College hockey: RMU's regular-season finale set for Heinz Field
Pittsburgh, Pa. — The Robert Morris University Athletics Department, National Hockey League, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Steelers and Niagara University Athletics Department announced that the men's hockey regular season finale between the Colonials and Purple Eagles will be played outdoors on Feb. 26, 2017, at 7:05pm at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
The outdoor game will be the first collegiate hockey game played at Heinz Field and third overall hockey game played at the venue, following the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic™ and the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, taking place on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.
The outdoor game between Robert Morris and Niagara is the final game of the Atlantic Hockey regular season and is open to the entire community, with the game being free admission for the general public.
"Our players and staff are thrilled to be playing at Heinz Field," said Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley. "This is another event that Robert Morris men's hockey is proud to be associated with and have a tremendous amount of gratitude to the Penguins, Steelers, NHL and Niagara University for making this a reality."
"The Pittsburgh Penguins are big supporters of college hockey and we're excited to have Robert Morris and Niagara playing outdoors at Heinz Field on Feb. 26," said David Morehouse, CEO and President of the Penguins. "We appreciate that both athletic departments altered their schedules to accommodate this unique opportunity. Our slogan is 'It's a Great Day for Hockey,' but it's clear that this will be a Great Weekend for Hockey in Pittsburgh."
The outdoor game marks the second time in the Colonials history the team will play outdoors. The first outdoor game for RMU was played in Toledo, Ohio, on the Class AAA baseball team, Toledo Mud Hens' Fifth Third Field, on Jan. 3, 2015. That game finished as a 2-2 tie between then No. 13 Bowling Green and 19th ranked Robert Morris, when current Colonials senior forward Daniel Leavens dished a no-look pass to junior forward Brady Ferguson for the game-tying goal in the third period.
"We had the opportunity to play an outdoor game two years ago in Toledo and it was an experience that we will remember for a lifetime," Schooley said. "I can only imagine what the experience will be like at Heinz Field."
This is also the second outdoor game for Niagara. The Purple Eagles played RIT at Rochester's Frontier Field on Dec. 14, 2013, a game that also finished in a 2-2 tie.
"We are tremendously excited for the opportunity to play at Heinz Field," said Niagara University head coach David Burkholder. "The exhilaration of an outdoor hockey game is hard to match. Playing in an NFL stadium is a highlight that our players, staff, and fans will remember for years to come."
"This is a great opportunity for Niagara hockey," said Niagara University Deputy Director of Athletics Stephen Butler. "A goal for our department is to establish an extraordinary student-athlete experience, and by playing in an iconic venue, in a special event outdoors, we achieve that goal in a significant way."
Niagara is the longest standing rival of the Colonials, dating back to the CHA conference days in the inaugural season of Robert Morris men's hockey in 2004-05. The Purple Eagles hold a 29-20-11 record in the all-time series, though RMU is 8-1-1 against Niagara in the last ten meetings between the teams. The Colonials have an 11-8-7 record against Niagara in Pittsburgh.
The opportunity to play this game outdoors does bring a change to the previously scheduled series between Robert Morris and Niagara. The Colonials and Purple Eagles will not play the game scheduled for February 24 at Niagara. The series will begin with a game at Niagara's Dwyer Arena on Saturday, February 25 at 7:05pm. Sunday's 7:05pm game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh will close out the weekend on February 26.
This will be the second outdoor game played this season by a pair of Atlantic Hockey teams. Army West Point and Bentley University took part in a Capital One Frozen Fenway game on Jan. 5, 2017.
Robert Morris is currently 16-9-3 overall with a 12-8-2 conference record, in third place in the Atlantic Hockey standings. The Colonials are home this Friday at 7:05pm and Saturday at 5:05pm for a series against Bentley University at 84 Lumber Arena.