The Frozen Four officially became the Frozen Four in 1999, and the finals (or Frozens) were played in that hockey hotbed of Anaheim, CA. Of course, if you wanted to, you couldn’t get two teams whose home base is further away from Anaheim to battle for the title. Hockey East rivals Maine and UNH went to OT before Maine won, 3-2. There’s a lot more than five years of history, though, and here’s some highlights:
With the way last year’s FF went (12 goals total in three games), here is one record that should not fall: Carl Lawrence’s record for the most goals in a FF game. The CC alum scored five against BC on March 16, 1950. Most recently, former Winnipeg Jet Doug Smail, then with North Dakota, netted four against Northern Michigan in the 1980 Championship game.
The record for points in a FF game is seven, set by the Gophers’ John Mayasich in 1954 (3g-4a). However, those in the Colorado, Massachusetts, and northern NJ area will fondly remember this name, who is the most recent player to put up a big crooked number by himself in the FF. It is none other than University of Denver forward Peter McNab, who racked up three goals and three assists against BC in the National Semi-Final game in 1973.
OK, let’s tie one together. McNab used to be the color analyst for the New Jersey Devils, who are run by one of the NCAA’s greatest participants in Providence College’s Lou Lamoriello. The Lamoriello Cup is what Hockey East playoff participants fight for. Another PC grad (and former Devil), Chris Terreri, holds the FF record for saves in game with 62 in a 3OT match against BC in 1985. It seems like a lot happened against BC. Terreri also made 52 saves two years earlier against Minnesota in the National Consolation game.
The FF’s Most Outstanding Player award was won last year by Denver goalie Adam Berkhoel. Goalies Marty Turco and Alfie Michaud won in 1998 and `99 respectively. There are a ton of forwards who have won it, but not many defensemen. You’d have to go way back to 1978 to find the last defenseman voted the FF Most Outstanding Player, and it was BU’s Jack O’Callahan.
In 1979, Minnesota won their third National Title in six seasons, beating the Fighting Sioux in the title game. It was the final game that Herb Brooks coached for the Gophers, and he compiled an 8-1 record in that six-year span. Current Gopher coach Don Lucia has the chance to give the Gophers three titles in four years.
Those in the know are looking for a Michigan State appearance here, so here goes. The all time leader among coaches in NCAA Tournament appearances is Ron Mason, who has been to the dance 22 times as coach at Bowling Green and Michigan State. BU’s Jack Parker is second.
Three different coaches have led Denver to the postseason (Murray Armstrong, Ralph Backstrom and George Gwozdecky). Minnesota has had many illustrious coaches behind their bench in the tournament (John Mariucci, Glen Sonmor, Herb Brooks, Brad Buetow, Doug Woog and Don Lucia). Lucia also has taken Colorado College to the playoffs, as have Cheddy Thompson, Tom Bedecki, Jeff Sauer and Scott Owens. North Dakota also has an illustrious list that includes Dean Blais, Gino Gasparini, Bob May, Bob Peters (a member of the 700 win club), Bill Selman and Barry Thorndycraft.
Coaches move around a bit, going from assistants to head coaches. Head coaches change schools (either by their own choice or the decision of others). There have been some very good and unique staffs throughout the years that have put their heads together and come up with the plan for a national title. A lot of these teams had players that later went on to coach in the NCAA. We submit the following as examples:
In 2001, Boston College’s title team was led by Jerry York, who was assisted by current Bowling Green head coach (and alum) Scott Paluch. York also won a National Title in 1984 at Bowling Green and a player on that team was current Clarkson Head Coach George Roll. York played for a coaching legend, John “Snooks” Kelley, at BC. He also assisted Len Ceglarski at one time.
In 2000, Dean Blais led North Dakota past BC for the title. His assistants make up half of the current University of Minnesota-Duluth staff in Head Coach Scott Sandelin and assistant Lee Davidson (himself a future head coach in the NCAA). When NoDak won in 1997, Davidson was still playing pro hockey as a member of the IHL’s Atlanta Knights. The other assistant that year was current Badgers assistant Mark Osiecki, who has been a Head Coach in the USHL.
