PITTSBURGH — Anyone who follows University of Pittsburgh or Duquesne University athletics knows about the City Game. The annual men’s basketball contest between Pitt and Duquesne at PPG Paints Arena is circled on both school’s calendars every year.
This year, there will be another kind of City Game. The City Game on Ice will feature ACHA hockey rivals Pitt and Duquesne at PPG Paints Arena on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. The last time either team played in an NHL arena was against each other in 2011. It was called Consol Energy Center at that time. Duquesne is hoping that a different name leads to a different result; Pitt pulled off the victory that year, 5-3.
Despite the long stretch for either team between appearances on NHL ice, there’s certainly no shortage of players who have experience from other teams in such an environment.
“A few of our players have competed for high school championship games either at PPG Paints or Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia, so we’re not completely lacking experience there,” said Conrad Waite, second year head coach for the Dukes.
He knows that it will still be a special game, though.
“We’re going to talk about it as a team ahead of time, and be as prepared as possible for those moments,” he said. “Having said that, I know no amount of preparation can substitute for experience, so we’re not going to try and avoid those moments as much as know they’re coming and be ready to overcome them.”
Zack Richey, Duquesne’s alternate captain, believes his team is more motivated than nervous about playing in such an environment.
“I think they’re really excited. It’s been a big motivational factor to go that extra mile in the gym and on the ice during practice. I’ve actually played at PPG Paints (Consol Energy when I played) for High School Championships for Pine Richland but it didn’t go so well. I’m excited to get back there and sort of redeem myself.”
Richey will try to redeem himself against a Panthers team that is coming off of a two-game split last weekend against Buffalo. Pitt (9-5, 5-1 CHMA) has been an explosive team, scoring at least five goals in four of their conference wins, which include impressive two-game sweeps of West Virginia and Robert Morris.
Duquesne (10-8-1, 2-4-1 CHMA), on the other hand, has been struggling against conference opponents. The recent injury to starting goaltender Alex Taylor on October 21 versus Oakland played a significant factor. Duquesne dropped the next two games to Mercyhurst, 10-6, and Robert Morris, 9-6. Taylor came back fighting, though, leading his team to three straight victories in a Buffalo, NY tournament November 3-5. This past weekend, they split two games, losing 4-3 (on four unanswered goals) at Slippery Rock and defeating Mercyhurst on the road, 4-2. Because of this, Richey is confident that the city game won’t be the only thing on ice.
“Taylor played this past weekend and looked pretty good,” Richey said after Duquesne’s tournament win in Buffalo. “I’m excited to have him back and think he plays a really big factor to the team’s success. I think if our offense keeps putting up high numbers like we’ve been, we should have a lot of success against Pitt.”
Conrad Waite expressed a similar sentiment.
“[Taylor] has been a rock for us the last two years, so it’s good to have him back between the pipes. We have the leading scorer [Thomas Diffendal] in ACHA D1 on our roster, so we feel like we can match up against anyone in our league.”
In order to match up well and have success against Pitt, though, Richey says the team needs to remain physical, but disciplined.
“The RMU game definitely got more physical as we noticed it can definitely slow their quick paced game down,” he said. “If we can keep that physicality but limit the penalty minutes on our end, we should be good to go.”
Regardless of how many penalties are called, how many goals are scored, or who wins this pivotal conference rival showdown, one thing is guaranteed: this will definitely be a game to remember.
Tickets can be purchased for $10 from members of either team, through the PPG Paints box office, or through ticketmaster.com. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $10. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 PM November 17, 2017.