It’s not uncommon to hear it said that one of the beauties of the NCAA men’s hockey tournament is that it matches teams that may not be familiar with one another.
If you subscribe to that line of thinking, this season’s national tournament is a gold mine.
Of the eight first-round games, only one features teams that have an all-time series of more than 10 games. Half of them have fewer than five games, and one is a pair of teams that have never before faced each other.
The most recent game played that matches one of this year’s first-round matchups was four seasons ago when Boston College beat Air Force.
Needless to say, the coaching staffs of the 16 teams in the 2012 tournament have had to do some extra studying heading into the regionals.
In all, there have been 50 games played in these eight all-time series, 25 of them from the Boston University-Minnesota pairing, which is where a historical look at these eight matchups has to begin.
The old rivals: Boston University vs. Minnesota
In those 25 games between the Terriers and the Golden Gophers are seven NCAA games (Minnesota holds a 4-3 lead in those) and one of the most notorious national tournament games of all time.
Minnesota and Boston University played a national semifinal on March 26, 1976, at the old Denver Arena, and before the game was 70 seconds old it produced a wild, bench-clearing brawl that not only stopped the game for, according to some accounts, 30 minutes, it started a war of words between coaches Jack Parker of BU and Herb Brooks of Minnesota.
The accounts vary, but things hot heated after the Terriers’ Terry Meagher was sent to the penalty box for slashing, barely a half-minute after Minnesota’s Russ Anderson was called for cross-checking. The penalty box at DU Arena at the time was one undivided area that also happened to be right next to the Minnesota bench.
According to a Denver Post account of the melee, Parker said Meagher was spit upon by a Minnesota player. Meagher spit back and hit Gophers trainer Gary Smith, and then sticks started swinging and the brawl was on.
The Gophers’ side of things, through Smith, was that the Minnesota bench was only verbally confronting Meagher, who spit first.
However it happened, it took about 10 minutes before order was restored, and then game officials Dino Paniccia and Frank Kelley headed into the referees’ dressing room to meet with the officials from the other semifinal, Medo Martinello and Bill Riley, Harvard coach Bill Cleary, former Boston College coach Snooks Kelley, WCHA head of officials Bob Gilray, NCAA ice hockey committee chair Burt Smith, the NCAA’s Dennis Poppe and both coaches.
They eventually came up with punishments that would keep the game going — game misconducts to just Meagher and Anderson.
“Normally, everybody that left the bench would be gone,” Smith told the Rocky Mountain News at the time.
Without Meagher, the MVP of the ECAC tournament that season who for the last 29 years has been the coach at Division III Bowdoin, Boston University fell 4-2 to Minnesota, which became national champions with a victory over Michigan Tech.
As for that war of words between Parker and Brooks?
Parker told the Boston Globe at the time there was “no question they came out with the intent of running at us. It obviously is the coach’s philosophy. He not only tolerates it. He condones it.”
Parker added to the paper: “Herb Brooks is known as Herb Bush in the WCHA and now I know why. It is obviously the way he thinks the game should be played. It’s the way he wants it. I don’t happen to agree with him.”
For his part, Brooks, who later famously coached players from both teams to the Olympic gold medal in 1980, dismissed Parker’s accusations and fired back.
“He blew his team’s chances by not pulling the goalie and creating a six-on-four chance in that last minute,” Brooks told the Denver Post at the time. “If he says we came out deliberately trying to run at them, it shows an immature coach and it’s sour grapes.”
A lot has changed in just short of 36 years since. That 1976 game was the seventh in the series, so there have been 18 played since (19 if you count a 1996 Hall of Fame Game that was, at the time, an exhibition).
They have played more NCAA tournament games, including BU wins in the national semifinals in 1994 and 1995. The Terriers played their last game at Walter Brown Arena and their first at Agganis Arena against the Gophers in 2005, the most recent games in the series.
In all, Boston University holds a 12-11-2 lead over Minnesota.
“We have had a great rivalry, there’s no question about that,” Parker said this week.
