With the second annual Three Rivers Classic beginning Friday, coaches from the four teams involved addressed the media Thursday night at Consol Energy Center to talk about the event. (Read City of Champions’ tournament previews here, here and here.)
The following are some snippets from each as they prepare to battle for the Confluence Cup this weekend.
Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley:
On last year’s event: “It was great for the city of Pittsburgh. It brought college hockey to the forefront. Especially [when there was a] lockout last year, it got people excited about hockey. It was a great…lead-in to the Frozen Four. I thought the tournament was well-run and very well-attended and brought some excitement for hockey for Pittsburgh when they needed it.”
On the teams competing this year: “Any time you can bring the two youngest college hockey programs in us and Penn State into a tournament, and bring the history of Boston College and Bowling Green to Pittsburgh is really exciting. They’ve got six national championships between those two schools, and I’m sure Penn State and us are striving to equal that level at some point. To bring the history, the passion and the alumni following of Boston College and Bowling Green to the Pittsburgh area is something that’s really exciting for our program and our university.
On starting the unofficial second half of the season: “We play 10 straight weekends with two games a weekend…so we’re not going to have any breaks. We [had] a 10-day break to go home, get refreshed, refocused and excited for the second half of the year and kicking it off with the Three Rivers Classic is fun for our players.
On matchup with Penn State: “We’re excited about the event and playing [Penn State] down here in front of a larger crowd than we had at the Island Sports Center [5-4 PSU win Nov. 1], a larger crowd that we had at Penn State last year. It’ll be a physical matchup. Both teams take a lot of pride in the state…and Pennsylvania hockey. Both teams will be excited to…get back to playing hockey. I know they’re champing at the bit after a long Christmas break. They’re a big, physical team…that takes the puck well to the net. We have to do some things better than last matchup and hope to contain their top players and get in front of their goaltender a little bit more.”
Penn State assistant coach Keith Fisher:
On last year’s experience at the tournament: “Happy to be back. It was a great event last year. Pittsburgh’s kind of turning into the hockey hub here the last couple years. The city really embraced college hockey for the weekend. We were looking for a signature win last year…and I think that second night against Ohio State, getting a big win against an established Big Ten program was huge for our players, got us some confidence to know we can compete and play with the top teams in the country. It was a big stepping stone for our season last year.”
On the benefits of taking part in the event: “It’s great that Robert Morris is here in Pittsburgh. We do have a great alumni following here in the Pittsburgh area, so it’s great to come here and play in front of our alumni. We like to do that; we play in Philadelphia as well. Anytime you get an opportunity to play in an NHL arena like this is a great opportunity for our guys. Hopefully the event gets bigger and better. Having Boston College here, a top-10 program in the country, it only enhances the profile of the tournament.
On differences between this year and last: “We’re so young, and this year we have another nine new guys on the team. Basically half our lineup night in and night out is new to our program and new to Division I hockey. We have 18 freshmen and sophomores. This year’s been totally different. Last year we had to prove…that we could play at the D-I level, and this year moving to Pegula [Ice Arena] and the Big Ten is a whole new challenge for us. We’ve had some growing [pains]. Hopefully we can use this as a springboard to the Big Ten season coming up in the second half.”
On facing RMU in the opener: “RMU swept us last year, this year they outshot us…but our goaltender played well to steal one. They play real hard. We gotta stay out of the penalty box and get some traffic in front of their net. It’s a big game for us, RMU has done a great job with their program the last couple years.”
Bowling Green head coach Chris Bergeron
On facing a top-10 team in Boston College to start the tourney: “We’re very much looking forward to the challenge. It’s a team we don’t see that often, and it’s always nice to play outside the conference. It’s fun to play BC with coach [Jerry] York and the history he had here at BG.”
On Bowling Green alumni and Penguins coaches Dan Bylsma and Todd Reirden: “Coach Bylsma, people would be surprised, when he gets back on campus he goes right back into college mode. It’s been pretty neat to see him with his buddies. I knew Reirden, too, I played against him. The ties are pretty strong, I just think the whole thing is a pretty neat story being here in Pittsburgh. I also think it shows you don’t have to play in the NHL. I know Dan and Todd did, but college hockey can take you a lot of different places.”
On playing at Consol Energy Center: “Our guys don’t play in NHL buildings very often. That may sound corny to some people, but to 20-year-old boys it’s a pretty good thing. They’re looking forward to coming in and just looking around. We’re gonna skate [Friday] morning, which will hopefully get some of the ‘star-struck’ out of them, because we’re going to have to be ready to play in the afternoon.”
On the importance of the second half of the season: “We had a real long stretch, 10 days off and we’re ready to go again. We had time to decompress, got the first semester behind us academically. These two games are ‘fire-up’ games, if you will, for two league games next week at Alabama-Huntsville. We’re a work in progress, but expectations are changing. We haven’t sniffed .500 at Bowling Green and we’re there at Christmas but we’re not satisfied. That’s a good thing.”
Boston College head coach Jerry York
On significance of tournaments: “I think anytime you have a chance to play for a trophy, that’s important for a college team. There’s only so many over the course of the year. You know how golfers have majors? This is the first of the majors. Consol Energy Center rings a bell with a lot of players. The chance to play where [Sidney] Crosby plays, [Rob] Scuderi and [Brooks] Orpik. Just coming off the break, so it’s a good test for us to start the second half. ”
On facing former school Bowling Green, where he coached Bylsma and Reirden: “This is the first time I’ve played Bowling Green. I cut my teeth coaching out there. Obviously there are good memories. I remember [Bylsma and Reirden] just like it was yesterday. Good players: Danny was a good, strong power forward, Todd a big, tall, lanky defenseman. I’m always rooting for the Penguins, except when they’re playing our Bruins, you know.”
On watching former Boston College players on the Pens: “You learn a lot about a player at that age. Those are formative years. There are a lot of our players on the Penguins now [Chuck Kobasew, Scuderi, Orpik, Brian Gibbons]. It’s been kind of fun to watch some of our former players play for one of my former players. Some of them were just recently at BC, and there’s always that connection. We’re always watching on NHL Network. We don’t miss a game when we can watch.”
Check back with City of Champions all weekend for live coverage from Matt Gajtka and Larry Snyder.