Youth hockey event in Richland highlighted by Pens prospects

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Packing their own helmets, mouth guards and shin pads, more than 30 children recently played dek hockey with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Richland Community Park.

The youngsters also brought a ton of awe.

“It was nice to meet the Penguins players,” Cohen Benik, 8, said after playing in a brief scrimmage coached by a handful of college-age Penguins prospects.

The one-period match capped a 60-minute, free hockey clinic for children ages 5 to 12 sponsored by the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.

Isabella Chiaramonte, 5, of Richland, attended the clinic with her brother, Anthony, 10.

“She plays for the baby Pens down at Harmarville,” said Heather Chiaramonte, Isabella's mother.

Isabella knows a lot of Pittsburgh Penguins' names, and “she was in awe,” her mother said, when a number of the Penguins — wearing black polo shirts and shorts — stepped off their chartered bus to Richland Community Park.

“Seeing the big guys boosts their confidence,” said Tim Maksin of West Deer, a youth hockey coach who brought son Wyatt, 6, to the clinic.

“His whole room is nothing but Penguins,” Maksin said. “He's obsessed with the Penguins.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins sent six team prospects to the clinic, which featured a lot of running around orange cones, as participants pushed, passed and slapped orange balls with their hockey sticks.

Proud parents and siblings watched intently but strained to recognize family members. Almost everyone looked alike in their helmets, protective pads and complimentary white Penguins T-shirts.

Nick Lappin, 21, of Chicago — one of the six Penguins' prospects at the clinic — well remembers being a youngster enthralled with grown-up hockey players.

“When I was younger, there were older guys doing the same thing,” said Lappin, a junior at Brown University in Providence, R.I. “It's good to give back.”

Penguins prospect Sam Lafferty, 19, of Hollidaysburg, Blair County, welcomed the escape to Richland.

“It's nice to get out and get away from the rink,” Lafferty said. “It's a lot of fun.”

Penguins prospects Harrison Ruopp, Scott Wilson, Teddy Blueger and Conor Sheary also participated in the clinic as part of the Penguins' annual player-development camp at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh's Uptown neighborhood.

“Hopefully, we'll see these guys (playing hockey in future years) at the Consol Center,” said Marc Voit, a coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite youth hockey program.

Voit, 48, of Pine — a father of five, an American Airlines pilot and a former professional triathlete — led the July 16 hockey clinic in Richland Community Park.

“The goal is — for the Penguins — to get the professional players involved in the community,” Voit said. “The Penguins are more than a professional sport team.”

The Penguins offered similar clinics on July 16 at other dek hockey rinks in Brookline Memorial Park; Banksville Park; Hosanna House/Sherwood Event Center; Lewis Park/Hazelwood YMCA; and Riverside Park in Oakmont.

The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation built all of the dek hockey rinks as part of its Project Power Play, a program to build 12 dek hockey rinks in Pittsburgh area communities by 2016.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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