He said the game that stands out, though, was the one in Denver in 1976.
“In reality, everybody should have been kicked out for fighting, according to the rules,” Parker said this week. “The other semifinal was already played. I think if we were the first semifinal, they probably would have let the other semifinal be the national championship game, that’s how bad the fight was.
“And that had a bad taste in our mouths for a while. We wound up in the same league, so to speak, when we had the interlocking schedule with the WCHA and Hockey East [from 1984 to 1989], and the animosity disappeared.”
Here’s the full series between the teams:
Dec. 20, 1963 — Minnesota 4, Boston U. 2 (at Boston Christmas Tournament)
Dec. 20, 1966 — Boston U. 8, Minnesota 5 (at ECAC Tournament, New York)
Dec. 22, 1970 — at Boston U. 3, Minnesota 0
March 20, 1971 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 2 (NCAA final at Syracuse, N.Y.)
Dec. 29, 1971 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 3, 2OT (at Syracuse Holiday Tourney)
March 14, 1974 — Minnesota 5, Boston U. 4 (NCAA semifinal at Boston)
March 26, 1976 — Minnesota 4, Boston U. 2 (NCAA semifinal at Denver)
Dec. 26, 1979 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 4
Dec. 27, 1979 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 1
Oct. 19, 1984 — Minnesota 5, at Boston U. 2
Oct. 20, 1984 — at Boston U. 5, Minnesota 4, OT
Jan. 10, 1986 — at Minnesota 3, Boston U. 1
Jan. 11, 1986 — Boston U. 4, at Minnesota 2
March 21, 1986 — Minnesota 6, at Boston U. 4 (NCAA tournament)
March 22, 1986 — Minnesota 5, at Boston U. 3 (NCAA tournament)
Jan. 16, 1987 — at Boston U. 6, Minnesota 1
Jan. 2, 1988 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 3
Jan. 21, 1989 — at Boston U. 1, Minnesota 0
March 31, 1994 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 1 (NCAA semifinal at St. Paul, Minn.)
Dec. 31, 1994 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 3 (at Mariucci Classic)
March 30, 1995 — Boston U. 7, Minnesota 3 (NCAA semifinal at Providence, R.I.)
Oct. 12, 1996 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 3 (Hall of Fame Game at Minneapolis)
Jan. 2, 2004 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 5
Jan. 3, 2004 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 5
Jan. 2, 2005 — Minnesota 2, at Boston U. 1
Jan. 3, 2005 — at Boston U. 2, Minnesota 1
Note: The Oct. 12, 1996, game was an exhibition and not counted in records.
The interlockers: Maine vs. Minnesota-Duluth
From 1984 to 1989, the established yet depleted WCHA and newly formed Hockey East played an interlocking schedule in which games against teams from both leagues counted in the standings.
It was designed in part to give each side a boost. Most of the founding of Hockey East had just split off from the ECAC, while the WCHA was just three years removed from losing Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Michigan Tech to the CCHA (although Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan were part of the WCHA by the time the interlock started).
That connection is the reason Maine and Minnesota-Duluth have anything more than a single game of history. The Bulldogs lead the eight-game all-time series 5-3, with seven of the games taking place between 1984 and 1989.
Of note, Minnesota-Duluth’s record for power-play goals in a game (five) is still tied to the Nov. 22, 1985, game against the Black Bears.
Here’s the series:
Nov. 30, 1984 — at Minnesota-Duluth 6, Maine 2
Dec. 1, 1984 — at Minnesota-Duluth 7, Maine 2
Nov. 22, 1985 — Minnesota-Duluth 7, at Maine 2
Nov. 23, 1985 — Minnesota-Duluth 6, at Maine 3
Jan. 3, 1987 — Maine 2, at Minnesota-Duluth 1
Jan. 16, 1988 — at Maine 6, Minnesota-Duluth 2
Jan. 7, 1989 — Maine 4, at Minnesota-Duluth 1
Dec. 27, 2005 — Minnesota-Duluth 4, Maine 1 (at Florida College Classic)
Old NCAA foes: Cornell vs. Michigan
Cornell was sent to Michigan for a best-of-three NCAA first-round series in 1991, and the Big Red won the first game 5-4 in overtime.
