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Three Rivers Classic Preview

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Robert Morris, Penn State, Colgate and Western Michigan take part in the 2014 Three Rivers Classic Dec. 28-29 at CONSOL Energy Center. Below are previews for the four teams competing in the tournament.


Robert Morris

Two years removed from their upset over the Miami University (Ohio) Redhawks in the inaugural Three Rivers Classic, the Robert Morris University Colonials are looking to reclaim the championship this year after finishing a dismal fourth in last year’s tournament.

The Colonials will try to build off their impressive start to the 2014-15 season when they arrive at CONSOL Energy Center on Dec. 29 for their first game when they square off against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Robert Morris currently sits atop the Atlantic Hockey division with a record of 9-2-3 and find themselves ranked 19th in the nation with an overall record of 11-2-1.

Led by outstanding senior forward Cody Wydo, it took the Colonials 10 games before they suffered their first loss of the season. Before that, they rattled off eight wins and two ties, including a five-game winning streak to start the season. Their success can be attributed to their outstanding play in the offensive zone. Their 4.12 goals-per-game average has them sitting nicely atop the national standings.

Wydo, a senior from Saginaw, Michigan, has been one of the top components for the Colonials success this year. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward offered up 25 points (11G-14A) for his club this season, which currently has him sitting third in the nation in scoring.

The Colonials have some impressive goaltending to thank as well for their hot start to the season. Through eight games, netminder Dalton Izyk has a 6-1 record, 2.30 goals-against average, save percentage of .931 and two shutouts. Izyk’s save percentage is currently tied for 14th in the nation, while his two shutouts rank eighth.

Special teams will also be a key to victory for RMU if they wish to take back the 3RC crown. The Colonials have a 22.4 percent power-play conversion rate. Only eight schools have are better and Western Michigan and Penn State happen to be two of them. Their penalty kill is currently functioning at 83.8 percent, which is the most successful of the four teams competing in the tournament.

Author: Joey Sykes


Penn State

The Penn State men’s ice hockey team (9-4-2, 3-1-0 Big Ten) travels to Pittsburgh for a third consecutive appearance in the Three Rivers Classic tournament at CONSOL Energy Center.

The Nittany Lions, currently No. 20 in the U.S. College Hockey Online weekly poll, square off against 19th ranked Robert Morris University (11-2-3, 9-2-3 Atlantic Hockey Conference) on Monday, Dec. 29 at 7:35 p.m.

Among those leading the way for Penn State will be goalie Matthew Skoff, a McKees Rocks, Pa. native. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior has started 11 games this season for the Nittany Lions. Skoff’s save percentage (.919), goals-against average (2.27), win percentage (.636) and wins (6) all rank second in the Big Ten Conference.

Heading into the tournament, the Nittany Lions are riding high off a pair of firsts. In addition to the team’s first-ever national ranking, Penn State recorded its first conference sweep in program history with two wins over the University of Wisconsin on Dec. 5 and 6. Penn State’s three Big Ten wins put them on top of the current conference standings with nine points and a .750 win percentage.

In just the team’s second season in the Big Ten Conference and third season as an NCAA Division I program, Penn State boasts a 3.47 goals-per-game average (seventh among Division I schools). Additionally, the Nittany Lions’ power-play percentage (26.7) ranks fifth in the country, while the team’s 83-percent penalty-kill success rate is tops in the Big Ten.

Senior Taylor Holstrom and junior Casey Bailey have emerged as key contributors for Penn State this season. Combined, the forwards hold the top spot in nine Big Ten offensive categories. They have recorded 18 points apiece so far this year, which is tied for 15th in the country.

Behind the bench, Guy Gadowsky is currently in his third season as Penn State’s head coach. Prior to joining the Nittany Lions, Gadowsky served as the head coach at Princeton University for seven seasons.

Last year, Penn State went 1-1 in the Three Rivers Classic and finished second. After beating Robert Morris in the opening round, 3-2, the Nittany Lions fell to Boston College 8-2 in the tournament championship game.

Depending on the outcome of Penn State’s opening-round game, the team will play either Western Michigan University or 17th ranked Colgate University on Tuesday, Dec. 30. The consolation game will get underway at 4:30 p.m., while the championship game will take place at 7:35 p.m.

