Notes: Three Rivers Rivalries

Holiday tournaments bring out the very best in college hockey.
BC's Ryan Fitzgerald will play in the home of his father's Pittsburgh Penguins team this weekend.

Three Rivers rivalries – Forgive Dan Bylsma and Todd Rierden of the Pittsburgh Penguins coaching staff if they don’t root for their former college coach when Jerry York leads Boston College to Pittsburgh for the Three Rivers Classic. The Eagles will face York’s former school – and Bylsma and Rierden’s alma mater – in the tournament opener Friday vs. Bowling Green. BC will still have supporters among the host NHL team – six former Eagles have played for the Penguins this year and assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald will be rooting on his son, Ryan, in the tournament that also features Penn State and Robert Morris. Pens will be watching Three Rivers Classic Closely

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Boston’s finest – On Saturday Bentley and Holy Cross will become the first college teams to take the ice at Frozen Fenway this season and the two Atlantic Hockey clubs have earned the city’s big stage. They upset local powers Boston University and Boston College, respectively, in the first half of the season. Bentley boasts some tremendous offensive skill that has come alive after a 1-6-0 start; they are 7-1-1 since and defenseman Steve Weinstein (Los Angeles, Calif./Vernon-BCHL) has 17 points in those nine games. Holy Cross counters with an excellent defense and the goaltending of junior Matt Ginn (Lindsay, Ont./Victoria-BCHL).

Southern exposure in Michigan showcase – The Great Lakes Invitational, a traditional holiday showcase of Michigan hockey, features four in-state teams this year and a big stage at Comerica Park. Two important players, while they have lived in Michigan for years, hail from much more southern climates. Western Michigan senior Chase Balisy (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./U.S. NTDP/NSH) and Michigan senior Luke Moffatt (Paradise Valley, Ariz./U.S. NTDP/COL) were teammates at the NTDP about 40 miles west of downtown Detroit and face off on Friday thousands of miles from their hometowns.
The GLI will be shown on Fox Sports Detroit and Fox Sports Detroit+

Shore heads south – Maine makes its annual 1,700-mile migration to the Florida College Classic as the event’s two-time defending champion. The Black Bears (9-6-1) also boast their best midseason record in three years, led by sophomore Devin Shore (Ajax, Ont./Whitby-OJHL/DAL). Shore, on a two-point per game pace in the last seven games, has 17 points since the start of November, tied for sixth nationally.

I-91 Classic – Three Connecticut programs are joined by neighboring UMass at the UConn Hockey Classic, where No. 8 Quinnipiac would likely be considered the favorite. The Bobcats have excelled despite losing 11 seniors from last year’s Frozen Four team, led by Hobey Baker finalist Eric Hartzell in goal. Filling his skates has been sophomore Michael Garteig (Prince George, B.C./Penticton-BCHL), who started just one game last season. Garteig has allowed less than two goals per game and posted a 13-3-3 record, playing all but eight minutes this season.

The replacements – More than 10 teams across the country have sent players to the World Junior Championship, but only three of those are in action this weekend (Boston College, Michigan, Providence). The Friars, who face Dartmouth in the Ledyard Bank Classic on Sunday, have the biggest hole in their lineup without goaltender Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine/Indiana-USHL/CGY). With Gillies gone, the focus turns to freshman Nick Ellis (Millersville, Md./Des Moines-USHL). A terrific goaltender at the prep school and USHL levels prior to Providence, Ellis has one start to this point – a win vs. AIC – but should double that this weekend.

Fries at the Bottom of the Bag

Four points or fewer separate the top two teams in all six conferences … The eight teams to appear in the Frozen Four the last two seasons are all in the top 11 in national polls and have a combined winning percentage of .746 … Holiday tournaments will continue next weekend with Minnesota hosting the Mariucci Classic and two teams – North Dakota and Princeton – playing exhibitions at the Great Northwest Showcase in Burnaby, B.C.

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