The Wolverines responded with 6-4 and 9-3 wins in Games 2 and 3, respectively, to advance. That series represents half of the six-game all-time series that Michigan leads 3-2-1.
Here’s the breakdown:
Jan. 2, 1965 — at Michigan 7, Cornell 1
Jan. 2, 1988 — Cornell 6, Michigan 3 (at Yale Hockey Classic)
March 15, 1991 — Cornell 5, at Michigan 4, OT (NCAA first round)
March 16, 1991 — at Michigan 6, Cornell 4 (NCAA first round)
March 17, 1991 — at Michigan 9, Cornell 3 (NCAA first round)
Jan. 7, 1997 — at Michigan 3, Cornell 3
Big numbers: Air Force vs. Boston College
Air Force and Boston College have met only five times in a series that dates to 1977, and the Eagles have yet to be challenged.
BC’s average margin of victory in those five games is 6.4 goals, and no game has been closer than four goals.
The Eagles’ 14-7 victory on Jan. 6, 1979, still is in the Falcons’ record book for combined points in a period (26 in the second) and game (51); combined goals in a period (10 in the second) and game (21); and combined assists in a period (16 in the second) and game (30).
Here’s the full series:
Dec. 28, 1977 — at Boston College 6, Air Force 1
Jan. 5, 1979 — Boston College 11, at Air Force 1
Jan. 6, 1979 — Boston College 14, at Air Force 7
Dec. 28, 1993 — Boston College 5, Air Force 1 (at Denver Cup)
Dec. 29, 2007 — Boston College 8, Air Force 2 (at Mariucci Classic)
One-sided: North Dakota vs. Western Michigan
North Dakota and Western Michigan worked out a home-and-home series trade in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, the first end when the Broncos were coming off an NCAA tournament appearance.
But Western Michigan had slipped by the time it first faced the Fighting Sioux, and UND won all four meetings.
Two items of note: The Broncos allowed eight goals in the third period of a 12-5 loss on Jan. 2, 1998, a Western Michigan record for goals allowed in a period that still stands. And Broncos coach Andy Murray’s son, Brady, played for North Dakota from 2003 to 2005.
Here’s the series list:
Jan. 3, 1997 — North Dakota 6, at Western Michigan 3
Jan. 4, 1997 — North Dakota 5, at Western Michigan 3
Jan. 2, 1998 — at North Dakota 12, Western Michigan 5
Jan. 3, 1998 — at North Dakota 5, Western Michigan 1
One and done: Denver vs. Ferris State
Ferris State has appeared in Denver’s tournament more times (twice) than the teams have played each other (once).
The Bulldogs beat the Pioneers 3-2 in the 2005 Denver Cup third-place game.
Both Denver and Ferris State missed the NCAA tournament that season.
Dec. 31, 2005 — Ferris State 3, at Denver 2 (at Denver Cup)
All tied up: Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Miami
First, a reminder that shootouts don’t count toward your record as far as the NCAA is concerned.
With that disclaimer out of the way, Massachusetts-Lowell and Miami tied 4-4 in the only game they’ve played, a semifinal of the 2003 Nye Frontier Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.
The River Hawks advanced to the title game with a 4-2 shootout win.
Oct. 17, 2003 — Mass.-Lowell 4, Miami 4 (at Nye Frontier Classic, SO: UML 4-2)
Nice to meet you: Michigan State vs. Union
The first-round game between Michigan State and Union will be the first between the teams.
Union is the only of the 12 current ECAC Hockey teams that the Spartans have yet to play. Michigan State is 50-22-4 against the other 11.
Michigan State is one of three of the 11 CCHA teams that the Dutchmen haven’t played; Miami and Northern Michigan are the others. Union is 9-10-3 in games against CCHA teams, including a win over Michigan and two ties against Western Michigan this season.
Contributing: Jim Connelly