The Massachusetts Lowell and Merrimack men’s hockey programs both currently reside within Hockey East. The River Hawks and Warriors have been members since the 1980s yet the rivalry between the two Massachusetts schools predates Division I. In 1981 the two teams were Division II hockey schools and faced off in the ECAC 2 championship game. Massachusetts Lowell had been a member of ECAC 2 since 1968 while Merrimack had joined at the onset in 1964.
Several years earlier, Merrimack won the inaugural Division II national championship in 1978. Massachusetts Lowell won the following season in 1979. The two teams played in the Third Place game in 1980 with Massachusetts Lowell coming out on top in a high scoring affair 8-7. These two successful – and familiar – Division II foes met on the ice again in 1981 for another playoff game.
The Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks were known as the Lowell Chiefs at the time. The school changed its nickname in 1991 when it joined the University of Massachusetts system. The 1981 ECAC 2 championship game was played March 7, 1981, and it turned out to be a high scoring affair. Lowell outlasted Merrimack 6-4. It was the program’s second conference title in three years and the 14th win in a row at the time. In fact, the team never lost another game that season and ended up winning the Division II national championship. Lowell defended its title by completing the feat the following season as well and even defeated Merrimack in the semifinals en route to the second trophy in a row. Lowell made the leap to Division I hockey prior to the 1983-84 season and Merrimack did so later in the decade prior to the 1989-90 season. Both joined Hockey East and continue to be a part of the conference to this day.
The River Hawks and Warriors will meet this weekend in the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden in Boston. It is the first Hockey East semifinals appearance for Merrimack since 2011. UMass Lowell made the semifinals last season. The River Hawks have won the Hockey East tournament three times (2013, 2014, 2017) while Merrimack is in search of its first Hockey East tournament title.
St. Lawrence first fielded a varsity hockey team during the 1925-26 season. The team played three games in its inaugural season with the first game taking place February 13, 1926, against nearby rival Clarkson. It was an away game at Potsdam and the Clarkson team defeated the Saints 1-0 on home ice. St. Lawrence fared better in the second game when the Saints defeated Massena American Legion by a score of 2-1. The third and final game of the short season was against Clarkson once again – this time on home ice. The result was similar to that first game in that Clarkson won by one goal with a final score of 2-1. The 1926 St. Lawrence Gridiron Yearbook stated it was a one goal game. However, there are other records of this game that state it was 3-1. Either way, Clarkson won the second meeting.
St. Lawrence was victorious on the ice once during the season, but the contest is considered an exhibition in the college history books as it took place against a non-collegiate team. St. Lawrence may not have achieved an official collegiate win in that first season, but it achieved two very important milestones. The first is that it saw the beginning of a hockey program that is currently approaching nearly 100 years of existence. The second is that the very first game in program history kicked off a long-standing rivalry that continues to this day.
The rivalry between St. Lawrence and Clarkson is nicknamed the Route 11 Rivalry as the schools are separated by just 10 miles. The two teams will renew the rivalry this weekend in a home-and-home series. St. Lawrence and Clarkson have played one another 218 times prior to this weekend.
The Denver and Colorado College hockey programs debuted the Gold Pan trophy in 1994. It’s awarded every season to the team that wins the most head-to-head regular season games between these two teams. The creation of the formal trophy certainly wasn’t the beginning of this in-state rivalry. In actuality, it began four decades earlier when the two teams met on the ice for the first time January 6, 1950. It was just the fifth game in program history for Denver while the Tigers were playing in the program’s 12th year of existence.
The featured photo was taken at some point between 1953 and 1959 at the old University of Denver Arena. The home team is wearing the dark crimson sweaters while the visitors are sporting the white sweaters with Tigers written diagonally down the front. In the head-to-head games played between the two teams throughout this time frame, the Pioneers won 20 games compared to the Tigers’ 13.
The battle for the Gold Pan trophy resumes this weekend where Denver will look to retain the trophy for the fourth-straight year. The home-and-home series this weekend will be a little special this time around in that Friday’s home game for Denver will be played at Ball Arena – home of the Colorado Avalanche. Saturday’s game will take place at Ed Robson Arena on the Colorado College campus. This is the second season the Tigers have played in the new arena.
The 50th annual Great Lakes Invitational tournament took place at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit in 2014. The participating teams in this event were Michigan, Michigan State, Ferris State and Michigan Tech. The Wolverines and Huskies faced off in the first game of the tournament with Michigan upsetting the Huskies 2-1 despite being outshot 41-21.
