Game One: Boston College vs Bowling Green
The second annual Three Rivers Classic kicked off on Thursday, December 27th, when the 7th ranked Boston College Eagles blew out the Bowling Green Falcons by a score of 5-0.
The game was a particularly momentous occasion for Eagles head coach Jerry York, who was the head coach at Bowling Green for 15 years before joining Boston College in 1994. York had waited 15 years to face his former team and by all accounts it was worth the wait as Boston College outplayed Bowling Green for almost the entire 60 minutes of play.
Boston College drew blood early and often, tallying their first goal at 1:19 into the first period. Star forward Johnny Gaudreau opened the scoring for BC when he took a slick cross ice feed from Kevin Hayes and beat Bowling Green goaltender Tommy Burke high on his glove side. It was the 14th goal Gaudreau scored this season and the first of many chances he would get on Bowling Green.
Headed into the tournament, York was concerned about any rust his players may have accumulated over the course of their winter break and whether or not it will affect their quality of play.
“We’re just coming off the [winter] break as always. We haven’t really practiced and we flew a lot of our kids in today from different parts of the country, so it’s a good test for us to start the second half. I always think the men’s league starts the second half the year, so you play up into Christmas, but after that you gotta really play well to move ahead in games.”
Whatever rust that may have existed from the holiday break did not appear to affect the Eagles, as they were clinical at times in their defensive and neutral zone breakouts. The BC defense, led by 2012 first-round pick Michael Matheson, was particularly sharp against Bowling Green. They consistently got stick on puck, maintained expert gap control, and did not allow the Falcons any extended shifts in the offensive zone. They did so without two of their top four defensemen too, as blueliners Ian McCoshen and Steve Santini are currently representing the United States at the 2014 World Junior Championships.
The Eagles did not wait long to add to their lead. Just two minutes after Gaudreau made the game 1-0, defenseman Travis Jeke took a pass from center ice, skated it through the offensive zone, and beat Burke glove-side with a quick wrist shot.
Boston College made the score 3-0 when defenseman Teddy Doherty took a loose puck along the left boards and walked it to the net, catching Burke deep in his crease and beating the Bowling Green netminder glove-side.
Bowling Green was still in the game however, as the Eagles were whistled for two tripping calls in the final nine minutes of the first period. Bowling Green was unable to convert on either occasions however, and went into the second period down 3-0.
The Falcons came into the second period with some new life, and while they were unable to get any pucks past Eagles goaltender Brian Billett, they generated several quality scoring chances, and actually outshot the Eagles 13-11 that period. The effort would be in vain however, as BC defenseman Scott Savage would rip a slapshot from center ice past Burke at the 12:50 mark for his third of the season.
Boston College would close out the scoring at the 19:43 mark of the third period, when Michael Matheson, all alone, took a pass from Jeke at the red line, rushed it through the neutral zone, and pushed it past Burke for his third of the season.
After the game, York was emphatic that his team’s goal was to avoid playing ‘Christmas hockey’ which he described as, “A lot of swinging and not competing.”
Boston College will play Penn State in the Three Rivers Classic Championship Game, which will be at 7:35, Saturday, December 28th.
Game Two: Robert Morris vs Penn State, 7:35 PM
The second game of the Three Rivers Classic, between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Robert Morris Colonials, could not have been more different than the lopsided first game of the tournament. The two teams exchanged chances throughout the game, with Penn State owning the territorial advantage through most of the game.
The story of the game however may have been Robert Morris goaltender Terry Shafer, who blocked 59 of 62 shots faced. Shafer was the undisputed top player for the Colonials, and Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley heaped praise on him after the game.
“Goaltenders are judged on wins and losses, but in that case I think Terry Shafer gave an A+ performance. We had a chance to steal a game because our goaltending was outstanding. I give him an A+ and I give the rest of our team an F.”
Schooley was quick however to give Penn State the credit for the win.
“Penn State worked. They got pucks in. They battled. They won races. They won 50/50 pucks and they deserved that win. We’ve got to find that mentality on a consistent basis. When we find that on a consistent basis every game, then we will be a better hockey team. But our inconsistency right is what’s hurting us.”
