciously spoke to the kids about his Paralympic experiences and shared his gold medal! Getting to wear an Olympic gold medal was a highlight of the day for these kids.
In addition to organizing the on-ice game, Andrew raised over $3000 for the Mighty Penguins team by asking friends and families to donate to the cause in lieu of Bar Mitzvah gifts!
Thank you Andrew for coming out to support our amazing athletes and hitting the ice with your friends! You are an amazing role model for other kids and we can’t wait to see you back on the ice soon!
The Pittsburgh Penguins Elite youth hockey players worked together to donate over 80 pairs of new and gently used skates to the Mighty Penguins Sled Hockey team through the “Skates for the Greats” drive. Many of the Mighty Pens athletes wear tennis shoes on the ice, but they need the protection that a skate provides. The cost of a pair of skates that will need to have the blades removed discourages many of the Mighty Pens families from purchasing skates to protect their player properly.
The partnership between the Pens Elite teams and the Mighty Penguins has been amazing to watch develop this past season. In addition to having Paralympic gold medal winner Dan McCoy speak to every team, many of the Pens Elite teams were able to hit the ice in sleds and scrimmage the Mighty Pens. By engaging with athletes who play the game only slightly differently, the Pens Elite youth hockey players had a tremendous opportunity to learn valuable life lessons like empathy, compassion and respect for those who have physical struggles to overcome.
Skates donated will be cleaned by a volunteer group of Pens Elite players who have arranged to have Pure Hockey on Neville Island remove the blades at no charge. Skates will be distributed to the Mighty Pens players in June in anticipation of their 2016-17 season! A huge thanks to all who participated in the “Skates for the Greats” drive demonstrating that Hockey Is For Everyone!