Panthers pick goalie contest finalists, including Angela Ruggiero’s brother


Remember when Florida Panthers goalies Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured in the same game, and it was almost Rob Tallas time between the pipes on an emergency basis?

Well, the Florida Panthers seized the moment (carpe momento, we’ll assume) and created a fan contest called “Goal of a Lifetime” in which one lucky Panthers fan or local junior hockey ringer would sign a one-day amateur tryout contract and serve as the Panthers’ backup goalie at practice for a day.

The tryouts were held on Monday, and there were a few famous faces hitting the ice to vie for the backup gig – Linda Cohn of ESPN and El Presidente of Barstool Sports himself, David Portnoy.

But after 1,500 applicants, the Panthers narrowed the field to two netminders, one of whom has a rather famous hockey sibling.

While they may look like Seneca Crane and an Amish Jason Segel, they're actually two goalies with some experience:

The Florida Panthers announced today that Bill Ruggiero and Dustin Smith have been chosen as the two finalists selected for the team’s Goal of a Lifetime competition to become the Panthers’ back-up practice goaltender for a day.

Ruggiero, 34, is a former professional/semi-pro goaltender who spent time playing for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League (2004-05, 2006-07), Johnstown Chiefs of the East Coast Hockey League (2001-02) and the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League (2007-08). Ruggiero resides in Melbourne, Florida.

Smith, 27, played for Middle Tennessee State University (2006-09) and has experience practicing with the Nashville Predators (2012-13). Smith resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Panthers received over 1,500 applications for the contest from 42 states and 15 countries, before inviting 65 to participate. The participants hailed from various locations, including 48 from Florida, five from Canada, two from New Jersey and one each from, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Vermont. The competition included two 90-minute sessions, run by Panthers’ Goaltending Coach Robb Tallas, while a number of Panthers Alumni participated as shooters in the competition.

If the former sounds familiar, it’s because his sister is U.S. women’s Olympic hockey legend Angela Ruggiero, who sent love his way on Twitter:

The Panthers are asking fans to tweet at #GOALBill and #GOALDustin, but that doesn’t really factor into the final decision. The winner will be determined in a glorious intermission shootout on Tuesday at the Panthers’ home game against the Montreal Canadiens.

The goalies will face the Panthers alumni. Pavel Bure is a Panthers alum. Just saying.