When Maine won in 1999 under the late Shawn Walsh, he had plenty of brainpower behind him in current Union Head Coach Nate Leaman. His other assistant was the legendary Grant Standbrook, who was also an assistant on the 1977, 1981 and 1983 Wisconsin Championship teams to Badger Bob Johnson, as well as Maine’s #2 guy when they won it all in 1993. Long time NCAA assistant Gene Reilly was also on that staff.
The BU squad in 1995 that beat Maine in the title game was led by Jack Parker (of course). His assistants were current UMass-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald and a name that many fans will always remember, Mike Eruzione.
Lake Superior won the 1994 title under Jeff Jackson, who was ably assisted by Ron Rolston (currently a head coach with the USA National Development Team) and current Providence Head Coach Paul Pooley. Prior to team USA, Rolston was an assistant to Jerry York at BC.
Current Michigan State head coach Rick Comley piloted the Northern Michigan Wildcats to the title in 1991. His assistant was current NMU coach Walt Kyle. Comley apprenticed under a pretty good coach himself, playing for and later assisting the legendary Ron Mason.
Jeff Sauer’s 1990 championship staff at Wisconsin included current Nebraska-Omaha head coach Mike Kemp. We’re going to stretch here a bit, as current ECHL coach and longtime USHL coach Don Granato was a player on that team. So was Badgers TV analyst Tom Sagissor.
Here’s a good one. Harvard’s title team in 1989, their only one, was coached by the legendary Bill Cleary. On that team was current Harvard coach Ted Donato, and current Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. Future Harvard coach Ronn Tomassoni was an assistant on that squad. John Weisbrod is the General Manager of the NBA’s Orlando Magic and was also on that team.
Jeff Jackson brought two titles to Lake Superior State. He was an assistant on the first title team there, to one of college hockey’s best paisan; Brooklyn, New York native Frank Anzalone. Anzalone is now in his second tour of duty there.
The 1987 NoDak staff featured two future head coaches. One was Dean Blais, who later won the big ring at NoDak as a Head Coach. The other interesting name on that staff is John Marks, who has had a great coaching career in hockey’s minor leagues. The aforementioned Lee Davison was a player on that team, which also featured goalie Ed Belfour. The head coach was Gino Gasparini, who currently runs the top junior hockey league in the country, the USHL. Another assistant was Cary Eades, a player on the 1980 and 1982 teams.
Ron Mason coached the Spartans of Michigan State to the 1986 Championship. His assistant was George Gwozdecky, who won the title last year as the head coach of Denver. Gwozdecky also has a National Championship as a player, as a member of the 1977 Badgers, coached by Badger Bob. He’s the only person to have won an NCAA Hockey Championship as a player, assistant coach, and head coach.
The 1977 Wisconsin Badger squad produced two other coaches of note, both back at their alma maters. Mike Eaves runs the men’s team, while Mark Johnson runs the women’s program.
For those keeping score, that’s four 1980 Olympians in the story. Here come a few more from NCAA Championship teams. 1979 winners include Neal Broten, Bill Baker, Steve Janaszak, Rob McClanahan, Phil Verchota, Steve Christoff, Eric Strobel and Mike Ramsey, who all played for Brooks at Minnesota. Jack O’Callahan, Dave Silk and Jim Craig were on Jack Parker’s Terriers in 1978 and beat BC for the title. Johnson and Bob Suter are part of the 1977 Wisconsin team. Verchota, Baker, and Janazak were also on the 1976 Championship team at the “U”. Looking back, that team’s players and coach had done a lot of winning before it won in Lake Placid.
Great teams tend to have great players. Sometimes college teams are judged by how many pro players come off that team. If that is the case, here are some teams that were a launching pad to NHL stardom.
Most recently, it’s fair to say that Minnesota’s Jordan Leopold is off to a great start. Leopold (Minnesota ’02) was a key member of the Flames defense corps that came with a game of winning the 2004 Stanley Cup.
