With the fourth-annual Three Rivers Classic at CONSOL Energy Center today and Tuesday, a few of the Pens players reflected on their college careers and memories of holiday tournaments like this one.
Forward Nick Bonino played three years at Boston University, scoring 45 goals and 117 points in 116 games and winning the 2009 national championship with current teammate David Warsofsky. Though his offense certainly shined at the college level, his time in Beantown was also a chance for Bonino to work on his defensive game.
“It’s certainly stressed a lot,” Bonino said. “Being good at blocking shots, being good in your end. It really helped round out my game.”
Bonino fondly remembers travelling with the team for road trips and holiday tournaments. He’s not convinced things change much from level to level.
“It’s not much different than it is now,” Bonino said with a laugh. “When you’re on the road with your (college) buddies, you’re playing mini-hockey in the hotel. As you get older you’re going to the mall and seeing movies.
“Now we’re all a little bit older and we stay in five-star hotels. But we still go to dinner together, we still go to the movies together and hang out. It’s one of the best parts of hockey, I think.”
Defenseman Ian Cole played three years at the University of Notre Dame, totaling 65 points in 121 games. While developing as a player in a college setting was great, Cole’s best memories are with his teammates.
“You have the ability to live, work out with and just be with your teammates,” Cole said. “You grow really tight and really grow together as a team.”
One opportunity for bonding came around the holidays during the Shillelagh tournament, which is hosted by Notre Dame.
“Because we were on break, we had to come back a little early so we were the only ones on campus,” Cole said. “All of our dorms were closed so they put us up in hotels. It was pretty cool.
“The whole time you were just hanging out with the boys, enjoying each other’s company and getting to mess around and be idiots. But at the same time, you’re doing a mini-training camp. It was a really cool experience and a really good thing for the players.”
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin played three years at Boston College, winning two championships in the process.
“That’s something we’ll share forever,” Dumoulin said. “That made it even better.”
Similar to Bonino and Cole, Dumoulin certainly appreciated the development side of college hockey and credits it for helping him become the player he is today. But the lifelong friendships he formed are what stands out to him the most.
“You go to school with the same guys you play with,” Dumoulin said. “The guys that were in my grade are still my best friends to this day.”
No doubt those friendships grew stronger while travelling for holiday tournaments.
“It was cool to get away from school,” Dumoulin said with a laugh. “But to just be able to focus on hockey and the road and be with the guys, it created a bond and made us closer as a team."