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Hockey: Senior forward mentors team
Coach Dan Morris considers senior Jonathan Pietramala one of his premier penalty killers.
But in the first game of the Iowa State series, Pietramala took a game misconduct penalty in overtime, putting the Bobcats at a 4-on-3 disadvantage. The Cyclones took advantage, scoring with 35 seconds remaining in the game and handing the Bobcats their third straight loss.
That was a turning point for Pietramala, Morris said.
The next weekend against then-No. 2 Robert Morris, the forward gathered all the penalty killers around and drew out what needed to be done to stop the Eagles’ power play unit and dominate special teams play.
Ohio swept Robert Morris and held it scoreless on the power play.
“When you get down to this point of the season, it’s all about defining your role and executing your role,” Morris said. “…You talk about leadership and defining leadership; it’s either in you or it isn’t. That was a situation where it was in him to (coach them).”
Pietramala, who hails from Mount Albert, Ontario, said he’s just following an example set for him when he arrived in Athens four years ago.
“I just try to teach the younger guys what the older guys taught me when I first got here,” he said. “I try to pass on anything I can based on my experience.”
Morris said that Pietramala coaching the more inexperienced players is incredibly helpful because a coach can’t always get through to a player like a fellow player can. And the fact that the forward can show others what to do means he has a great understanding of the penalty kill.
“When you get into leadership situations where your penalty killers know it so well that they can teach it, you get a trickle-down effect,” Morris said. “It’s just like anything else: If you can teach it, you know it.”
The young players appreciate the advice the assistant captain passes down to them.
“He’s a great captain, first of all,” freshman Nick Hudeck said. “He just leads the (penalty kill) and shows us how to do it. … With him and (senior Jay Mazzarella), we’ve only allowed three (power play) goals in all of 2013.”
What he does on the penalty kill is made all the more impressive by Pietramala’s size. Morris said the 5-foot-6 senior doesn’t shy away from contact and has a very physical game, compensating for his size with a longer stick.
“I just tend not to worry about (my height),” Pietramala said. “I just use my low center of gravity to get down there, and it tends to work for my advantage. I try to play big too, with just one hand on the stick, getting wide and trying to block shots.”
The tenacity he plays with inspires other shorter players like Hudeck, who is 5-foot-9.
“I personally feed off it,” Hudeck said. “Seeing him throw out a hit on a 6-foot-4 guy gives you confidence. If he’s selling out for the team, I’ll sell out for the team, too. I think that’s something that everyone feeds off of.”