While the numbers of squirt and mite hockey players continue to surge in Western Pennsylvania, adult amateur hockey is making a mark of its own. This past weekend, the city played host to the 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins Adult Hockey Classic presented by Labatt and 84 Lumber. While no future or past NHL stars competed, the tournament was filled with as much passion and love for the game as any Stanley Cup final.
The tournament field (as a whole) consisted of 29 teams spread throughout 4 divisions: Rockhopper, Chinstrap, Royal and Emperor. Each division had its own bracket of teams and championships. While the majority of the games were played at the Ice Castle in Castle Shannon, a few round robin matchups were held at RMU Island Sports Center.
Each team played a minimum of three games, with the top two teams from each division advancing to the championship game. In addition, every player in the tournament was given tickets to Consol Energy Center on Sunday night for the Penguins tilt against the New Jersey Devils. The eight teams who made it to the four championship games were treated to the party suite.
The perks of making it to the finals did not stop there, however. Each championship game was held at Consol Energy Center the next night, as every player got the chance to step on the same sheet of ice that NHL superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin call “home”.
While the games may have been lacking an NHL scoring champion or Most Valuable Player, the arena was filled with excitement nonetheless, from both fans and players. As the teams emerged from the locker room tunnels, they were greeted by music roaring through the loudspeakers, paired with cheers from their friends and family.
The first championship game did not disappoint. Coming out of the Rockhopper division, Saddleridge faced McGuire Woods in a tightly-contested matchup. The teams went back and forth for the duration of the game, with Saddleridge pulling out a close 4-3 victory and being the first team to raise the championship trophy (a blue keg with all the previous winning teams engraved on the side) over their heads, a la their hockey heroes hoisting the Stanley Cup.
In the second game, squads from the Chinstrap division faced off to see whose respective team name would join Saddleridge on the blue keg. Clusterpuck and Zone Hockey battled till the end, but it was Zone Hockey who proved to be too much for their opponent, winning with a decisive score of 8-2. Like the rest of the winners, they were handed the trophy by Tournament Director Sue Schademan, Pittsburgh Penguins Director of Amateur Hockey Mark Shuttleworth and Manager of Youth Hockey Programs Mike Chiasson.
The third championship matchup featured Team King Pearl against the Big Red Machine out of the Royal Division. Much like the first game of the evening, the finalists played a tight game. It was the Big Red Machine who emerged victorious with a score of 4-2.
The final game of the evening featured the top two teams out of the Emperor division, and arguably the best teams in the field. The matchup did not disappoint. Quest Hockey took the ice against Team Labatt, as both teams played worthy of the trophy. The game was 2-1 in the final minutes of the game, with Team Labatt up one and Quest needing a goal. With less than two minutes to go, Quest tied it up, sending the game into overtime. The extra five minutes was not enough to settle the score, however, and the game was sent into a shootout. Backed by stellar play from their goaltender, Team Labatt was able to score on the sixth shooter, followed by a great save in their own end that ultimately secured the win.
The exciting finish and tremendous effort from both teams was a fitting end to a great weekend of hockey and camaraderie alike.