The second game of the tournament kicked off that same night. It was the third game of the season between the Spartans and Bulldogs after the teams split a series just two months earlier. There was no scoring in the first frame yet both teams saw plenty of time in the penalty box. Six penalties were awarded in the period with each team receiving two roughing calls. Brent Darnell started off the scoring for the Spartans with a goal early in the second period. The rest of the game went scoreless until Thomas Ebbing scored an empty netter to seal the game for Michigan State.
Old foes Michigan and Michigan State met in the championship game the next night. The game took place after the Huskies defeated the Bulldogs in the consolation game. Andrew Copp scored for the Wolverines in the first period of the nightcap to jump out to a 1-0 lead. Zach Hyman added to the lead in the second period. Michigan State sophomore Rhett Holland cut the lead in half in the third but it wasn’t enough as the Wolverines claimed the 2014 Great Lakes Invitational tournament title. It was the team’s sixth win in a row at Joe Louis Arena and the Wolverines improved their record in the tournament’s championship games to 8-5.
The 2022 Great Lakes Invitational begins this week and will take place at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is the first time the arena and city has hosted the holiday tournament. Ferris State will take on Michigan State in the second game of the tournament. This will be the third time Ferris State has participated in the tournament and the Bulldogs are looking for the first tournament win. Both of these teams also faced one another in the 2019 Great Lakes Invitational Tournament. The Spartans are 49-39-4 all time during the tournament and will be looking to capture the first tournament title since 2009.
Both Division I hockey programs in Alaska have a storied history of facing one another on the ice. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because of the proximity of these two teams compared to the other U.S. college hockey programs of the contiguous 48 states. However, up until recently, we at College Hockey History believed the rivalry between the Alaska Nanooks and Alaska Anchorage Seawolves began in 1979. That happens to be the year when Alaska Anchorage launched its varsity men’s hockey program. The teams from Fairbanks and Anchorage faced each other eight times during that 1979-80 season. But the history goes back a lot further than that. We recently discovered photos of these schools playing one another on the ice in 1935.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ first year of hockey was 1925. The program played that one season and then discontinued hockey until 1932. At the time, the team was referred to as the Alaska Polar Bears or U of A Polar Bears. The school changed its nickname to the Nanooks in 1963. Nanook is a derivation of nanuq, which is the Inupiaq word for polar bear. On the other side, the University of Alaska Anchorage formally began its varsity hockey program in 1979 within Division II and made the leap to Division I in 1984. Prior to 1979, the school must have put together an informal team without varsity status many decades prior.
The featured photo is from 1935 and is a hockey game between Anchorage and Fairbanks. It appears to be played on the frozen Chena River according to the description of the photograph. The Northern Commercial Company building is shown on the shore in the background. The Cushman Street Bridge is out of frame to the left. Spectators would line up on the bridge during big games. This is presumably photo evidence of the first game played between these two schools as another photo states that the 1935 team was the first hockey team organized by Alaska Anchorage.
Flash forward eighty-seven years and these two programs will play one another at the Carlson Center this weekend – less than two miles away from that first meeting on the river. These two hockey programs have gone through a lot of changes since 1935. At this point, both teams participate as independents within Division I. It’s Alaska Anchorage’s first season back on the ice since the 2019-20 season. In fact, the Nanooks and Seawolves last played one another February 29, 2020; mere days before COVID-19 shut down that season. The teams will begin play for the Governor’s Cup this weekend. This is an award given to the winner of the most games between the two hockey programs throughout each season. While the schools formally began the rivalry on the ice in 1979 and started the Governor’s Cup in 1994, these upcoming games will be the renewal of a rivalry that began nearly 90 years ago.
Photo Credit: Culhane family photographs, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.
The Miami RedHawks and St. Cloud State Huskies have played hockey against each other in five different decades. The first meeting took place in Oxford, Ohio, on Friday, November 13, 1987. This game occurred during the first year of Division I hockey for the Huskies. Miami had been a Division I hockey member since the school fielded a team in 1978. Both teams had two wins coming into the contest. The Miami Redskins – who changed their name to the RedHawks in 1996 – had defeated Michigan and Michigan State. The Huskies two wins came from a sweep of Air Force. Both teams looked to snap losing streaks.
