Sunday, August 12, 2012

BC, BG Sign On For 2013 Pittsburgh Invitational

Jerry York and his boys do this quite frequently - and there's a good chance they'll play Penn State in 2013.

While the inaugural edition of the Pittsburgh College Hockey Invitational is still more than four months away, we now know the participating teams for the second PCHI, scheduled tentatively for late December, 2013.

The Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune is reporting that their hometown school will join Penn State and Robert Morris, as well as defending national champion Boston College, for next year's event at the Consol Energy Center.

Miami and Ohio State are certainly exciting draws for the brand-new tournament this season, but pulling Boston College is on a whole new level. The Eagles are considered by most to be the beginning and end of the "best program of the last 15 years" argument. And for good reason. Jerry York's juggernaut has appeared in ten Frozen Fours since 1998, including national titles in 2001, 2008, 2010 and 2012. BC also has 15 regular season or playoff Hockey East titles in that time, as well as six Beanpot titles (for those new to this, the Beanpot is a four-team tournament contested by BC, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern each year, and believe me when I say the Boston-area college hockey community considers it to be a big deal).

Bowling Green, under coach Chris Bergeron, is attempting to bounce back from the near-death experience the program had during the 2008-2009 season. The Falcons have been a perennial doormat for quite a while - in fact, during BC's run of excellence, BG has not even posted a winning record. Still, increased investment from alumni has led to much-needed upgrades at their home BGSU Ice Arena, and Bergeron's experience in helping Enrico Blasi build Miami into a national power has already paid dividends. He's improved the Falcons' win total in each of his first two seasons, and last season, he led the team to an upset of eventual national runner-up Ferris State in the CCHA tournament. That series win advanced the Falcons to the CCHA semifinals at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena for the first time since 2001.

In 2013-2014, when this tournament will be played, Bowling Green will move from the dying CCHA to a new-look WCHA missing several power programs that will bolt to the Big Ten or NCHC at that time. Notably, BG will end up as the only team to play in the CCHA for each season of its existence (Ohio - yes, that Ohio - Ohio State and Saint Louis were the other charter members, but OSU left the conference from 1973-1975).

As the Sentinel-Tribune points out, BG has a couple of interesting tie-ins to their possible opposition and to the PCHI's home arena. York, of course, left the Falcons program for Chestnut Hill in 1994, but not before he led his previous employer to the only national championship won by an Ohio school, in 1984. The Pittsburgh Penguins, the Consol Energy Center's regular tenants, are coached by Dan Bylsma, who is assisted by Todd Reirden. Both are former Bowling Green players and assistant coaches.

One other interesting detail in the Sentinel-Tribune article:
Bergeron said it hasn’t been decided if the event will be played in a true tournament format with semifinal, consolation and championship games or if the pairings for each day will be determined in advance.
Admittedly, there are a few different ways to interpret that statement, but it could certainly be taken to mean that the format for this year's tournament hasn't been finalized as of yet either. While the idea of having some kind of championship to play for - even if it's just a four-team holiday tournament, it's likely all PSU would have this year - is appealing, there certainly are other considerations in play. NCAA tournament at-large bid contenders Miami and Ohio State want to maximize the pairwise yield from the tournament. Robert Morris wants to maximize attendance which, from their perspective, probably means a matchup with the Nittany Lions. PSU would undoubtedly love a shot at future Big Ten rival OSU. Given those realities and others, pre-arranged pairings might actually be best for all four teams.

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