PG South: Son of former Penguins goalie fills a similar role for Upper St. Clair
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For the life of him, former Penguins Stanley Cup winner Ken Wregget can't remember how he became a goalie.
He does recall, however, the first time his son, Matt, started to play the position regularly.
"It was funny, the one year, we were down at the Ice Castle with the Predators organization, and Matt said, 'Dad, I'm going to be a goalie and I want to play goalie this year,'" Ken Wregget recalled.
"I was coaching at the time, and this was the top pee-wee team and it can be competitive. There's nothing worse than having the top team having the coach's son playing and the coach's son [stinks], right?"
Luckily for Ken, he never had to realize such fears.
A senior at Upper St. Clair High School, Matt Wregget is one of the top goalies his age in the area and one of the big reasons the Panthers are in the PIHL Class AAA Penguins Cup semifinals.
Wregget made 20 saves in a 4-0 shutout of Penn-Trafford in the quarterfinals this past Monday. Upper St. Clair will play an opponent that had yet to be determined either Monday or Tuesday at Mellon Arena in the semifinals.
"What can I say? The kid's just been a rock back there," USC coach Larry Marks said. "We make defensive mistakes like everybody else does, and he's just a wall, and he really has been just phenomenal all year.
"It gives the kids a lot more confidence having Matt back there. They can be a bit more free-wheeling offensively, take some chances that lead to goals more often because of Matt, who is having an unbelievable year."
Wregget has a 15-4-1 record, 2.05 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and three shutouts for the Panthers, who are the No. 2 seed in the postseason.
"He's quick, and he has a great knack for finding the puck," Marks said. "He sees the puck, he knows when to come out and when to stay in the net and has a very good feel and great knowledge of the game. And he does have unbelievable quickness and flexibility. He's not a big kid [about 5 feet 10], but he plays real big.
"He's so fundamentally sound with everything he does. You'd have to think his dad has been an influence on that."
No question, Matt has quite the role model for being a quality goalie right in his house. Ken Wregget played 575 games over 17 seasons in the NHL, including from 1992-98 with the Penguins.
That first year in Pittsburgh was most eventful. Not only was Wregget traded from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Penguins, he was part of the Stanley Cup-winning team months later. And just when that playoff run was beginning to get started, Matt was born.
"There are pictures of him sitting in the Stanley Cup like a little bowling ball," Ken proudly recalls.
Other than brief temporary stops in Calgary, Detroit and Winnipeg -- where he played one season each before retiring -- Wregget has made his home in the Pittsburgh area ever since.
And that's where Matt has grown up playing hockey.
Said Matt: "The best advice he ever gave me was, 'Just stop the puck. I don't care what your positioning is or anything. Just stop the puck. That's all that matters.'"
Matt does invoke a hybrid of traditional stand-up vs. butterfly styles, partially due to instruction he received from former Soviet great Vladislav Tretiak and Canadian goalie coach John Elkin.
All the while, though, Matt has lived by his father's simplistic goaltending credo.
"My philosophy is your style will find you," Ken Wregget said. "The bottom line is to stop the puck, by whatever means necessary."
Matt Wregget has been doing plenty of that, most prominently for the Junior 'A' Penguins under-18 team in the Central States Hockey League, posting a 1.97 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.
He is hoping to hear from United States Hockey League or North American Hockey League, the country's prominent junior leagues, upon graduation so he can play at a high level next year. But in lieu of that, Wregget said he'll plan on attending a college that has a strong club program.
Even though he was born while his dad was playing for the Penguins, sat in the Stanley Cup as an infant and has lived in Pittsburgh most of his life, Matt has a secret.
"Yes, I am a Pens fan -- [but] they're my second-favorite team," he said. "My favorite team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, even though they [stink].
"Most of my family lives in the Toronto area, so I've been there a lot and I just absolutely love the city. And my dad started his NHL career there. I just love Toronto."
First Published March 18, 2010 12:00 am