Editor’s note: Frequent City of Champions collaborator Larry Snyder joins our writing staff. He will cover Friday’s action at CONSOL Energy Center, as Robert Morris University hosts Day 1 of its two-day Three Rivers Classic. Here is his preview of the four-team tournament:
by Larry Snyder
It’s a college hockey night in Pittsburgh! The NHL lockout has left empty seats and silent Zambonis in many arenas across North America, but this weekend it will be time to drop the puck in Pittsburgh, Pa. The CONSOL Energy Center has teamed up with the Robert Morris University Colonials to create the inaugural Three Rivers Classic for NCAA men’s Division I hockey.
Robert Morris will take on the first-year program at Penn State at 4:30 p.m. Friday, with Ohio State set to take on No. 5-ranked Miami (Ohio) University at 7:30. The consolation game will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and the championship game will get under way at 7:30.
The hope is that this college tournament will take root and become a celebrated tradition, like the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit and The Beanpot in Boston. The field for the 2013 Three Rivers Classic has already been announced, and it will be RMU, Penn State, Bowling Green and perennial national title contender Boston College.
ROOT Sports will broadcast the consolation and championship games of the Three Rivers Classic on tape delay Jan. 5 and 11. Penguins television play-by-play announcer Paul Steigerwald and Penguins radio analyst Phil Bourque will call the action.
COLONIALS CLIPBOARD: The host Robert Morris Colonials are members of the Atlantic Hockey Association. They are 4-3-1 in the AHA this season, and 7-4-2 overall. RMU is riding a five-game unbeaten streak, 3-0-2, coming in to the Classic. The Colonials are tied with North Dakota for the fifth-longest winning streak in the country this season.
Derek Schooley has been the Colonials head coach since Day 1 for the Division I program, which was established back in August of 2003. Schooley guided the program to its 100th victory last February against Canisius.
Players to Watch: Senior forward Zach Hervato leads RMU in goals with six. Zach is tied with senior forward Adam Brace for the points lead with 12 each. Brace is tied for third in the country in short-handed goals with two. Sophmore forward Jack Jones is the assists leader for RMU with nine. Senior goaltender Eric Levine is ranked fourth in the nation in save percentage at .945 and is third in the AHA in goals-against-average with a 2.17 mark.
NITTANY LIONS NOTES: It is the inaugural season for Penn State men’s ice hockey under head coach Guy Gadowsky. Next season, the Big Ten will form a men’s ice hockey division with Penn State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan. The Nittany Lions are 7-8-0 overall this season, and 5-7-0 in NCAA Division I competition. Penn State is no stranger to the “sin bin,” as it leads the country in penalty minutes per game with 17.5.
The Nittany Lions are playing their home games this season at Greenberg Ice Pavilion, located on the University Park campus. Next season they will move into Pegula Ice Arena, which broke ground in early February 2012. It will feature two ice surfaces: a main rink and a community rink. The main arena will feature 6,000 seats for men’s and women’s varsity hockey.
Players to Watch: Freshman forward David Glen leads PSU in goals (eight), assists (eight), and total points (16). Freshman forward Casey Bailey is second on the team with six goals, five assists, and 11 points. Freshman goaltender Matt Skoff is a native of McKees Rocks, Pa., and has a 2.32 goals-against average.
REDHAWKS TALONS: The Miami University RedHawks play in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, and are ranked No. 5 in the nation by both the USCHO.com poll, and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll. Miami is 11-3-4 overall this season, and 8-3-3 in the CCHA. The RedHawks have made 10 D-I tournament appearances and are one of just three teams to qualify for the last seven in succession.
Enrico Blasi is in his 14th season as head coach of the RedHawks. A 1994 graduate of Miami, Blasi took over the bench at his alma mater in 1999 as the youngest head coach in Division I hockey history. Blasi got the RedHawks to the National Championship game back in 2009, only to lose to Boston University 4-3 in overtime.
Players to Watch: Freshman forward Riley Barber leads Miami in goals with eight, tied with sophomore forward Austin Czarnik in assists with 14 each, and leads the team in points with 22. The bad news for RedHawks fans is that Barber is at the IIHF World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia this weekend playing for Team USA. Czarnik is second on the team with seven goals, and in total points with 21. Freshman goaltender Jay Williams is 8-2-3 this season with a 2.05 goals-against-average.
BUCKEYE BULLETINS: The Ohio State Buckeyes also play in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association this season. Ohio State is 7-6-5 overall, and 6-3-3-1 in the CCHA. The Buckeyes have appeared in six D-I tournaments with the last time being after the 2008-09 season.
Mark Osiecki was named head coach of the Ohio State men’s hockey program on April 24, 2010 and is entering his third year as the boss man for the Buckeyes. Osiecki is also at the IIHF World Junior Championships this weekend as part of the coaching staff for the USA squad. Steve Rohlik is the associate head coach for the program, and will be in charge of the Buckeyes at the Three Rivers Classic.
Players to Watch: Sophomore forwards Tanner Fritz and Ryan Dzingel are Nos. 1 and 2 for the Buckeyes in scoring with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Dzingel and sophomore forward Max McCormick are tied for first with six goals each and Fritz has a team-best 10 assists. Senior goaltender Brady Hjelle is third in the nation with a CCHA-best 1.46 goals-against-average, and is second in the nation with a .951 save percentage.
You can catch the replay of a podcast Matt Gajtka and I did with RMU head coach Derek Schooley from last week here on City of Champions: http://cityofchampionssports.