As of now, Bowling Green alums Dan Bylsma and Todd Reirden don’t have any friendly bets with the many guys in the Penguins organization who have Boston College connections going into the second annual Three Rivers Classic – which will be held later this month at CONSOL Energy Center.
But that, of course, could change as we get closer and closer to the tournament-opening matchup between the two teams on Dec. 27.
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“I look forward to talking more as we get closer to the event with those guys,” Reirden smiled. “Boston College is the premiere team in the nation year-after-year-after-year. My Bowling Green Falcons have been improving and making a push the last couple years, getting back to the .500 mark. Hopefully they push forward from there. It will be a good showdown between my and Dan Bylsma’s former coach Jerry York going up against our alma mater Bowling Green. We’ll be watching closely, but unfortunately we won’t be in town for it.”
The Pens may be on the road those days, but there’s still going to be a lot of talent on the CONSOL Energy Center ice.
No. 6 Boston College and Bowling Green will join local teams Penn State and Robert Morris for the college hockey tournament, which will be held Dec. 27-28.
It’s a tremendous opportunity for Pittsburgh fans to see some of the top NCAA Division I players in the country. It’s also a tremendous opportunity for the Penguins to hopefully make a lasting impression on these kids they may want to see in black and gold someday.
“It’s fun and awesome for the city of Pittsburgh to be able to have a tournament of this caliber and get teams like Boston College to come in here. This is just phenomenal,” Reirden said. “For them to see the facility and be around Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas, what we have to offer here, I think is great both for the community and for helping us down the road in acquiring some of these top-end players from some of these teams.”
A prime example of that is Eric Hartzell. He led Quinnipiac to the Frozen Four this spring, which was hosted by the Penguins and CONSOL Energy Center. And just one day after manning the net in the championship game, the highly sought-after free agent goaltender signed a one-year entry-level contract with the team that calls the arena home.
Hartzell had been in discussions with a few teams prior to signing, but after experiencing what the Penguins had to offer, he inked a deal with what he called “the greatest organization in hockey.”
“The best advertising is having them come right in,” Reirden explained. “We get to see them, but it’s twofold. They get to see a little bit about us as well. That was an easy one with Hartzell. What it’s about is forming connections with these college programs for these sought-after free agents and trying to create a situation where they want to come on board on a known commodity for what we consider the best NHL organization with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s a competitive business. We’re always looking to add good players and there will be a lot of them on hand for the tournament here coming up.”
The Pens certainly have a connection with Boston College, as they already have a lot of former players in their organization. Four players who have suited up for the Penguins this season – Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Chuck Kobasew, Brian Gibbons and the recently-recalled Brian Dumoulin – all won national championships playing for the Eagles. Orpik and Scuderi were teammates for three seasons there, while Kobasew joined them for their final one.
Most recently, assistant to the GM Tom Fitzgerald’s son Ryan is currently in his freshman season with the Eagles. In addition, Bill Guerin, Joe Mullen, Kevin Stevens and Ian Moran are some of the past Penguins who starred at Boston College while Bylsma and Reirden’s coach during their time in Bowling Green – Jerry York – left to coach the Eagles just a couple years later.
The program is a perennial powerhouse and one of the most illustrious in men’s college hockey history, with three national championships and five Frozen Four appearances in the last seven years alone. Dumoulin won two of those titles with the Eagles in 2010 and ‘12, and he said that all of the tournaments he played in – including holiday ones like the Three Rivers Classic – were big moments for him and his development.
“All of those moments create memories,” he said. “Fortunately I was able to win most of them. That creates a lifetime memory. It’s something I’ll share with my class and teammates forever. Playing in those big tournaments helped us as a team come together.”
“I also always remember the Christmas tournament we played in every year,” Reirden said. “It’s a chance to win a tournament. The only other time is in your league or the NCAA tournament. It’s a good halfway point in your season and usually a lot of fun. I remember those tournaments.”