Five minutes after Eric Hartzell came off the ice at Monday’s practice, he learned he was named the AHL’s Goaltender of the Month for January.
Two minutes later, the rookie netminder was thanking his teammates.
“How we play as a team defensively is a big part of how a goaltender does his job,” Hartzell said. “This award reflects how we play as a team, and I can’t thank the boys enough for this honor.”
Modesty aside, Hartzell’s play alone was a big reason for the honor. During 10 appearances in January, Hartzell allowed two goals or fewer in each, posting a record of 5-2-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average, a .944 save percentage and one shutout. On the season, Hartzell is 9-5-1 in 19 appearances and leads the AHL with a 1.85 GAA while ranking sixth with a .925 save percentage.
The key to Hartzell’s success in January, and the season in general, has been consistency, according to coach John Hynes.
“When you play like that on a consistent basis, that’s when awards like this come,” Hynes said. “He’s showing he has the ability to be a top goaltender in this league, and that gives you the best chance to get NHL opportunities.”
Hartzell becomes the eighth Penguins goaltender to win the monthly award. Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of a poor showing Saturday, when Hartzell was pulled after allowing two goals on five shots in a 4-0 loss to Rochester.
Hartzell said he has already moved on from the outing.
“We have to be honest with ourselves and understand we’re not perfect. Things aren’t going to go our way everytime,” he said. “You have to be able to put those things in your back pocket and move forward.”
For being named Goaltender of the Month, Hartzell will receive an etched crystal award before an upcoming home game.
He already has a spot picked out for it.
“I’ll put it right up here for the boys,” Hartzell said, pointing to a shelf in the Penguins locker room. “It’s a team award.”
• Adam Payerl skated again on Monday and Hynes said while he isn’t out long-term, he is still considered week-to-week.
• Defensemen Nick D’Agostino and Harrison Ruopp were assigned to the Penguins from Wheeling on Monday.