College hockey notebook: Greensburg native gets local Frozen Four experience

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Bobbi Balaschak has a box of tickets at her home in Greensburg that will make it into a frame one day.

A college hockey fan, they are mementos from the 15 Frozen Fours she has attended in her lifetime, including two before college hockey's NCAA championship weekend even earned its catchy name.

She looks forward to Pittsburgh's turn at being the host of the Frozen Four April 11 and 13 at Consol Energy Center.

Her first was in Detroit in 1990, when she was a freshman in college at Bowling Green in Ohio. In 1999, when Maine beat New Hampshire in overtime in Anaheim, Calif., she adopted the Black Bears as her team.

Her latest was a year ago in Tampa, Fla., where Boston College won a third title in five years.

In between, she has made trips to St. Paul, Minn.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Milwaukee; St. Louis; Denver; Washington and Detroit.

"If you're a true hockey fan it brings you back to the root of the sport," said Balaschak, 41, who works as a substitute teacher. "You're watching people who are playing for the passion. You're getting to see the game at a more basic level."

Balaschak said she was first hooked on hockey as a young girl when her father, who worked for U.S. Steel, got tickets to a Penguins game and toted her along.

In 1990 her family thought it would be fun to take a road trip to Detroit.

She hit two more in the 1990s, before hitting all but the one in Providence, R.I., since 2000.

"I just love the atmosphere. The way the fans get into it," she said. "When the penalty door slams and everybody screams, 'You're outta here!' ... It's just such a different environment but it's so much fun."

Balaschak said she has loved almost every one -- the non-traditional markets such as Tampa to more traditional college hockey hotbeds like Boston, which boasts three programs with multiple national titles.

She generally goes with family, but this year her father, who suffers from Alzheimer's, will not join her.

She expects Pittsburgh to put on quite a show.

"I remember thinking it'd be really nice if Pittsburgh hosted it one day," she said. "College hockey wasn't so big here, but now with Robert Morris doing well and having Penn State [a new Division I program], hopefully that'll get more fans into the college game."

CLASS finalist

Robert Morris senior captain Brendan Jamison, a defenseman, was named one of 10 finalists for the 2012-13 Senior CLASS Award last week.

CLASS is an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School and is one of the more notable national awards in college hockey. Players must be notable not only on the ice, but in four key areas -- community, classroom, character and competition.

Jamison, a Pittsburgh native, has been very active in the team's fundraising campaign to benefit former teammate Chris Kushneriuk, who is battling cancer.

The campaign, "RMU Hockey Krushes Cancer" has raised more than $20,000 so far.

The winner of the award will be announced at the Frozen Four at Consol Energy Center. Fan votes combine with votes from media and coaches.

Little poll movement

Quinnipiac (22-4-4) reigned for the second week in a row atop the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls after cracking No. 1 for the first time in program history a week ago. This came despite losing for the first time in 21 games to St. Lawrence, 2-1, Friday night at home.

Minnesota (20-6-4), Miami University (19-8-5), Boston College (17-8-3) and New Hampshire (16-8-4) rounded out the top five in both polls.

Homestretch

College hockey across the country is reaching the homestretch before the postseason begins. Most conferences have two weeks left in the regular season, including the Atlantic Hockey Association where four points separates seven teams from third to ninth place.

One of those teams includes seventh-place Robert Morris (16-12-2), 11-11-1 in the AHA for 23 points.

The top four teams earn a first-round bye, and teams from fifth through eighth earn home ice for the first round.

Digging out

Sacred Heart has had a tough season with an 0-24-2 record this year. But things got worse last week when the AHA team was snowed out of its rink for five days after a blizzard.

"There was 4 feet of snow in the parking lot and 8-foot drifts in front of the door," Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo told USCHO.com. "We couldn't get into the rink until [Tuesday]."

mobilehome - rmusports - sportscollegenational - frozenfour

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter: @JennMenendez.


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