Brian Gionta (BC ’01) has a Stanley Cup ring already on hand. He won the big trophy with the NJ Devils and was a key member of that team.
Marty Turco has emerged as one of the top goalies in the NHL. The Stars netminder (Michigan ’98) replaced Ed Belfour (NoDak’87) in the Dallas crease.
An emerging star is the Islanders pesky forward Jason Blake (NoDak ’97). By the way, great job by the NoDak PR staff. There is a photo just outside the Sioux dressing room of action during a game in the late 1980’s. Pictured as a young fan in the first row watching the game is Blake. That’s good research.
Two other Devils (one now an ex-Devil), Brendan Morrison and John Madden (both Michigan ’96), both have become very good NHL players, and Madden had developed into a star with the Devils. Bill Muckalt also has found a solid career in the league.
Mike Grier and Jay Pandolfo have become very good NHLers since winning it all with BU in ’95. However, forgive me if I overshadow their accomplishments with one of the NHL’s top players, who was also a member of that team. That would be Stanley Cup winner and Calder Trophy winner Chris Drury.
Jim Montgomery, Garth Snow, Mike Dunham, and Paul Kariya all came from the Maine squad that won the title in 1993. All still play in the NHL. Who can forget Kariya getting KO’ed by Scott Stevens of the Devils in game six of the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, then returning later to score a huge goal that helped Anaheim send the series back to NJ for a decisive seventh game. Snow and Dunham apparently want to stay close to each other, as they tend goal for bitter rivals in NY, the Islanders and Rangers respectively.
Dallas Drake (NMU ’91) has had a long and solid career in the NHL, which started with the Winnipeg Jets.
Duane Derksen was a potential NHL goalie, Gary Shuchuk played for the Kings in the 1993 Finals, and Chris Tancill and Rob Mendel were good minor leaguers who had a cup of coffee in the NHL. John Byce went from the Badgers right to the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals with the Boston Bruins. But the player from the 1990 Wisconsin team that really had the best NHL career was defenseman Sean Hill, who was a member of the 1993 Canadiens who beat the Kings in the Finals.
Tod Hartje (Harvard ’89) wrote a landmark book on his experiences as an American playing pro hockey in the Russia. The book “Behind the Red Line” was well received back here at home. However his teammate Ted Donato was a long time NHLer, and a very good one at that. He played from 1989-90 through the end of last season when he took over the Crimson.
Ed Belfour and Murray Baron (NoDak ’87) made their mark in the NHL. Belfour has been an elite goaltender since breaking in with Chicago, and Baron played many years for the Flyers, Canucks, and Blues. Baron was a member of the 1994 Canucks who nearly upset the Rangers in the Finals, losing in Game 7. Belfour won a Cup with Dallas.
The 1986 Spartans had a Stanley Cup winner in their midst in Joe Murphy, who was a #1 overall pick of the Detroit Red Wings. Murphy won a Cup in Edmonton as a member of the “Kid Line” alongside Adam Graves and Martin Gelinas. Goalie Bob Essensa had a very good NHL career, as did Kevin Miller.
A pair of defensemen from Jerry York’s 1984 Bowling Green Falcons went on to great NHL careers. Dave Ellet and Gary Galley both were All-Stars in the NHL and Gino Cavallini was the heart and soul of the St. Louis Blues for many years.
Two Stanley Cup winning defenseman, one a sure fire Hall of Famer, were part of the 1983 Badgers. Bruce Driver, who found stardom and two Stanley Cup rings with the Devils, and Chris Chelios were on that team. Long time NHLer and former Islanders’ Captain Patrick Flatley won a ring with that group as well.
Jon Casey almost wrote one of the biggest upsets in Stanley Cup history when he back stopped the Minnesota North Stars to the 1991 Finals against Badger Bob’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Casey won Game One before Badger Bob’s team took over and won the Cup. Casey backstopped NoDak to the 1982 title, alongside future NHLers Dave Tippett (now the coach of the Dallas Stars), Rick Zombo, Craig Ludwig (Stanley Cup winner in Dallas), Troy Murray and James Patrick, who is still a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Doug Smail (NoDak ’80) is another NCAAer who found success in the NHL.
