In just two years, the Three Rivers Classic has attracted two top-ten teams, a pair of in-state programs and two more with a rich history of winning.
Since the tournament began in 2012, Boston College and Miami (Ohio) have highlighted a stacked college hockey field that, along with the Frozen Four at CONSOL Energy Center in 2013, has begun to show Pittsburgh hockey fans just how exciting the collegiate game can be.
“At the end of the day, we hope the fans of hockey and the fans of college hockey realize the quality of the teams we are trying to bring to this tournament,” said Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley. “The Penguins, CONSOL Energy Center, Robert Morris – we have worked so hard to get high-level teams here and to be able to see teams on a national basis and to promote hockey and college hockey to the people of Pittsburgh.”
Schooley’s Robert Morris team impressed Pittsburgh hockey fans last year when the team shut out No. 5 Miami in an upset victory to claim the inaugural Three Rivers Classic title. Though Boston College won the tournament this year, Schooley said the exposure for his players and for local fans to the top college hockey competition in the nation is something they couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
“You look at the teams that have come to Pittsburgh in the last year: Miami, Ohio State, Penn State, Robert Morris, then you throw Bowling Green and Boston College in the mix, too,” Schooley said. “Those are some really exciting teams to have here. It is pretty special to be able to be a part of it.”
Certainly the tournament has its perks for the fans coming through the gates, but the chance for the players to play in an NHL arena, especially one as new as CONSOL Energy Center that’s home to one of the best teams in the league, helped draw teams in.
“We don’t get to play in NHL buildings very often, especially one like this in that there are ties to Bowling Green with (alums) (head coach Dan) Bylsma and (assistant coach Todd) Reirden,” said BGSU head coach Chris Bergeron. “Not only were we able to get exposed to that but to play Boston College and get a taste of how good teams are that are out there, it is very valuable. We want to have a connection to this area, we want to be a presence in this area and this tournament helps us with that.
“We are very thankful for the opportunity. I know our guys really enjoyed it.”
The local connection was especially strong on Day One of the 2013 tournament, when a matchup between Robert Morris and Penn State brought out plenty of local supporters to CONSOL Energy Center – something Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said was wonderful to see.
“It is great for us for two reasons,” Gadowsky said. “One is our alumnus. It is so much fun to play in front of them whether it is in State College or here in Pittsburgh or elsewhere. They have been fantastic. To give us the opportunity to play in front of great alumni is welcome and we are very grateful for it. And also, the chance to play in a great venue like this. It is a tremendous experience in itself. We hope to someday play in venues like this in March and April, so this gives us a great opportunity and can only give us great experiences.”
For more information on the Three Rivers Classic All-Tournament Team and Tournament MVP Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College, click here. Check out @3RiversClassic on Twitter for post-tournament stats and photos from Saturday’s action.