NCAA Division I college hockey returns to CONSOL Energy Center this weekend as the first-ever “Three Rivers Classic” featuring Robert Morris, Penn State, Miami University (Ohio) and Ohio State gets underway on Friday afternoon.
The tournament will begin with a matchup between Robert Morris and Penn State at 4:30 p.m. This will mark the second meeting in two weeks for the two Pennsylvania-based schools, as Robert Morris earned a 3-2 victory over Penn State in State College, Pa. on Dec. 15.
Two of the NCAA’s top programs square off in the nightcap when No. 5-ranked Miami plays interstate rival Ohio State at 7:30 p.m. These two teams met in a home-and-home series Dec. 14-15, with Miami winning the second game by a 3-1 score after the two teams played to a 1-1 tie in the first contest.
The consolation and championship games will be played on Dec. 29 at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.
A record number of tickets have been sold for a college hockey game at CONSOL Energy Center. More than 10,000 seats have been sold for both sessions. Upper level seats are available for Friday and good lower level seats are still available for Saturday’s session.
All four teams participating in this year’s tournament have players or coaches with ties to the Pittsburgh amateur hockey system, including both local captains – Penn State’s Tommy Olczyk and Robert Morris’ Brendan Jamison, and Ohio State volunteer assistant coach R.J. Umberger.
Olczyk, a sophomore forward, is the son of NBC lead color commentator and former Penguins head coach Eddie Olczyk. The younger Olczyk, who scored a goal for the Nittany Lions against Robert Morris two weekends ago, played high school hockey at Chartiers Valley while his father coached the Penguins.
Penn State alternate captain George Saad (Gibsonia, Pa.) is the brother of Chicago Blackhawks forward and 2011 second-round draft pick (43rd overall) Brandon Saad. Other Nittany Lions with local ties are goaltender Matthew Skoff (McKees Rocks, Pa.) and forward Michael Longo (Allison Park, Pa.).
Jamison (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who is one of 20 candidates nominated for the national Senior CLASS Award which recognizes achievements on and off the ice, is one of six Colonials from Pittsburgh. Defenseman Andrew Blazek (Pittsburgh, Pa.) – who attended the Penguins’ 2011 prospect development camp, forwards Colin South (Sewickley, Pa.), David Rigatti (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Zac Lynch (Pittsburgh, Pa.), and goaltender Ryan Gayso (Pittsburgh, Pa.), also have local connections.
Umberger, a former Ohio State All-American and a current alternate captain for the Columbus Blue Jackets, has spent the NHL lockout as a volunteer coach for his alma mater. The Plum native was the highest draft pick in Ohio State history when he was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round (16th overall) of the 2001 NHL Draft.
Miami freshman forward Riley Barber, who spent time playing for the Pittsburgh Hornets amateur hockey program through peewee before moving to Michigan, would also be playing this weekend, but he is representing Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia.
Barber starred for the Americans in the team’s 8-0 opening-game victory on Thursday, tallying a team-high three points (1G-2A). Barber is joined on Team USA by Miami teammate Sean Kuraly and Ohio State head coach Mark Osiecki – who is serving as an assistant coach.
Pittsburgh Sporting News will be covering the event every step of the way – be sure to check back often for stories, scores, and updates.