The big stage awaits an intriguing field of teams this weekend as the seventh annual Three Rivers Classic gives hockey fans in the area a taste of NCAA Division 1 hockey. Top ranked St.Cloud State, 14th ranked Union College and Brown University make their first ever Three Rivers Classic appearances this weekend. It’s a field that should produce some thrilling action in a tournament that has drawn some high profile programs with increasing regularity in recent years.
It’s a stage that has seen the Robert Morris Colonials produce some brilliant moments and also a stage that has seen them pull off some of their biggest upsets. The Colonials have emerged victorious in three out of their previous six outings in the classic and will be looking to add another trophy to their case. They’ve got enough experience among their locker room leaders to know what it takes to knock off ranked opponents as evidenced by a victory over Bowling Green earlier this season.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us,” Colonial head coach Derek Schooley said. “We’ve got to be prepared mentally and physically. Brown gave Army all they could handle last week, St. Cloud State is the number one team in the country for a reason and Union has been among the top 15 teams in the country all season long. It’s a challenging field and should be an exciting event for the fans. ”
One Last Chance For Colonials
The weekend’s games present the final two non-conference opportunities for the Colonials before embarking on their final stretch of Atlantic Hockey action of the season. Robert Morris comes into the weekend with an 8-9-1 record and have compiled a 7-6-1 mark in conference play, a record that has them in the thick of the fight for a first round bye and home ice in the playoffs.
While staying competitive in a tightly packed conference has been a focus for the Colonials, the boost from taking down a highly ranked opponent has proved to help raise the program’s profile over the years in ways that aren’t always measurable. The Colonials have removed the rust from Christmas break by virtue of a two game series on the road versus American International College last weekend. In game one, Robert Morris fell one goal short in a 4-3 decision while they salvaged a split in game two with a 3-1 victory. They were paced with great performances from junior goaltender Francis Marotte who stopped 58 of 62 shots on the weekend, and also with scoring from key forwards Alex Tonge and Luke Lynch.
“Our goaltending was outstanding,” Schooley said. “Marotte was very good and our leaders up front were outstanding in the second game. We relied on Eric Israel and Alex Robert for a lot of minutes on the back line and they were solid. We were able to make some lineup changes for game two and get everyone into the games which was good.”
The Colonials will tangle with Brown on Friday night.
“We don’t know much about Brown. They’re a very young hockey team. their leading scorers are young and they’re a very physical team that’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
Scouting The Field
Brown comes into the weekend with a record of 3-7-3 and has been in a good many close contests that could have easily gone their way. The Bears are led up front by freshmen Tristan Crozier and Justin Jallen whom have contributed seven points each, while in between the pipes, Gavin Nieto and Luke Kania have split time thus far each turning in goals against averages under three.
The St. Cloud State Huskies bring a 13-1-2 record into the weekend and have been every bit as good as their record indicates. The Huskie special teams have simply been out of this world as they’ve struck on the power play at a 27% clip while their kill has lingered around 90% to this point in the season. Up front, it’s a balanced attack for the Huskies as five players have at least 15 points led by senior Patrick Newell’s 10 goals and 10 assists. In the net, sophomore David Hrenak (1.81 GAA; .919 save percentage) has led the way for the Huskies with a 10-0-1 record.
Past National Champions are quickly becoming a fixture in the Three Rivers Classic and this years edition is no exception as 2013-14 Titleist the Union College Dutchmen will be a team to watch this weekend. Union has managed a 9-4-4 record on the year and will face their stiffest test against St.Cloud State to open the action on Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. Senior forwards Cole Maier and Ryan Walker pace the offensive attack for the Dutchmen with 14 points apiece. Darion Hanson and Jake Kupsky split time in the net for Union with each keeping their goals against either at or well below a slim 2.73 goals a game.