Like the parent club, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fell just short of the ultimate prize in the AHL Calder Cup Finals, after hitting a cement wall known as the Chicago Wolves. Even after dropping the first three games, the Penguins refused to make it easy for the Wolves and while they eventually lost the series 4-2, they showcased a talented group of young players.
One of the biggest surprises was the play of former Dartmouth standout Ben Lovejoy. After college, Lovejoy played five games with the Norfolk Admirals. That following summer, Lovejoy signed a one-year AHL contract with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, where he appeared in 72 regular-season games and all 23 games during their run to the Calder Cup Finals.
Lovejoy is a solid two-way defenseman and while he will never score with the regularity of some of his teammates, he does have a good outlet pass and will jump into the play if needed. The right-handed shot also saw duties on specials teams, and as the season went on, Lovejoy’s all-around game continued to improve as he finished third on his team among defensemen in points with 20. A more telling stat of Lovejoy’s play was his team-leading +16. This and his consistent play throughout the playoffs did not go unrewarded as he was signed to an NHL contract in July.
Hockey’s Future contacted Lovejoy to find out his thoughts on the Calder Cup Finals, his expectations going into the 2008-09 season, living in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, and other various topics.
HF: First, congratulations on recently signing a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Do you consider this a vote of confidence from Penguins management?
BL: I’m definitely happy to be back. Last year I spent a lot of the season getting comfortable playing at the AHL level. This year I hope to build on our season last year and continue to help win games.
HF: Going into the 2008-09 season, what are your expectations? What aspects of your game do you plan on improving?
BL: I expect to go to camp and try to play as well as I can. I know that there are a lot of talented defensemen in Pittsburgh. My goal is to have a good showing at camp and hope that my time will come sometime this season.
HF: Most players in the NHL and AHL start their summer training regimen at the beginning of June, you were still playing meaningful hockey in June, how does this change your offseason conditioning?
BL: It definitely changed my offseason training schedule. I think I had a five or six-month offseason last year, so my training involved a lot more conditioning just to stay in shape. This summer started with a lot of exercises to help my body recover, and after that I have certainly concentrated on gaining back some of the muscle I lost during the long season.
HF: What did you expect going into the Calder Cup Finals and how did that match up to what you experienced?
BL: All season, we knew our team had the talent to go pretty far into the playoffs. I think as the playoffs went on we grew more and more confident and rode that to the finals. We definitely did not play our best hockey the first three games and anytime you go down 0-3 you have to play desperate. We did, but unfortunately came up short.
HF: Was Wolves’ goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec, a major factor in the Wolves winning the series? How tough of a player is he to shoot against? Did the Penguins make any adjustments to play against him?
BL: Pavelec was definitely a good goalie, but the whole Chicago team did a good job all over the ice. They were good defensively and had an unbelievable power play. Pavelec definitely played well, but it was certainly a team effort.
HF: What was your major at school? Did you see yourself doing this as a profession or was it a fallback plan if you can’t pay the bills playing hockey?
BL: I majored in American history. Growing up my dream was always to play hockey. I went to school because that is what people from New England do. I’m sure someday I will have to get a real job and use my degree. But right now my goal is to be a professional hockey player and I have not thought about what I will do after.
HF: Why did you switch to Dartmouth?
BL: I switched to Dartmouth for a couple of reasons. I grew up in the town of Hanover (where Dartmouth is located) and had a great relationship with Bob Gaudet. I did not play very well at BC and wanted a fresh start. When I started looking to transfer, Dartmouth was the best option for me.
HF: Who is the best player you played with in NCAA?
BL: Tough call, probably Lee Stempniak, Dan Shribman, or David Jones.
HF: From my understanding, your former teammate and Pittsburgh native Grant Lewis is quite the gamer, is there any videogame that you can play better?
BL: He plays all video games better than I do. I don’t play any, and he is sort of a connoisseur. That guy loves the city of Pittsburgh more than anyone else I know loves their hometown.
HF: The popular television show, The Office, takes place in the town of Scranton. Do you get a lot of jabs and or jokes from friends for working in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area?
BL: Yes. All the time. When I tell a person that is where I play, the only things they know about the area is from watching The Office. It is a really funny show. I’m actually pretty disappointed that no one wears around a WBS jersey with the nameplate “From Dwight” like the one Michael receives as a present from Dwight for his birthday.
HF: Locker rooms are known for their camaraderie and player antics. Are there any locker room horror stories you would be willing to share with us?
HF: What guy on the team do people not joke with?
BL: No one ever messes with Timmy Wallace. That guy is scary.
HF: If Paul Bissonette and Chuck Norris got into a rumble, who do you think would win?
BL: I wouldn’t mess with Biss.
HF: What current teammate would you never want to play against? Of all time?
BL: JM Doaust, that guy is just mean.