Derek Schooley has built the Robert Morris men's hockey program over the past eight years by maintaining perspective.
“Everything you do,” he said, “you shape the future of your program.”
He should remember that because his upstart college hockey tournament, the Three Rivers Classic, is something Penguins CEO David Morehouse envisions becoming a staple of future holiday seasons.
It begins Friday at Consol Energy Center: Robert Morris vs. Penn State at 4:30 p.m., followed by Ohio State taking on fifth-ranked Miami (Ohio).
The second Classic already is set for next December. Bowling Green, alma mater of Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, and Boston College, winner in three of the past five Frozen Fours, will join Robert Morris and Penn State.
“Our kids are excited to play on this big stage,” Ohio State associate head coach Steve Rohlik said Thursday at a news conference attended by Schooley and Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky.
Rohlik noted that R.J. Umberger, a Plum native and veteran forward with the Columbus Blue Jackets, is serving as an assistant for his alma mater during the NHL lockout that will hit day 105 Friday.
Miami (Ohio) was late arriving to Pittsburgh on Thursday because of inclement weather.
Gadowsky, his injured left arm in a sling, was accompanied by 10 Penn State players, but only eight sets of full equipment. He said 16 Nittany Lions players were set to arrive by Friday morning.
None of the competing schools has played since Dec. 15 because of mandated holiday breaks, so scattered players had to navigate tricky travel conditions. David Friedmann, a freshman forward for Robert Morris, took a cab from Baltimore to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
The lockout's sacking of Penguins games — and television/radio platforms intended to promote the first Classic — did not sink this event. The lower bowl of Consol Energy Center, about 10,000 seats, is projected to be full for Friday's games.
Penn State's area alumni dominance no doubt helped sell Classic tickets, Gadowsky said. The Nittany Lions are in their first season of Division I competition.
The last game Gadowsky's squad played was against Robert Morris — a 3-2 loss at Penn State.
“I'm anxious to see our support here,” he said.
As for Schooley's squad being the road team at the tournament he spent two years helping to organize?
“We already beat them at Penn State,” he said smiling. “We're the home team.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-5635.
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