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College hockey makes Classic return to Consol

| Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:48 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State goaltender Matthew Skoff, of McKees Rocks, makes a 1st period save during the inaugural game at Pegula Ice Arena between Penn State and Army on Oct. 11, 2013, in University Park.

Matt Skoff remembers playing at Consol Energy Center last December for the inaugural Three Rivers Classic.

In fact, there's one gigantic reason the Penn State sophomore goaltender won't forget leading his team to a win over Ohio State in a building located a short drive from his family's McKees Rocks home.

“That Jumbotron was so big,” Skoff said. “From a fan's perspective, you don't really notice it. But on the ice, you look up, and it's huge.

“I remember straining my neck because it was so high.”

Skoff better limber up because Penn State returns to Consol Energy Center on Friday for the second edition of the two-day tournament, which the Penguins are pushing to make an annual event — similar to the Beanpot in Boston.

Penn State will be joined by Robert Morris, the other yearly staple among local schools, as well as No. 7 Boston College and Bowling Green.

Robert Morris won the event last year, defeating Penn State and Miami (Ohio) by a combined score of 7-0. Colonials goaltender Eric Levine stole the show by stopping 99 shots.

Robert Morris routed Penn State in the opening round, with Skoff stemming the tide by allowing two goals over the final 40 minutes of a 6-0 loss.

The Nittany Lions responded with a 5-4 win over Ohio State the next night behind a four-point effort from Casey Bailey, then a freshman.

Skoff, who led Montour to the 2009 PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup championship game at Mellon Arena, probably can't wait to get home. He made a career-high 48 saves to lead Penn State to a 5-4 win at Robert Morris on Nov. 1.

Boston College and Bowling Green play at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Penn State and Robert Morris at 7:30. The losers play in Saturday's 4:30 p.m. consolation game. The winners meet at 7:30 p.m.

Penn State enters the break at 3-9-1, 0-2 in the Big Ten after losing its past six. Robert Morris hasn't been any better at 2-10-2, 2-5-2 in the Atlantic Hockey Association.

“We're trying to find our way as a team,” Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. “With Christmas break, it's a fresh start to the second half of the year.”

Pittsburgh native Zac Lynch leads the Colonials with 17 points. Cody Wydo has a team-high 12 goals. Eric Scheid (seven goals, 11 points) is Penn State's top scorer.

None, however, has played as much meaningful hockey as Johnny Gaudreau (13-15-28), Kevin Hayes (10-14-24) or Bill Arnold (4-16-20), the top three scorers for Boston College (10-4-2, 6-1-1 Hockey East).

The Eagles have won five NCAA titles, four since 2001.

Boston College is coached by Jerry York, who won an NCAA championship while at Bowling Green in 1984.

Current Penguins Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Chuck Kobasew, Brian Gibbons and Brian Dumoulin won national titles at Boston College.

“It's a great showcase for college hockey and a great showcase for our program as well as Robert Morris,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “To be a part of it is a big benefit.”

Bowling Green, the alma mater of Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and assistant Todd Reirden, is led by Bryce Williamson (8-9-17) and Dan DeSalvo (4-11-15).

With two local teams, plus a dominant Boston College and a resurgent Bowling Green, Penguins vice president of communications Tom McMillan expects the tournament to take another big step.

“We always had the vision that once we got to Consol we would like to do a tournament,” McMillan said. “Last year was the first year, and having a successful start motivated us to keep going. I think the fans enjoyed it. People here are really getting used to the high level of college hockey.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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