Rob Behling is a goaltender, groomed for success right here in Pittsburgh, who is currently stopping pucks for the OJHL Hamilton Red Wings. He played high school hockey for the Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils, where he gained recognition throughout the hockey community as a consistent, talented goalie. Now, he’s keeping company with some of the best young talent in North America.

He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
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Alex Kirshner: Could you give readers some background on the Hamilton Red Wings and the OPJHL? How is the team? Have you played well?

Rob Behling: The Wings franchise has been based in Hamilton for over three decades, though not under that name and not always in Junior A. The OPJHL, or OJHL as they prefer to be called now, is one of the best if not the best Junior A league in Canada. It isn’t quite up to the level of the USHL, but it is certainly as good if not better than the NAHL. So far, we are holding onto third place, but we haven’t played up to our potential yet so look for us to move up soon.

AK: Has the transition been tough going from Western PA high school hockey to the maybe most competitive Junior A league in the world?

RB: It wasn’t so much a tough transition as much as it was a strange one. Of course the pace of play is incredibly faster, but to throw the faster and better shooters on top of moving to a new country, it was a weird couple of weeks, but now that I’m settled, I feel much more comfortable at home and on the ice.

AK: How would you describe yourself as a goalie?

RB: I don’t know if I could give you an example of a goalie I play like, but I would describe myself as a hybrid— I stand up more than most goalies but at the same time my primary save selection is the butterfly so however you classify that, it’s me.

AK: Who are some of the toughest players to stop in the league?

RB: Right now, we have two of the top four scorers in the league on our team. Joe Diamond, who is a Maine recruit, is an incredible player and Nathan Pageau, who played for Sioux City in the USHL, has great wheels. Around the league, Nick D’Agostino is an NHL draft pick (7th Round to the Pens actually) and he leads a very tough St. Michael’s team that sports Ed Belfour’s son Dayn in net.

AK: How’s the city of Hamilton been for you, Rob? Of course it’s a hockey mad city, so that must be fun…

RB: Hamilton is great. We have some very loyal fans and the kids who play minor hockey are great with their support as well. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.

AK: Have you gotten down to any Leafs or Wings games since you’ve been in Hamilton? What’s the general NHL preference of Hamilton residents?

RB: I haven’t seen an NHL game live since I moved here because of my schedule. The NHL preference in Hamilton is split between Toronto and Buffalo, however the recent buzz about a second team in Toronto has fueled many people in Hamilton to call for their own NHL team. I have to say that when they were discussing moving the Penguins to Hamilton, I didn’t think the city could support an NHL team; however now that I’ve been here I’m sure they could do much better than at least 15 current NHL teams.

AK: What is your fondest hockey memory?

RB: My fondest memory is probably winning the first ever outdoor high school hockey game last year. Although winning the 2006 State Championship isn’t bad either. But I’d trade both of those to play two more years with my brother on the team.

[Rob’s brother, Brooks, has been a top offensive contributor for Mt. Lebanon each of the last two years, and will be a senior this year.]

AK: Do you have a favorite pregame meal?

RB: For pregame, I usually eat some type of pasta with meat sauce about 5 hours before the game.

AK: Or a favorite band, or pregame pump up song?

RB: I have a pregame playlist on my iPod:
1. Disturbia-Rihanna
2. Top Back- T.I.
3. You Shook Me All Night Long-AC/DC
4. Don’t Stop Believin’- Journey
5. Dreams- Van Halen
6. Heavy- Collective Soul
7. Right Now- Van Halen

I change songs based on what is new or something I like, but Right Now is always the last song because it was our warm up song in 2006 when we won the State Championship so I feel like it’s still lucky

AK: Thanks a lot for your time. Best of luck this season and moving forward in your hockey career.
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The Red Wings visit nearby Toronto on Saturday for a contest against the Jr. Canadiens. .