The unique excitement of Division I college hockey returns to CONSOL Energy Center Friday as red-hot Robert Morris hosts No. 4 Ohio State in the RMU Hockey Showcase at 7:35 p.m.
The RMU-Ohio State matchup is the headliner of an all-day tripleheader of college hockey action on the home ice of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Robert Morris women take on Bemidji State at 1 p.m., and the RMU men’s club team skates against Pitt at 4 p.m.
“It’s incredibly exciting for these kids to have the chance to play on a big stage in an NHL building,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. “We’re excited. Ohio State is excited. It’s a great event for our university, and for college hockey in this region.”
This is the sixth straight year that Robert Morris has hosted a game at the Penguins’ home rink – the first four at old Mellon Arena and last year’s NCAA-AHL doubleheader at CONSOL in conjunction with the NHL Winter Classic. Schooley has seen the event grow each year, along with his program.
Robert Morris, in fact, is one of the hottest teams in the nation as it enters the Showcase, having gone unbeaten in eight games (6-0-2) to improve its overall record to 9-6-2.
Powerhouse Ohio State, meanwhile, is also sizzling – having won nine of its last 10 and 11 of its last 14 to post an overall mark of 13-4-2. The Buckeyes are fourth in the most recent national rankings, behind only Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota and Boston College.
“It’s going to be a great day for college hockey all around, and the game against Ohio State will be a tremendous test for us,” Schooley said.
Robert Morris is led by senior goaltender Brooks Ostergard, who has gone 5-4-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, and senior forward Trevor Lewis, who serves as the team captain. Freshmen forwards Cody Wydo and Scott Jacklin also have made an immediate impact at the college level – Wydo leads the team with eight goals and Jacklin has seven.
In addition, Schooley is proud that seven Pittsburgh area players are on the Robert Morris roster – a sign that local hockey continues to expand and improve.
“It’s getting better and better, and the game is getting more exposure,” Schooley said. “The Penguins are obviously the biggest part of that, but we also like to think that our program is making a contribution. And the Showcase has helped put us on the map.”
Pittsburgh’s reputation as a hot college hockey market is such that CONSOL Energy will host the NCAA Frozen Four – hockey’s version of the Final Four – in 2013.
Moreover, with Penn State adding Division 1 hockey next year, there is speculation that the Showcase may become a doubleheader or a two-day tournament, featuring Robert Morris, Penn State and two other teams.
“We’re talking about a tournament next year, which would be a great lead-in for the Frozen Four – these are things we could only dream of when we started the program (eight years ago),” Schooley said. “It’s a credit to our university, and to the support of the Penguins, and to the fans of this region. Pittsburgh is a great hockey town, a great NHL town – but it’s also becoming a great college hockey town.”
Tickets for the RMU Showcase range from $10.50-$19.50. They are available at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Box Office at CONSOL Energy Center and at all TicketMaster locations.