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2013 "Three Rivers Classic" Preview

by Brooks Bratten / Pittsburgh Penguins

Over the past five seasons, for one or two games each year, the Robert Morris Colonials have departed the RMU Island Sports Center to skate at the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ll be doing so again in 2012, but in an event that will see three other programs come to town. Four clubs are hoping to close out the year with a bang, while organizers are hoping that this weekend will become a holiday staple in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future.

The Colonials will play host to the inaugural Three Rivers Classic this Friday and Saturday, welcoming Penn State, Ohio State and Miami Ohio to CONSOL Energy Center for a two-day tournament. Four games will take place over the 30-hour period, with two contests slated for each day.

Lead by head coach and Miami-alum, Enrico Blasi, the Redhawks are ranked fifth in the nation. Miami’s cross-state rivals, the Buckeyes, possess seven NHL draft picks on their roster and a goaltender that ranks near the top in the country in goals-against average and save percentage. Penn State has already recorded seven wins in its first season at the Division I level, while Robert Morris was third in the teams receiving votes category in the latest national poll.

RMU welcomes the Nittany Lions on Friday afternoon, followed by the Buckeyes and the Redhawks facing off in the nightcap. Friday’s winners will then battle it out for the championship on Saturday night, with the consolation game preceding the final contest.

“I think this is going to be a really exciting event,” Schooley said. “It’s our first year, but this is two-plus years in planning. I remember (Penguins VP of communication) Tom McMillan and myself talking about it in 2003 when we wanted to get the Frozen Four here and eventually starting our showcase into a tournament. It’s really good to see a lot of people’s planning and a lot of people’s efforts coming to work over the last couple of years.

“We’re excited about the teams that we’re having here. Penn State has had a very good year in Division I hockey in their first year. Ohio State is another team with others receiving votes just like ourselves, and Miami being No. 5 in the nation, I think this is an excellent field. It should be an exciting two days of hockey that hopefully people who are really missing hockey will get behind college hockey because it is an excellent product. Players play extremely hard and play with a lot of passion and I think people who come out and see the games this week will really enjoy it. Once again, thanks for everybody and their work, and we’re looking forward to a great tournament.”

The schedule is as follows:

Friday, December 28
Penn State vs. Robert Morris – 4:35 p.m.
Ohio State vs. Miami – 7:35 p.m.

Saturday, December 29
Consolation Game – 4:35 p.m.
Championship Game – 7:35 p.m.

Penn State and Robert Morris will meet for the second time in as many weeks, in what’s sure to be a physical contest. A rivalry was born in the first-ever meeting between the two programs on Dec. 15, as the Nittany Lions fell at home by a 3-2 final to RMU in a game that saw the two clubs combine for 32 penalty minutes. A matchup featuring the two newest programs in NCAA Division I hockey, PSU will look to rebound in the Friday matinee.

Miami and Ohio State are also familiar with one another, as they’ll get together for the third straight time on Friday. The two met on Dec. 14 and 15 in Columbus, battling to a 1-1 draw in the first encounter. The Redhawks then defeated OSU 24 hours later by a final of 3-1. Ohio State will look to increase their all-time 4-2-1 series lead on neutral ice against Miami.

Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s participants:

Atlantic Hockey Association
7-4-2 Overall, 4-3-1 AHA – Unranked (received 15 votes in most recent poll)
Bench Boss: Derek Schooley, 9th Season, 111-146-38 overall at RMU

Need to Know
-The Colonials are unbeaten in five straight contests (3-0-2)
-Senior netminder Eric Levine is tied for fourth in the nation with a .942 save percentage
-Robert Morris carries six Pittsburgh-born players on their roster

Team Leaders
Points: Zach Hervato & Adam Brace (12)
Goals: Zach Hervato (6)
Assists: Adam Brace (7)
Plus/Minus: Tyler Hinds (+10)

Between the Pipes
Eric Levine: 6-2-2, 2.17 GAA, .942 SV%

Player to Watch: Colin South
The Sewickley, Pa. native is tied for second on the squad in points (11), and goals (5). South potted both of RMU’s markers in their most recent contest at the CONSOL Energy Center, a 4-2 loss to Ohio State last December.

Independent (will join Big Ten Conference in 2012-13)
7-8-0 Overall - Unranked
Bench Boss: Guy Gadowsky, 1st Season, 7-8-0 overall at PSU

Need to Know
-This is Penn State’s first season at the NCAA Division I level
-The Nittany Lions lead the nation in penalty minutes per game with 17.5
-Sophomore captain Tommy Olczyk is the son of former Penguins player and head coach, Ed Olczyk

Team Leaders
Points: David Glen (16)
Goals: David Glen (8)
Assists: David Glen (8)
Plus/Minus: David Glen (+11)

Between the Pipes
Matthew Skoff: 3-6-0, 2.32 GAA, .926 SV%

Player to Watch: David Glen
Only a freshman, Glen leads his team in all major scoring categories, and is five points ahead of the next closest Nittany Lion. A native of Ft. Saskatchewan, Alberta, Glen is second in rookie scoring in the nation, trailing only Miami’s Riley Barber.

Central Collegiate Hockey Association
7-6-5 Overall, 6-3-3-1 CCHA – Unranked (received 14 votes in most recent poll)
Bench Boss: Mark Osiecki, 3rd Season, 37-39-14 overall at OSU
Note: Osiecki will not be coaching the Buckeyes at the Three Rivers Classic. He is an assistant coach for the U.S. National Junior Team that is currently competing at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Russia. Associate head coach Steve Rohlik will coach OSU this weekend.

Need to Know
-This weekend will mark the fifth and sixth times that the Buckeyes have skated on Penguins home ice
-Senior goaltender Brady Hjelle is ranked third in the nation in goals-against average (1.46) and second in save percentage (.951)
-The Buckeyes carry seven NHL draft picks on their roster

Team Leaders
Points: Ryan Dzingel (14)
Goals: Ryan Dzingel & Max McCormick (6)
Assists: Tanner Fritz (10)
Plus/Minus: Craig Dalrymple (+9)

Between the Pipes
Brady Hjelle: 5-4-4, 1.46 GAA, .951 SV%

Player to Watch: Ryan Dzingel
The sophomore forward leads the Buckeyes in points with 14, but has gone cold as of late. Dzingel rode an eight-game point streak from Nov. 10 to Dec. 7, but has been held off the scoresheet in his last three contests.

Central Collegiate Hockey Association
11-3-4 Overall, 8-3-3-3 CCHA – Ranked 5th poll
Bench Boss: Enrico Blasi, 14th Season, 297-187-52 overall at Miami

Need to Know
-The Redhawks will be without two key pieces this weekend, as freshmen forwards Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly are skating for the U.S. National Junior squad at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Russia. Barber, a Pittsburgh-born player, is the team’s leading scorer with 22 points.
-Miami is unbeaten in their last 11 contests (10-0-1)
-Five Redhawks have been drafted by an NHL club

Team Leaders
Points: Riley Barber (22)
Goals: Riley Barber (8)
Assists: Riley Barber & Austin Czarnik (14)
Plus/Minus: Austin Czarnik (+15)

Between the Pipes
Jay Williams: 8-2-3, 2.05 GAA, .921 SV%

Player to Watch: Austin Czarnik
With leading scorer Riley Barber across the pond, Miami will look for Czarnik to show up on the scoresheet. The sophomore forward is second on the club with 21 points, and his 14 assists are tied for tops in the CCHA.

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