Colonials goalie dominates in Three Rivers Classic championship win


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Over two games at the inaugural Three Rivers Classic, Robert Morris goalie Eric Levine faced 99 shots.

All 99 stayed in front of him.

Levine stopped 51 shots Saturday to key a 1-0 Robert Morris upset of No. 5 Miami of Ohio, giving the Colonials the first Three Rivers Classic championship.

The tournament drew 22,460 to Consol Energy Center over two days and, as if it were pre-ordained, ended with the home team lifting the trophy after a win against a highly-ranked foe.

"I don't think you could've written a better script," Colonials coach Derek Schooley said.

One day before his masterpiece against the RedHawks, Levine posted 48 saves in the Colonials' 6-0 semifinal victory against Penn State. For his back-to-back shutouts, he was named the tournament MVP.

"You give up 99 shots on the weekend, you don't expect to throw up a goose egg," Schooley said. "I think that had to be one of the single best goaltending performances we've had in the history of our program. The best part was he made it look easy."

For most of the game, though, Levine was matched in quality, if not volume, by his counterpart.

RedHawks goalie Ryan McKay had 20 saves and kept the Colonials off the board for the first two periods. After 40 scoreless minutes, though, Robert Morris finally broke through from an unlikely source.

Brandon Denham couldn't have picked a better time for his first collegiate goal when he put the Colonials ahead, 1-0, at 7:54 of the third period. On a scramble in front of the net, Denham swiped at the puck in the crease, knocked it up in the air, then batted it out of the air into the back of the net.

"I saw an opening so I popped up a little bit, got to the net, just turned around and whacked at it," Denham said.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to get your first goal in college hockey, especially in such a big game, on such a big stage."

From that point, it was up to Levine and Robert Morris' defense to seal the win.

Perhaps Levine's most improbable save came with 10:32 left, when, on a scramble in front of the net, the puck went right into Levine's glove while he was caught looking the other way.

"I'm happy the puck found my glove," Levine said, with a smile.

While the first two periods came and went without any goals, they were not without action.

Both teams had plenty of chances to break the deadlock in the second, with 14 penalty minutes between the teams. The RedHawks went 0-4 on the power play in the period and Robert Morris was 0-2.

Robert Morris wasted a golden opportunity midway through the second period, when they had a five-on-three advantage for 1:46 but couldn't score. The closest the Colonials came was when David Friedmann hit the inside of the right post with a rocket from the right circle.

At the end of the Robert Morris power play, Blake Coleman sprinted out of the box with a breakaway chance for Miami.

Like every other RedHawks chance, though, the puck ended up safely nestled in Levine's glove.

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG. Dave Molinari contributed to this report.


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