Three Rivers Classic: Looking At All Four Teams In Annual College Hockey Tournament


The tradition of the college hockey tournament returns to to the Steel City during this holiday season. The Pittsburgh Penguins have teamed up again with the Robert Morris University Colonials for the third edition of the Three Rivers Classic for NCAA men’s Division I hockey at Consol Energy Center .

This year, the 17th-ranked Colgate University Raiders will open the event on Monday when they drop the puck at center ice against the Western Michigan University Broncos at 4:30 p.m. Robert Morris, who is ranked 19th, will take on the 20th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in the nightcap at 7:30 p.m. The consolation game will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday with the championship game to follow in the evening at 7:30.

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The rankings are according to the United States College Hockey Online web site, and its most recent poll on Dec. 15. The tournament field has been described as the most balanced in its three seasons of existence.

Looking back, the Colonials won the inaugural Three Rivers Classic in 2012 by upsetting the Miami (Ohio) University Redhawks 1-0 in the championship game. Last year, it was the Nittany Lions who moved to the championship round, before losing 8-2 to the Boston College Eagles.

Let’s take a look at this year’s gang of four who seek to claim the Confluence Cup.

Colonials Clipboard: Robert Morris has gotten off to a 11-2-3 start this season, and are 9-2-3 in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. The Colonials own the leading offense in the nation as they average 4.12 goals per game.

When it comes to special teams, RMU is ninth in the country in power play percentage at 22.4, and 26th on the penalty kill at 83.6 percent.

From the beginning of the program, Derek Schooley has been the only head coach for the Colonials. Since defeating Sacred Heart 2-1 on Jan. 3, 2014, Schooley has guided the program to a 28-8-6 record for a .738 points percentage, an AHC championship, and an appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Players to Watch: Senior left wing Cody Wydo leads the attack with 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points. He also leads the team in shots with 69. Junior left wing David Friedmann is second in goals with eight while sophomore right wing Daniel Leavens is second in assists with 10. Fans will also need to keep an eye on junior right wing Zac Lynch and freshman center Brady Ferguson, who have each contributed 16 points.

The Colonials take care of business between the pipes with the goaltending tandem of junior Terry Shafer and sophomore Dalton Izyk. Shafer, who is 5-1-2, has a 2.21 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage, while Izyk is 6-1-0 with a 2.30 GAA and a .930 save percentage.

You can check out what the opportunity of the Three Rivers Classic means to Robert Morris in Matt Gajtka’s article here on City of Champions.

Nittany Lions Notes: Penn State, in its third season as a program, is 9-4-2 overall and 3-1-0 in the Big Ten, and currently in first place. Like RMU, they also like to light the lamp as they are seventh in the nation, averaging 3.47 goals per contest. The Nittany Lions are first in the country in shots on goal with 39.6 per game.

The Blue and White owns a 26.7 power-play percentage, and that is good for fifth in the nation, while the squad’s 83 percent penalty-kill success rate leads the Big Ten.

It is Guy Gadowski’s fourth season at the helm of Penn State. His prior stops on the D-1 circuit included seven seasons at Princeton and five seasons at Alaska before taking charge of the Nittany Lions.

Players to Watch: Redshirt senior forward Taylor Holstrom with four goals and 14 assists, and junior forward Casey Bailey with 10 goals and eight assists, have both contributed 18 points in first half of the season. Sophomore forward David Goodwin has added six goals and eight assists for 14 points.

Senior defenseman Patrick Koudys leads the Nittany Lions in blocked shots and is the only blueliner to have played in all 15 games this season.

Junior goaltender Matt Skoff, a native of McKees Rocks, Pa., has a 6-3-2 record with a 2.27 GAA and a .919 saver percentage.

Broncos Bulletins: Western Michigan has put together a 6-8-1 overall record this season and a 2-6-1 mark in the National College Hockey Conference. The Broncos hold a 7-4-1 margin in the 12 game overall series between WMU and Colgate. However, the Raiders are 2-0-1 in the last three matchups between the two programs.

Western Michigan traveled to South Bend, Ind., at the end of November, where they claimed the 2014 Shillelagh Tournament Title. In the championship round, WMU beat the defending NCAA national champions, the Union College Dutchmen, 8-2.

The Broncos possess a 22.9 power-play percentage, while their 80 percent penalty-kill success rate is the weakest in the tournament field.

Andy Murray is in his fourth season as head coach of WMU. Prior to being named the sixth coach in program history back in July of 2011, he had been the head coach of both the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League.

Players to Watch: Senior forward Justin Kovacs has only one goal, but leads the team in assists with 13 and points with 14. Senior forward Nolan LaPorte, junior defenseman Kenney Morrison, and freshman forward Frederik Tiffels each has scored five goals for the Broncos. Tiffels will be out of the lineup, as he is representing Germany at the ongoing World Junior Championship.

Sophomore defenseman Taylor Fleming gets the job done by blocking 27 shots in 14 games this season while junior goaltender Lukas Hafner is 4-5-1 with a 2.23 GAA and a .921 save percentage

Raiders Ramblings: Colgate has assembled a 9-6-1 overall record and are 3-2-1 in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference coming into the tournament. Last January, the Raiders captured the Mariucci Classic by shutting out Ferris State 3-0 in the championship game in Minneapolis, Minn.

The Raiders bring the highest rated penalty kill unit into the tournament as their penalty kill sits at 87.3 percent. However, their 19.5 percent conversion rate on the power play is the least successful among the four participants.

Don Vaughan is the most tenured of the four coaches at the Three Rivers Classic having now been at the helm of Colgate for 22 years. He started the 2014-15 campaign with a career record of 348-345-80.

Players To Watch: Colgate has 20 different players that have registered a point through 16 games this season. Junior forward Tyson Spink leads with eight goals while junior forward Kyle Baun is leader in points with 14 on seven goals and seven assists.

Sophomore defenseman Jake Kulevich leads in blocked shots with 26 while senior blueliner Spiro Goulakos is not far off the pace with 23 blocks.

The goaltending is in the capable hands of sophomore Charlie Finn, who is 9-5-1 with a 2.10 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

The teams are lacing up their skates. See you down by the boards.