The seventies were not a time that saw many college players go on to find success in the NHL, but there were a few who did. From the ’79 Gophers, Rob McClanahan, Bill Baker. The `78 Terriers developed Jack O’Callahan and Dave Silk. Mike Eaves came from the ’77 Badgers, as did Mark Johnson. The ’76 Gophers are represented by Joe Micheletti and Reed Larson (who spent many good years on the blue lines of the Bruins and Red Wings). Future Stanley Cup winning defenseman Bob Lorimer captained the ’75 Michigan Tech Huskies. Dean Talafous earned a steady paycheck in the NHL after being a member of the ’73 Badgers.
I’d be remiss not to highlight one of great stories of advancement from the NCAA to the NHL. That would be Red Berenson.
Berenson was the first collegian to go directly from college hockey to the NHL. After playing in the 1962 Consolation Game (with a 70 point senior season in the bank), Berenson was driven from Utica, NY to Boston, where he suited up and played for the Canadiens against the Bruins. He spent the rest of the season with Montreal, embarking on a 17-year career as a player with Montreal, Detroit, the Rangers, and the Blues.
His Michigan career was exemplary as both a player, and later as a coach. His 43 goals and nine hat tricks in his senior season of 1961-1962 are still Michigan records to this day. Now in his 21st season behind the Michigan bench, he has made the Wolverines as much of a force on the ice as they are on the hardwood or gridiron.
A major proponent of student-athletes finishing their degrees before jumping to the professional ranks, Berenson has been able to help many of his recruits become both great players and great students.
Michigan and Colorado College have engaged in some classic battles in the playoffs, the latest being this year’s epic CC comeback to beat the Wolverines in the Midwest regional. CC overcame a 3-0 deficit to win the game. Michigan beat CC 3-2 in OT to win the Frozen Four in 1996 in Cincinnati. These two schools also locked horns in the title match of 1952, won by Michigan 4-1, and again in 1955 with the Maize and Blue winning 5-3. CC won its last national championship with a 13-6 win over the Wolverines in 1957.
These two teams also have a classic regional experience to remember. It was the Midwest regional in 2003, and the No. 1 Tigers were upset by the No. 3 Wolverines. Red Berenson’s boys were helped by a home ice advantage as the regional was held at Yost Arena, Michigan’s home barn, and probably the toughest place to win a game if you’re not the Wolverines.
The FF participants all share national championships in their past heading to Columbus. CC’s last win was in 1957. Minnesota won back-to-back titles on ’02 and ’03. Denver is the defending champ, and the Sioux won a classic from Jerry York’s Boston College Eagles in 2000. North Dakota’s seven titles are the most of the participants.
Michigan has made the most appearances in the FF, with 22. BU is second with 20. Current participant Minnesota is third with 18, tied with BC.
You’d never think it, but the best winning percentage in the FF is held by Lake Superior State, which is 7-1.
Four teams have won back-to-back titles: Minnesota in ’02 and ’03, BU in ’71 and ’72, Denver in ’60 and ’61 and again in ’68 and ’69. Michigan won in ’55 and ’56 and three-peated from 51-53.
Biggest Battles/Staying Late
CC’s wipeout of a three-goal deficit to beat Michigan was impressive. Did Scott Owens call upon the ghosts of three-goal comebacks past? CC has done it before in the playoffs, the last time in 1952 when it beat Yale in the national semifinal by the same score of 4-3.
Ever hear the cliché that a 3-0 lead is the worst lead in hockey? As a matter of fact, in the 13 biggest comebacks in postseason history, eight of them have been from down 3-0. Two were in championship games. Northern Michigan wiped out that lead in 1990 en route to an 8-7 triple-OT win over BU, and Minnesota beat Michigan Tech 6-4 in the 1976 title game. The best to date was the 4-0 lead Wisconsin toppled against Cornell in the 1973 semifinal, winning 6-5 in OT.
