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The first season of hockey in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference began in the fall of 1998. The MAAC fielded eight teams in that inaugural year. The conference hosted a single-elimination postseason tournament with the semifinals and championship game taking place in Worcester, Massachusetts.

When the first MAAC regular season ended, Quinnipiac was at the front of the pack and earned the top seed in the postseason tournament. Two other teams that were also in the upper half of the seeding were Holy Cross at two and Canisius at four. As with other MAAC hockey programs, this was the first year in Division I for both Holy Cross and Canisius. The Holy Cross Crusaders entered the postseason with a 19-9-4 overall record and a five-game unbeaten streak. The Canisius Golden Griffins entered with a 14-14-5 overall record and had just completed a sweep at Fairfield the weekend before the tournament.

In the opening round of the tournament, Canisius hosted American International and defeated the Yellow Jackets 7-4. Holy Cross hosted Sacred Heart and defeated the Pioneers 3-1. This win guaranteed home-ice advantage for the Crusaders throughout the remainder of the playoffs due to Holy Cross hosting the final three games of the tournament at the Hart Center. Canisius drew the top-seed Quinnipiac Braves. (The school would change the nickname to the Bobcats in 2001). The Golden Griffins put up five goals on Quinnipiac – with one being a short-handed goal – and came away with the 5-2 upset. In the other semifinal, the Crusaders took down three seed UConn 4-3 in overtime.

The first MAAC championship hockey game was held March 20, 1999. Coming into the game, Holy Cross held the season series lead at 3-0-1. It was an even title game through two periods with the score tied 3-3. Mike Maguire scored at the beginning of the third period in what ultimately ended up being the game-winning goal for the Crusaders. When it was all said and done, Holy Cross defeated Canisius 4-3 to capture the MAAC title. It was the first time in school history the hockey program had won a conference title. Junior Chris Fattey led the team with 46 points throughout the season. This would be the last game of the season for both teams. The MAAC was a new conference and had yet to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Division I national tournament.

Canisius players on the ice during and after the loss against Holy Cross in the MAAC championship game on March 20, 1999.

Flash forward to the beginning of the 2002-03 season. The MAAC fielded 11 teams at that point. However, two teams (Iona and Fairfield) ceased hockey operations following the season. The nine remaining teams decided to break away from the MAAC to create a new conference: Atlantic Hockey Association.

The old division foes will face off again at the Hart Center this weekend when Canisius visits Worcester. Coming into this season, Holy Cross has won the Atlantic Hockey tournament twice (2004, 2006) and Canisius once (2013). The teams have yet to meet this season.

Photo Credit: (Featured Image) Holy Cross Crusader Nation Magazine, Winter 2009. (Second Image) The Griffin, March 26, 1999.

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On February 17, 2020, Air Force and Colorado College took the Battle for Pikes Peak outside for the first time. Air Force hosted Colorado College in the second game of a home-and-home series. It was played outdoors at the football stadium in game that was touted as the Faceoff at Falcon Stadium. It was the first outdoor hockey game in program history for Air Force and the second for Colorado College – the first was against Denver at Coors Field in 2016. This was also the second outdoor hockey game played on the field at Falcon Stadium in three days. The NHL hosted a Stadium Series game two days earlier on Saturday that saw the Los Angeles Kings defeat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1.

The Tigers won the first game of the weekend at home on Friday night 6-2 and were looking for the first back-to-back wins since sweeping Princeton in December. The Falcons were hoping to get back in the win column for the first time since a sweep against Niagara in January. And above all, the Pikes Peak Trophy hung in the balance. The two teams first met in 1969 and created the Pikes Peak Trophy in 2013 to be awarded each year.

Grant Cruikshank broke the proverbial ice when he scored a power-play goal in the first period. He scored the second goal of the game halfway through the second period to make it 2-0 Tigers. The Falcons got on the board with a power-play goal of their own with only 34 seconds left in the second frame. The teams traded goals early in the third period. With Air Force down one goal, Grant Cruikshank netted the hat trick and put the game away with 37 seconds left in regulation. Colorado College defeated Air Force 4-2 and retained the Pikes Peak Trophy.

The same two teams will reignite the Battle for Pikes Peak this weekend. The rivalry was put on hold last season due to COVID scheduling. The home-and-home series starts off (indoors) at Air Force on Friday with Colorado College hosting the second game at the brand new Ed Robson Arena on Saturday. Air Force will be looking to bring home the Pikes Peak Trophy for the first time since 2017.

In the above photo, Luke Manning drives to the net as Colorado College goalie Matt Vernon prepares for a shot.

Photo Credit: Trevor Cokley via DVIDS

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In part two of our series about the Robert Morris Colonials, we’re going to take a look back at the season where the program reached the national tournament for the first time in its history: 2013-14.

