by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.
Before Bridgeport coach Jack Capuano got to the bottom of the matter, he had just one question as he’d run his team through drills in the neutral zone and offensive end in practice: What’s up with all these loose pucks flying my way?
The Sound Tigers would be following Capuano’s marching orders on a previously clean stretch of ice when all of sudden pucks would zip by. Lots of them, and at great speed.
Capuano traced the trail of the projectiles back to his rookie goalie, Peter Mannino. The youngster gets so upset when he gives up a goal, even in practice, that he unloads them all down the ice after shooting drills. They cannot rest in his net.
"We’re like, where are the pucks coming from?" Capuano said. "It’s Peter when a goal goes in."
Capuano appreciates the intensity, but told Mannino to let the pucks rest in the net or shoot them into the corners, if he must.
"It’s pretty simple," Mannino said of his habit. "The job of a goalie, you don’t like pucks in there. I have a tendency to get coaches frustrated with that (him shooting pucks out) at times."
That little quirk is the Islanders’ problem now. New York recalled Mannino late last week, flip-flopping him with No. 1 Sound Tigers netminder Yann Danis.
Before he left, the rookie helped pump a lot of helium into the resurgent Sound Tigers’ balloon this season. With Danis promoted to the Islanders for a long stretch earlier on, Mannino took over as the starter and compiled a 6-1 record with a 2.46 goals-against and a .912 save percentage.
Mannino’s instant-impact potential has been on display since taking the University of Denver to an NCAA title as a freshman. But his ability to grind out some success on short notice in his first stretch as a pro answers even more questions about his game.
"I was waiting my time, trying to chip away, give the guys whatever I could. When Yann got called up, I just thought I’ll keep going," Mannino, 24, said. "You don’t expect to have that responsibility your first season. This is what I’ve been waiting for. It’s been really fun and exciting. I’ve gathered it in and enjoyed it. You have to be patient, is the main thing I’ve learned."
Last week provided a brief pause — one afternoon’s worth, to be exact — for Mannino to catch his breath. Bridgeport was just hours removed from finishing off the mother of all road trips, with two games in the Canadian Maritimes followed by two games in Texas. Frequent flier miles aside, Bridgeport, which paced the AHL with 28 points, snared seven of eight points on the excursion.
"It’s pretty intense. It’s good to do it now," Mannino said of the road trip. "We’ve had a busy couple of weeks. I’m used to the flying scene. I’m getting used to the bus rides."
Mannino has a little diversion that makes the latter mode of travel easier. Any time that Capuano looks down and sees his laptop is missing, chances are he knows where it is. Mannino has been known to pilfer it, take it back to his seat and watch the breakdowns of his touches of the puck.
"When I grab the video, I can see where I’m at. I got in trouble for eating up the batteries the last time," Mannino said.
"The one thing when I think of when Peter Mannino comes to mind is his work ethic and competitiveness," Capuano said. "He’s a student of the game. He likes to watch a lot of video of himself during the week."
What Mannino most often sees is a goalie who still has so much to show. He was so easily overlooked earlier in his career that he was never drafted. His free-agent deal with the Islanders is just a one-year, two-way pact.
"The biggest thing that raises your game is everyone is that much better. You say, ‘This is how you are going to have to perform every day,’" he said. "I just feel like every level I’ve gone is the same experience as any other player. You’re never proven. I do think that every day you have to prove yourself. You have to instill confidence in teammates and coaches."
And they don’t necessarily care about what hardware you’ve earned in the past. Mannino is picky about choosing which elements of his success in college are worthwhile enough to mentally lug to the pros.
"You take that experience from the past and see what allowed you and the team to have that success," he said. "A championship doesn’t mean anything. It’s a thing of the past. The little things add up in the end."
They can pile up in your net, too, if you aren’t diligent about keeping it clean. Mannino understands that his teammates look to his position for stability. Regardless of the setting, seeing your goalie tending to a net filled with pucks is hardly a morale-booster.
Though that doesn’t stop the odd irritant or two from pestering him by sneaking in a practice shot when he’s not looking.
"I just try to keep it nice and clean in there, and they try to have fun with me," he said. "It’s a game."
Teammates are warned: Mannino doesn’t lose many of those, and he almost always gets the last say in the end.