Monday, October 12, 2009

Absurd Goalie Monday: Frank Pietrangelo

While we started the college hockey goalies going into the pros, we continue this week....but with a twist. This goalie was recruited from outside the college's usual recruiting area and performed well enough to get into the NHL, though it took some time to get to a team. And in all of this....he had a fantastic 'stache to boot. This week's inductee is Frank Pietrangelo.

Starting his career off in the Ontario Junior Hockey League "B" league, Pietrangelo did well when playing in his hometown of Niagara Falls in both 1979-80 and 1981-82, with a stop off in Brampton in the OJHL "A" league for the 1980-81 season. However, after that was done, Pietrangelo decided to go to the University of Minnesota, a place that didn't usually look outside of the state to find players. It made Pietrangelo the only Canadian on the team when he joined the squad. In his freshman season, Pietrangelo did well enough as the starter, going 15-6-1, that it got the eye of the Pittsburgh Penguins-- who picked him in the fourth round, 63rd overall in the 1983 Entry Draft. Rather than making the jump to the NHL, Pietrangelo decided to stay with the Golden Gophers and finish out his college career.

While he would never see as much playing time as he would in the his freshman year, Pietrangelo did very well when he was called upon. In his sophomore season, Pietrangelo split time with three other goalies, but it went well going 13-7 for that year, but got beat out the next two seasons by youngster John Blue, only playing 17 games his junior year (8-3-3), but was able to bounce back in his last season going 15-7 as he rounded out his career with the Gophers. And while he got his education in all of this, he could have screwed up his playing career in the process.

Though he was drafted, Pietrangelo was never signed by the Penguins and couldn't get a try-out with any team whatsoever. However, thanks to some fate as his brother-in-law (Rick Ley) was the coach of the Penguins affiliate in the IHL, Pietrangelo was able to score a try-out with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. In that season with the Lumberjacks in 1986-87, Pietrangelo went 23-11-0 and was good enough to get a contract from the Penguins that summer.

From 1987 to 1990, Pietrangelo was bouncing from Pittsburgh to Muskegon on a regular basis. In those years, he played decently in Pittsburgh with a 22-20-2, while he was lights-out in Muskegon with a 30-6-4 record in that time span. Yet, though he enjoyed success in the IHL, Pietrangelo didn't like being bounced back and forth without really any resolved to his issue. As he was looking at options to go play hockey in Italy, Pens' GM Craig Patrick intervined and gave Pietrangelo a guaranteed NHL contract for the 1990-91 season, which turned out to be a minor move at the start, but turned into a god-send later in the season.

Pietrangelo was the back-up to Tom Barrasso, who helped the Pens succeed to the heights they were at, contending for a Cup title. It was a mediorce 25 games for Pietrangelo during the regular season with a 10-11-1 record, but it was the post-season which got him the most acclaim. The Pens were down three games to two in the first round of the 1991 playoffs, Barrasso went down to injury and it was all put onto Pietrangelo's shoulder. He responded amazingly, shutting down the Devils in Game Six and Seven, including a shut-out in Game Seven to push the Pens along. He lost Game One to the Capitals in the next round, but did come back with a win in Game Two. By Game Three, Barrasso was back in play and Pietrangelo stayed on the bench. He wasn't called upon again until Game Five of the Stanley Cup finals against the Minnesota North Stars when he came in to replace Barrasso and was able to help the Penguins to a win and put them to the brink. The next game, the Pens skunks the Stars and won the Cup. Pietrangleo was able to get his Cup ring through great clutch performances down the stretch.

The next season was odd for Pietrangelo, as he started out with the Penguins, playing five games and going 2-1-0, but at the trade deadline; he was dealt to the Hartford Whalers for a third and seventh rounder in the 1994 Entry Draft. Pietrangelo only played five more game for the Whale going 3-1-1 with a solid 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage. The 1992-93 season was horrible for Pietrangelo, as he played 30 games and went 4-15-1 with a 4.85 GAA and a dreadful .858 save percentage. That caused Pietrangelo to move between Hartford (5-11-1) and the Springfield Indians (9-10-2) of the AHL. In the 1994-95 season, Pietrangelo spent the year with the Minnesota Moose of the IHL going 3-8-1 in 15 games. That caused Pietroangelo to go into semi-retirement for a season as he recollected his thoughts.

Pietrangelo returned to hockey in the 1996-97 season in Italy playing for Balzano HC with the next season being spent in Asiago with Asiago HC. He moved from Italy to Germany in the middle of the 1997-98 season, to play with the Kaufbeuren Eagles, but for the 1998-99 season, Pietrangelo went to England to play for the Manchester Storm for three seasons and became a small cult icon while in Manchester. His first season in Manchester was his best with a 1.92 GAA and .931 save percentage in 42 "Super League" games. That whole 1998-99 season, 56 games, Pietrangelo had a 2.02 GAA and .928 save percentage. It was a career year in '98-'99 with a championship with the Storm, goaltender of the year, and made a name for himself with the organization.

His next two season with Manchester were riddled with injury, going through some bumps, bruise, and a knee surgery. Pietrangelo was never able to recapture the magic he had in the 1998-98 season. He had to finally retire from play in the middle of the 2000-01 season after playing only nine games thanks to a reoccuring groin injury.

It's unknown what's going on with Pietroangelo, but his tale is one of having to pay your dues and usually working extra hard to achieve what you want to. Of course, in Pietrangelo's instance, he got to the pinnacle, but then got screwed around too much in his latter days and decided to go where he would be wanted and where he would play. Though he had his ups and downs, he was clutch when it counted the most. Who knows what could have happened if given a solid chance.

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