Despite their inconsistencies, the Colonials came very close to beating the Nittany Lions. Robert Morris opened up the scoring with a powerplay goal at the 2:20 mark in the second period. In what appeared to be a set play, forward Cody Wydo cleanly won a faceoff at the left circle and threw the puck back to defenseman Tyson Wilson, who skated to the middle of the ice and ripped a slapshot past PSU goaltender Matt Skoff.
Penn State responded with a powerplay goal of their own at the 8:58 mark of the second period when forward Nate Jensen took a pass from the right point and ripped it towards the net, beating RMU goaltender Terry Shafer for his second of the season.
RMU went back ahead at the 18:39 mark in the second, when forward Brandon Denham corralled a rebound in the offensive zone and fired a cross-ice pass to a wide open David Friedmen, who put the puck in an open cage.
The game remained fairly even for the first half of the third period, with both teams exchanging scoring chances. Then, at the 9:14 mark, forward Tommy Olczyk tied the game up at 2-2 when, amid a mad scramble around the RMU net, Olczyk picked up a loose puck and shot it past Shafer for his fourth of the season.
The Colonials never appeared to recover from Olczyk’s goal, and nine minutes later, at the 18:20 mark of the third period, Eric Scheid scored what would turn out to be the game-winner.
The Colonials pulled their goaltender with about a minute left, but were not able to muster any sustained pressure, and just missed giving up an empty-net goal.
When asked about how he reacted to his goaltender at the end of the game, Schooley said, “I gave him a hug.”
Robert Morris will play Bowling Green in the Three Rivers Classic Consolation Game, which will be at 4:35, Saturday, December 28th
– Boston College freshman Travis Jeke made his 2013-14 season debut against the Bowling Green Falcons. A Pittsburgh native, Jeke finished the game with a goal, an assist, three shots on net, and a plus-2 rating.
– The 62 shots recorded by Penn State were was a season high and one shy of their program best. It is the fourth time in program history they have generated at least 50 shots on net.
– Penn State captain Tommy Olczyk is the son of former Pittsburgh Penguins color commentator Ed Olczyk.
– Penn State forward Eric Scheid recorded his team-leading eighth goal of the season against Robert Morris. Scheid is in his first year with the Nittany Lions after transferring from the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
– Boston College forward Johnny Gaudreau finished the game with a tournament leading goal and two assists. Gaudreau currently has 14 goals and 17 assists, which ranks second in the nation in points.
– Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron game-planned around trying to contain Boston College’s top line of Johnny Gaudreau-Bill Arnold-Kevin Hayes. The trio combined for one goal and six assists. On the season, they have accounted for about 40 percent of all of Boston College’s offensive output.
– Boston College goaltender Brian Billett recorded his first shutout of his career, stopping all 27 shots Bowling Green threw his way.
– Following his press conference, coach Jerry York inquired with local media on the status of his former players and current Penguins defensemen Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi.
Jerry York on coaching against his former team:
“It’s the first time I’ve actually played Bowling Green since I’ve been at Boston College but a lot of good memories and certainly a good hockey school. They love hockey. The area is…I cut my teeth coaching out there. A lot of good memories.”
Jerry York on current Penguins coaches Dan Bylsma and Todd Reirden:
“I remember them like it was yesterday. We won a lot of games. Good players. Of course Danny was a big strong power forward and Todd was a big tall lanky defenseman and they both made big impacts on my coaching career. I’m always rooting for the Penguins, except for the Bruins.”
“I think I had Todd and Danny four years with me and those are formative years, 18 to 22 and I think you really learn about a young man at that age and everything was positive. He’s got a lot of players on the Penguins now, [Chuck] Kobasew and [Brian] Dumoulin, [Brooks] Orpik and [Rob] Scuderi, [Brian] Gibbons is up now. It’s been kind of fun to watch a lot of our former players play for one of my former players.”
Bowling Green head coach Chris Bergeron on Penguins coaches Dan Bylsma and Todd Reirden:
“Coach Bylsma, people would be surprised. When he gets back on campus, he gets right into college mode. It’s been pretty neat for me to see that, with his buddies. Coach Reirden I haven’t seen as much, but I knew him, I played a game against him so I knew him back in the day when we both played. And obviously Coach York is the tie that brings it all together so to speak. One of his assistants, Mike Cavanaugh, who was at Boston College, is now at UConn and he was at Bowling Green. So the ties were pretty strong.”