The seventh annual Three Rivers Classic college hockey tournament will not take place in 2018, with the event moving to a January date for the first time in during the 2018-19 season.
Host Robert Morris will welcome Brown, St. Cloud State and Union to the Pittsburgh area on Jan. 4 and 5, 2019, for the seventh iteration of the holiday tournament.
But it might not be taking place at PPG Paints Arena. Robert Morris’ schedule was released on Monday with the time and venue for the four the games listed as “TBA.”
The hesitation might have to do with the fact that on Friday, Jan. 4, the Penguins host the Winnipeg Jets at 7 p.m. The two-day tournament also couldn’t be pushed back a day without conflicting with the Penguins’ 8 p.m. home game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Jan. 6.
The games could be held earlier in the day or on a combined ticket with the Penguins, though those solutions would depress or outright eliminate any ticket revenue received by the tournament.
It could be moved to the Penguins’ UMPC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township or RMU Island Sports Center in Neville Island. Both of those venues are significantly smaller than the 18,387-seat PPG Paints Arena. RMU’s main rink seats just 1,589 people, and the Penguins’ rink seats even fewer.
But that might not be a huge hiccup, as attendance for the tournament has waned in recent years. Just 2,126 saw Providence best Robert Morris, 2-1 in the 2017 title game.
While the date and venue may be new, the tradition of quality opponents for Robert Morris in the tournament has continued. St. Cloud State was the No. 6 team in the final USCHO.com poll for the 2017-18 season before they had their NCAA Tournament run interrupted by an upset by Air Force. The Huskies were at the NCAA Frozen Four in Pittsburgh in 2013 and have made the tournament in five of the last six seasons.
Union is just four years removed from a National Championship run with the likes of Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and current Penguins prospect Jeff Taylor. They also won the ECAC Regular Season in 2017.
Brown’s program has long ties to the Penguins, with former Bears Bobby Farnham and Harry Zolnierczyk suiting up for the Pens and recent Brown grad Sam Lafferty set for his first full pro season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this year. He’ll be coached there by Rhode Island native Clark Donatelli.
The two-day tournament will consist of Robert Morris facing Brown and St. Cloud State playing Union on Jan. 4 and the winners facing off for the title game after the consolation final on Jan. 5.