Author: Mike Annarella


Colgate

Nationally-ranked Colgate University will kick-off the Three Rivers Classic for the first time against Western Michigan University at CONSOL Energy Center on Dec. 29.

After three-consecutive losses, the Colgate Raiders will strive to end their losing streak when they compete in the tournament against the Broncos at 4:30pm. At 9-6-1, the Raiders are ranked 17th in the nation and hold the 7th spot in the Eastern College Athletic Conference.

This season, the Raiders have experienced an impressive amount of wins with sophomore goaltender Charlie Finn (9-5-1) in net. Finn has led the way with three shutouts, which includes two-consecutive against Northeastern University on Oct. 17 and 18. Finn currently has a 2.10 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage, both on pace to be career highs.

Finn, a British Columbia native, was awarded the NCAA First Star of the Week and ECAC Goaltender of the Week after shutting out Northeastern in two consecutive games on Oct. 17 and 18. In doing so, Finn became the first Colgate goalie since 2007-08 to record two consecutive shutouts. Last season, Finn held a 16-8-4 record and participated in the New Jersey Devils’ prospect development camp this past July.

Kyle Baun, a junior forward from Toronto, has been a significant contributor to the Raiders offense, leading the team with 14 points (7G-7A). This season, Baun recorded a four-game goal streak from Oct. 17-25 and had a season-high 3-assist game against Princeton on Nov. 8. Currently, Baun is tied for second in the nation with teammate Tyson Spink with three power-play goals this season.

Last season, Baun finished 5th in points on Colgate and was named ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Month and Player of the Month in January 2013 after recording 5 points (3G-2A) in 8 games. Because of his exceptional play, Baun was extended an invitation to participate in the Detroit Red Wings prospect development camp that was held in July.

Currently, the Raiders penalty kill sits at 87.3 percent, the highest of the four teams competing in the Three Rivers Classic, and have a 19.5-conversion rate on the power play.

Author: Taylor Ross


Western Michigan

The Western Michigan Broncos will open up the Three Rivers Classic tournament facing the Colgate Raiders at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 28. The Broncos are coming into the tournament with a record of 7-8-1, but their record may not indicate their true potential.

The Broncos are coming off of a successful home series against Colorado College as they returned to NCHC play on Dec. 12 and 13. In the first match-up, freshman forward Frederik Tiffels scored two goals, including the overtime winner, to lead Western Michigan to a 3-2 overtime win. The following night was a tight defensive battle, as goaltender Lukas Hafner turned away 24 of 25 shots in a 1-1 tie. Following his performance in WMU’s Colorado College series, Hafner was named Bauer NCHC Goaltender of the Week. This was the second time this season that Hefner received this honor. Throughout the weekend series, he stopped a total of 43 of 46 shots and allowed just one five-on-five goal in the series.

Prior to the Colorado College series, Western Michigan traveled to South Bend, Indiana where they came up as 2014 Shillelagh Tournament Champions. Western Michigan opened the tournament with a convincing 6-2 win over former CCHA rivals Ohio State. In the championship game, WMU trounced the defending NCAA national champions Union, 8-2. In that game, the Broncos jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period on goals by Nolan LaPorte, Colton Hargrove, J.T. Osborn and Sheldon Dries. LaPorte finished off his first career hat trick with a pair of power-play goals in the second period. The 6-foot, 186-pound junior is also tied for fourth in the nation with five power-play goals. Justin Kovacs had five assists in the game and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The senior forward has tallied 14 assists in 14 games, good for the fifth most assists in the nation. Hafner made a career-high 40 saves in the win and WMU’s power play went 5-of-10. Tiffels, LaPorte, Hafner and Kenney Morrison were also all named to the All-Tournament Team.

Head coach Andy Murray is in the midst of his fourth season with the program. Prior to being named the sixth coach in program history, he had been the head coach of both the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings. Murray has many coaching accomplishments under his belt, which also includes coaching beside Penguins head coach, Mike Johnston. The two have coached Team Canada as a duo on several occasions.

Author: Taylor Duncan

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