The longest game ever played in the post season was the battle between St. Lawrence and BU in the East Regional, March 26, 2000. In that game (in a story related to me by BU coach Jack Parker), BU forward Dave Kavanaugh cramped up badly in the first OT and was helped to the dressing room. He was fed liquids intravenously, and re-hydrated.
He was in street clothes and on the bench in the second OT, and began to feel better. With fatigue becoming a factor at the end of the second OT (BU had played the night before), Kavanaugh put his equipment back on and played the third and fourth OT. The game went 123:53 and was won by St. Lawrence 4-3 on a goal by Robin Carruthers. The game started at noon, and ended just before 6 p.m.
While in OT, do you remember the 1993 Montreal Canadiens, who won 10 OT games on their march to the Stanley Cup championship? Well, the NCAA’s answer to that feat is probably Lake Superior State, who played 3 OT games in 1994. In that postseason, LSSU scored :15 into OT to beat Northeastern to win the shortest OT game ever played. There was no OT in the title game, though; it was over early. LSSU beat BU 9-1.
Speaking of overtime, Minnesota has won a pair of OT games in the postseason so far, upping their record in extra time to 6-3. North Dakota has not needed OT in this year’s playoffs, so they hold at 3-2. CC has also gotten it done in regulation this playoff year and are 2-1 overall in playoff OT. The Pioneers of Denver have been in OT twice so far this year, beating UND in the WCHA Final Five, and surviving a scare from Bemidji State in the Northeast Regional. Those were Denver’s first ever OT wins in the postseason.
Five of seven title games went to OT between 1996 (Michigan beat CC) and 2002 (Minnesota beat Maine). The past two have ended in regulation, yet last season’s 1-0 game was very much like an OT type game. In 2000, North Dakota and BC were tied 2-2 late into the third period when Jason Ulmer snapped the tie, and an ENG added the insurance. The only big margin of victory in the title game recently was Minnesota’s 5-1 win over UNH in 2003. However, that game was tied 1-1 after 1, and still tied until Thomas Vanek scored the eventual game winner 8:14 into the third period. Current Gopher Barry Tallackson, the hero of Minnesota’s 2-1 OT win over Cornell two weeks ago in the West Regional final, had two goals in the game.
Last April, Denver goalie Adam Berkhoel was outstanding in a 1-0 shutout of Maine in the NCAA Championship game. The last time a goaltender pitched a shutout in the title game was way back in 1972, when Boston University’s Tim Regan made 39 saves in a 4-0 whitewash of Cornell. Some notable names on that BU squad include Assistant Coach Jack Parker and player Don “Toot” Cahoon (Head Coach at Massachusetts). That team was the first to call Walter Brown Arena home, and the second consecutive title winner for the Terriers, who beat Minnesota for the crown in 1971.
Denver’s lone goal in last year’s title game is the lowest goal total for a winner in a championship game. Previously, Mike Addessa’s RPI squad held that distinction with a 2-1 win over Providence College in the 1985 game. Addessa’s team included some prominent future NHLers including future Hall-of-Famer Adam Oates and goalie Daren Puppa.
Denver’s one goal and RPI’s two goals are the only winning outputs that low since the NCAA hockey championship started in 1948 (that year Michigan beat Dartmouth 8-4). The most goals are 13 when CC beat Michigan 13-6 in ’57. The Tigers also scored 13 in a 13-4 rout of BU in ’50. 13 must be lucky for CC, as it has won two national championships and scored 13 goals in each win.
Your contributions are welcome for a second part to this story. Former college players, coaches, officials, fans are welcome to email me your contributions and stories of great playoff games, players, and memories. I’ll have to fact check details, but I’m eager to hear from you.
Dave Starman serves as an analyst on CSTV Friday Night Hockey and contributes weekly to CSTV.com. Starman has coached professionally and in the amateur ranks.