MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–The Backyard Brawl is one of the greatest rivalries in college sports, but is currently not being played in basketball or football. While the series is currently on a hiatus, Mountaineer fans can still get a dose of the Backyard Brawl on Ice.
The WVU hockey team plays the Pitt Panthers four times during the 2015-16 season, giving hockey fans a chance to a great rivalry in a hard hitting, intense, competitive, fast paced and skilled fashion.
Even though hockey is not as much a mainstream sport in Morgantown as basketball or football, the rivalry is still important to the players and fans.
“It means a lot,” WVU freshman goaltender Ben Zienty said. “It’s not just for us. It’s for the entire school. Obviously it’s one of the biggest rivalries in all of college sports. So for us to be able to do it it’s huge for the school and it’s just as important than any other playoff game or whatever game we’re playing this year.”
The Backyard Brawl is not a conference game for the Mountaineers, but it is one of the biggest games of the season.
“The Backyard Brawl is definitely one of the bright spots of our season,” sophomore defenseman Tyler Collard said. “We definitely get the most fans every time. I can remember last year when we beat them 6-1 here (in Morgantown) how crazy it was. I think it was the most people I’ve ever played in front of, or at least the biggest home crowd I have even played in front of.
“People this day and age at the school didn’t really get to experience the football side, but they know how big the rivalry is. Being Pittsburgh and being the city, we are kind of almost like the little guy, just a small college town. But we always seem to beat them for the most part in whatever we do. So beat them in hockey, beat them in football, beat them in basketball, it doesn’t matter. It’s very important to us.”
The two schools separated by 75 miles began duking it out in football in 1895. It wasn’t until much later when they met on the ice, but it is still a big deal every year.
“I think it’s huge,” freshman goaltender Ryan Wickiser said. “I mean it
has been one of the biggest rivalries in college sports for a long time. So to kind of keep that tradition together with hockey since they no longer do it in football or basketball, it’s pretty neat that we can keep that rivalry alive.”
For some fans and players, the rivalry against Pitt is so much more. It is pure hatred. No matter what happens every other game, don’t lose the Panthers.
“Coming in, you already understand how intense it is,” junior forward Kyle Dolly said. “It’s Pitt. We hate Pitt. Everything is more intense and even though it is not a league game, it’s something intense that we want to pay close attention to.”
While hockey and football are two completely different sports, the hatred between the two schools still exists.
“I think it still means the same honestly,” senior defenseman Nick Burt said. “At least for those that are familiar with hockey and that they know the game is going on. They see that, and at least in my opinion, it’s the same as if the football team is playing. It’s important to the university in my opinion.
Hockey fans in Wheeling will get a chance to check out the Backyard Brawl on ice on Sunday, Nov.1 at 3 p.m. at Wesbanco Arena.
The two teams will face off again on Nov. 21 in Harmarville, Pa., Jan. 17 at the South Charleston Memorial Arena and back in Morgantown on Feb. 6.