For an inaugural event, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes this weekend’s Three Rivers Classic will have a familiar feel to it.
Robert Morris, Penn State, Ohio State and Miami (Ohio) will take the ice at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh’s first major midseason college tournament, hoping to provide respite for a lockout-starved hockey city.
“I think this is an excellent field and should be an exciting two days of hockey,” Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. “Hopefully people that are missing hockey will get behind college hockey because it is an excellent product. Players play extremely hard and play with a lot of passion.”
Today’s semifinals will feature Robert Morris facing off against Penn State and Miami taking on Ohio State. The two winners will play in the championship Saturday, and the losers will play in a consolation game.
Three of the four teams have Pittsburgh-area natives on their rosters. Miami’s leading scorer, freshman Riley Barber, hails from Washington, Pa. Barber will not play this weekend, though, as he is in Russia playing for Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championship.
“Pittsburgh is becoming a very well-known hockey area,” Schooley said. “The growth of hockey has been tremendous with the growth of the Penguins.”
Even though pro hockey players haven’t occupied Consol Energy Center since the Penguins were knocked out of the first round of the NHL playoffs last year, they still have an impact on the college players taking the ice this weekend.
“You start talking about Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, all those things, these guys, it’s all they think about. Our guys are on cloud nine right now,” said Ohio State associate head coach Steve Rohlik, who will coach the Buckeyes this weekend while head coach Mark Osiecki serves as an assistant for the U.S. team at the Junior Championship.