Penguins, Consol land USA Hockey event
Pittsburgh has scored another hockey happening.
USA Hockey is expected to announce that Consol Energy Center will play host to the All-American Prospects Game in September, multiple sources told the Tribune-Review.
Top officials, including USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean and Penguins CEO David Morehouse, will make the announcement Tuesday after the Penguins' morning practice. The Penguins face the New York Islanders at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Officials from USA Hockey and the Penguins declined comment.
The All-American Prospects Game debuted last year and was hosted by the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Ryan Fitzgerald was MVP of the inaugural All-American Prospects Game. Fitzgerald is the son of Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the general manager for the Penguins.
The game at Consol Energy Center will feature 40 of the top American prospects eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, which will be staged at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.
Rosters will be announced at a later date, as will ticketing and other information.
The All-American Prospects Game could cap an impressive stretch for Pittsburgh hockey.
The Penguins played host to the NHL Entry Draft last June, and made headlines by jumping into the top-10 picks on Day 1 as part of the Jordan Staal-for-Brandon Sutter trade.
The inaugural Three Rivers Classic debuted to large crowds — more than 10,000 on Day 1 — in December. The Classic was a two-day college hockey tournament won by Robert Morris. It also featured Penn State — a first-year Division I program that filled the lower bowl of Consol Energy Center with alumni — as well as Ohio State and Miami (Ohio).
The NCAA Frozen Four will be played on April 11 and 13 at Consol Energy Center. It will feature the two Division I men's ice hockey semifinal games and the championship.
Earlier this month, four Western Pennsylvanians played pivotal roles for Team USA's gold medal triumph at the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. Goaltender John Gibson (Whitehall) was MVP. Forwards Vince Trocheck (Upper St. Clair) and J.T. Miller (Coraopolis) teamed for the empty-net goal that sealed a championship game win over Sweden.
Forward Riley Barber (Washington) also played for Team USA and is a key member of the Miami (Ohio) squad that is a contender to reach the Frozen Four.
“It's unbelievable to represent Pittsburgh in a way that people aren't used to seeing it,” Barber said. “People don't get how big hockey is in Pittsburgh.”
There are numerous signs of the sport's growth. Local enrollment in youth hockey is at its highest, USA Hockey reported.
The Penguins have played before 255 consecutive sellouts dating to Feb. 14, 2007. More than 1 million people throughout the region combined to watch TV broadcasts of the Penguins' first three games of the truncated NHL season. The opener on Jan. 19 at Philadelphia on NBC was the second-highest-rated regular-season game in franchise history. Root Sports Pittsburgh's broadcast of a game at New York the next night and the home opener last Wednesday generated the fifth- and third-best ratings for a Penguins regular-season game.
Even a training camp scrimmage, free to fans, attracted about 20,000, team officials estimated.
The All-American Prospect Game may not be the last marquee hockey event in Pittsburgh. The Penguins are hoping to land an NHL All-Star Game by the end of the decade and have not ruled out trying to land the 2018 World Junior Championship.