Looking to build upon a successful 20-14-4 campaign from the previous season, the Colonials had high hopes heading into the fall of 2013. However, it didn’t start out exactly how the team had planned with Robert Morris going winless in the first four weeks of the season with a 0-5-1 record. Tough interconference games against Lake Superior State, Ohio State and Penn State put the team in an early hole. In fact, it set the tone for the first half of the season. By the time the calendar flipped to 2014, the Colonials were staring down a 2-12-2 record. The Colonials even ended up in fourth place out of four teams in the Three Rivers Classic; a Pittsburgh holiday tournament RMU hosted in December that the team had won just the year before.

If the Colonials were going to dig themselves out of the hole they created, the schedule makers didn’t do them any favors. The second half of the season saw RMU begin play with four away games in seven days. Perhaps the team felt it had nothing to lose and played loose or Coach Derek Schooley made the necessary adjustments but no matter what it was, the team won three of the four games. This began a run of games that resembled what the team expected to do at the onset of the season. The Colonials ended up going 11-4-3 in the second half.

This impressive second half pushed the Colonials to a 5 seed in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. With an automatic bid to the national tournament on the line, 8 of the 12 teams faced off during the first weekend of March in best-of-three series. The top four seeds received byes. Robert Morris hosted Army and easily won 8-4 in the opening game. Army bounced back to win the second game to force a deciding game three. In this third game, Army scored first but the Colonials rallied for three unanswered goals to advance to the next round. Robert Morris traveled to UConn to take on the Huskies in the best-of-three Quarterfinals. The Colonials blanked the Huskies in game one 3-0 and swept the series 3-2 the following night to earn a spot in the semifinals in Rochester, New York.

It would be single elimination from here on out for the four remaining teams in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament with the victor earning a bid to the national tournament. The Colonials squandered a 4-2 lead to Niagara late in the third period and the game ended up going to overtime. Scott Jacklin was the hero as he scored with five minutes left in overtime, sending RMU to the championship against 7 seed Canisius. The Colonials took home the hardware by defeating the Golden Griffins 7-4 behind a hat trick from Cody Wydo. It was the first (and only) AHA Tournament title for RMU. Four Colonials made the All-Tournament Team with Wydo receiving the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.

Robert Morris received a tough draw for the national tournament. During the tournament selection show, the team learned they were going to face the number one overall seed, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, in their backyard in St. Paul on March 29, 2014. The Colonials put up a good fight for the majority of the first period but three Gophers goals in three minutes and thirty seconds late in the first period proved to be too much. Wydo put RMU on the board in the second period. Goals by Zac Lynch and David Friedmann later in the game weren’t enough to overcome the early deficit as the Gophers won 7-3. In the accompanying photo, goalie Dalton Izyk makes a sprawling save while losing his stick in the second period at the Xcel Energy Center.

Looking back seven years later, it can be considered a successful season for the Colonials. The team overcame a very rough first half of the season and could have easily packed it in after winter break. Instead, the team went on a very impressive run of games and won the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. The Colonials made it to the national tournament for the first (and only) time in school history and eventually lost to the national runner-up in their home state. All involved should be proud about what they accomplished during the 2013-14 season.

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The 2016 Three Rivers Classic was held in Pittsburgh during the final weekend of the year. The four college teams vying for the Confluence Cup were host Robert Morris, Quinnipiac, Boston College and Ferris State. This was the first time this combination of teams participated in the holiday tournament since it began four years prior. Robert Morris was defending its tournament title after defeating Massachusetts Lowell in 2015. The opening round in 2016 between Robert Morris and Ferris State was a nail biter as the Colonials won 1-0 on a goal from Daniel Leavens. Robert Morris freshman goalie Francis Marotte earned the shutout. In the other opening round game, 13th ranked Quinnipiac defeated Boston College 3-1.

The Bobcats jumped on the board first during the tournament’s championship game with a goal from Chase Priskie. The Colonials evened the score and then pulled away for good on a goal from Rob Mann with 46 seconds left in the second period. In the above photo, Daniel Mantenuto of Robert Morris handles the puck against Kevin McKernan in the third period.

Robert Morris went on to defeat Quinnipiac 5-2 to win the Confluence Cup; a trophy provided to the winner of the annual tournament. It was the Colonials third Confluence Cup in five years. After surrendering just two goals throughout both games, Francis Marotte earned the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. Earlier in the day, Boston College defeated Ferris State in overtime to win the consolation game.

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Robert Morris again hosted the Three Rivers Classic the following two seasons with Providence and Brown each winning one. With the recent news that Robert Morris has discontinued its men’s and women’s hockey programs, it doesn’t look promising that this tournament will come back without the host school. In fact, the tournament wasn’t held in 2019-20 because the organizers took a year off to reevaluate strategy. The Colonials still played a game at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena against Penn State on January 4, 2020. And the tournament didn’t have a chance of reappearing this past season because of reduced schedules due to COVID protocols. If a weekend college hockey tournament is to happen again in Pennsylvania, then the responsibility falls to Penn State to act as the host due to the Nittany Lions being the only remaining Division I program in the state. It’s worth noting Penn State was a fixture in the first four Three Rivers Classics. No matter what happens with the Robert Morris program or future tournaments in Pennsylvania, it appears this era of the Three Rivers Classic is designated for the history books.