Penn State travels to Pittsburgh this weekend for the Three Rivers Classic

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For the second straight season, the Penn State Nittany Lions will be playing in the Three Rivers Classic at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Last season, Penn State lost the opening game of the classic 6-0 to Robert Morris and then beat Ohio State 5-4.

Penn State will once again play Robert Morris this Friday at 7:30 and then play the winner or loser of the Boston College/Bowling Green match up on Saturday. Obviously, the match ups are predicated on who wins what games.

If you recall, the Lions beat RMU 5-4 back on Nov. 1st. in Pittsburgh thanks to three power play goals and career-high 48 stops from goalie Matthew Skoff. Since then, Penn State has gone 1-6 with their lone win coming against Sacred Heart. Friday will mark 20 days since the Lions last took the ice and one would expect a little rust to start out. The Nittany Lions currently sit 3-9-1 overall and 0-2-0 in Big Ten Conference play.

The Colonials haven’t done much better since their first game against Penn State. RMU is 2-5-1 since Nov. 1st and is coming off of a 5-5 tie last time out against Mercyhurst. Overall, RMU 2-10-2 on the year and 2-5-2 in Atlantic Hockey Association play.

Boston College enters the weekend tournament as the No.7 team in the country with an overall record of 10-4-2.  Last time out, the Eagles swept New Hampshire to close out the first half of the season. BC is an impressive 6-1-1 in Hockey East play, good for first in the conference. Jerry York’s club will be without stud defenseman Ian McCoshen (FLA, 31st overall, ’13) and Steve Santini (NJD, 42nd overall, ’13),  who are currently playing for Team USA at the WJC in Malmo, Sweden. Starting goalie Thatcher Demko will not be with the Eagles in Pittsburgh as he too is playing for Team USA.

Don’t be fooled, the Eagles are still a great team.

South Jersey’s own Johnny Gaudreau (CGY, 104th overall, ’11) continues to be one the most electric players in all of college hockey as he leads BC in scoring with 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 16 games played. He’s tied for second in the country in scoring.

The Bowling Green Falcons come into Friday’s contest against BC with an 8-8-4 record overall and a 6-6-2 record in WCHA play. BGSU tied Michigan Tech, 4-4, last time out. Bryce Williamson leads the Falcons in scoring with 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 20 games played.

Anything can happen, but I expect Boston College to beat Bowling Green.

Getting back to Penn State, the Lions should beat RMU  as I think they’re a better overall team compared to the Colonials. However, Cody Wydo torched the Lions for four goals last time out and if they let him do that again, Penn State won’t yield the same results. Wydo is second on the team in scoring with 16 points (12 goals, 4 assists) in 14 games played. Zac Lynch paces the Colonials with 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) in 14 games played.

Penn State needs to do well this weekend just to boost their confidence a bit. It’s been a rough year thus far for Gadowsky and his squad, and quite frankly this team has not been fun to watch. I thought what happened last year (success and winning) would happen this year, and what is happening now (struggles) would have happened last year, but that’s not the case. This not the independent and club hockey anymore. They’re playing with the big boys now.

PSU must come out with tons of energy and be dominant on the forecheck and use their size and speed they have over RMU to their advantage. A win over RMU would most likely set up a PSU/BC match up, which will be a great test for the young Lions. Not only will it get them ready for No. 1 Minnesota on Jan. 12th, but PSU plays BC on Jan. 25th at Pegula.

PSU is a frustrating team to figure out. Some nights they look great and other nights they look like a team who is playing full time Division I hockey. With that being said, I think they will surprise many people and have an excellent weekend. I’m not saying they’re going to win both games, but I think they will beat RMU and give BC a run for their money.

Overall, it should be a great weekend of hockey in the Steel City.