HARMAR TWP, Pa. — If you need an example of how the Pittsburgh Penguins recent run of success has inspired youth hockey in the Pittsburgh area, then look no further than Sewickley Academy’s Michael Hertzberg.
Hertzberg grew up in a family that focused on football and his father played the sport, but the success of the Penguins had inspired his older brother to pick up hockey instead and the younger Hertzberg followed his lead.
“I remember going to my brother’s games in high school and college,” said the junior forward. ”Brining my mini sticks along, and I just really started to like it. Watching him and the Penguins sparked my interest. As the Penguins grew, we kind of turned into a hockey family.”
Herzberg was named to the PIHL Class A All-Star Team in part due to his team-leading 10 goals. But he’s even more proud of his 12 assists. Hertzberg’s favorite hockey player is Penguins center Sidney Crosby, and he’s tried to emulate his game after the NHL All-Star.
“I try to emulate Crosby as much as I can,” Hertzberg said. “I’d rather be a playmaker than a goal scorer. I know everyone wants to score goals, but that is not the whole game. You have to play both ways and be a well-rounded player. I think Crosby shows that.”
At just 5-foot-5, it’s a good thing that Hertzberg’s family gravitated to hockey, where he is still on the smaller side, but he’s been able to find a niche by doing something that can be tough for smaller players: seeing the whole ice.
“I think I have good vision,” he said. “I developed a habit of keeping my head up, making sure I see the whole ice. I like making passes, and setting people up, and seeing the ice well helps that.”
A passion for passing isn’t the only trait Hertzberg picked up from his idol. This season, the well-rounded, team-first attitude of Hertzberg led to him being named an alternate captain at Sewickley Academy.
So he’s one of his team’s captains, he’s leading the team in assists and he’s been selected an all-star. Hertzberg certainly has more than a few pieces of Crosby’s game. But he’s still looking hard for one more: a championship.
The Panthers currently sit at 6-8 after their most recent win over Beaver and are with 12 points, are sitting in the seventh and final playoff spot in the Single-A Western Conference. The team still has four games left and will have to hold off a challenge by South Park, which is one point behind with a game in hand.
Hertzberg will look to set up his teammates and lead a late season push in their next game against Montour on Monday at RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island. That game has a 7:15 p.m. faceoff.