Ultimately, the home ice and veteran presence were too much for St. Cloud State as Miami cruised to an 8-1 victory in the first game of the series. The following night’s tilt was closer, yet the series ended in a sweep as Miami won 5-3. The Huskies scored three unanswered goals at one point in that second game to go up 3-2 yet Miami scored three unanswered goals themselves as the team battled back to win.
At the time of this first series in 1987, Miami was a part of the CCHA and St. Cloud State was an independent team. As we know all too well, the conference alignment within college hockey is never set in stone. Flash forward to today and these two teams have shared the same conference since 2013. Prior to joining the NCHC, the programs met 13 times with Miami leading the non-conference series 8-3-2. Since the NCHC was created, the two teams have met 38 times as conference foes. The script has flipped with the Huskies sporting a 26-10-2 record over the RedHawks in that timeframe. The two teams will play each other this weekend back in Oxford, Ohio, to determine who will win games 52 and 53 in the overall series.
Photo Credits: Featured photo: The Miami Student, Vol. 115, No. 21 (Nov. 17, 1987). Secondary photo: Miami Recensio 1988 Yearbook.
The first Mercyhurst men’s hockey season was 1987-88. The Lakers spent that season as a Division III independent team before moving to ECAC East within Division III the following season. Mercyhurst posted an impressive inaugural season record of 16-7-0. One of the teams on the schedule that season was Division I Notre Dame. The game that took place November 25, 1987, between Mercyhurst and Notre Dame is important in that it’s the first time Mercyhurst played a Division I opponent. The visiting Fighting Irish won the game 7-3 and would end up with an impressive 27-4-2 record. The two teams met again during the 1990-91 season when Mercyhurst was still a Division III program. The first time the two teams met in a true Division I game was October 13, 2007, during a season-kickoff tournament in Ohio. The teams have met five times overall throughout the years.
By the time the 1947-48 hockey season ended in early March, St. Lawrence had put together the most successful team the school had seen to date. St. Lawrence finished 6-3-0 in collegiate play and broke all of the previous school records. The Saints were managed by first-year coach, Paul Patten, who doubled as the school’s backfield coach for the football squad. Defenseman Jack Klemens served as captain in his final season at St. Lawrence. The school paper and yearbook boasted a record of 9-5-1. However, six of the contests were considered exhibitions due to games against Canadian schools and other hockey programs outside of the college ranks. Either way, it was the first winning season in St. Lawrence hockey history. And in what could be considered the biggest accomplishment, this winning season was played almost exclusively in opponents’ rinks. The Skating Saints only played one game on home ice.
The Saints scored 112 goals throughout the season. This shattered the previous school record of 39 goals scored during the 1940-41 season. Tom Gerard scored 23 goals with 19 assists to set the school record at the time for most points scored in a season. Bud Crutchley tied Gerard for the school record in assists with 19 as well. There were several notable games for the program as well. In the Saints’ first-ever meeting with Princeton, St. Lawrence shocked the hockey world with a 6-3 victory at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink. And the scarlet-clad hockey team defeated Union late in the season by a seemingly improbable score of 17-0.
This season jump started the program. St. Lawrence put together 16 seasons in a row with winning records thereafter. This included the 1960-61 season where the Saints were national runners-up. In 1951, the program moved the hockey games indoors to Appleton Arena where the Saints home games are played to this day in Canton, New York.
This is the next installment in our On Location series where we live tweet a college game (or games) that we attend in person and then later post an article here on the site. If you missed our first installment, you can read it here.
Teams (seed): Denver Pioneers (1), North Dakota Fighting Hawks (2), Western Michigan Broncos (3), Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (5)
Where: Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota
When: March 18/19, 2022
Denver came into the weekend as the number one seed in the conference tournament and started the weekend against the only team to win an opening-round upset: Minnesota Duluth. It was the first time back at Xcel Energy Center for both teams since a previous Frozen Faceoff tournament March 23, 2019.
The Bulldogs scored first in the opening period. There was no scoring in the middle frame and for the majority of the third period. UMD scored an empty-net goal with 20 seconds left to defeat the top-seed Pioneers 2-0. The Bulldogs were set to play in the conference’s championship game for a fourth time the following night.
The two NCHC trophies were on display. The Penrose Cup on the left is awarded to the top team during the regular season. Denver and North Dakota were co-champions this season. The NCHC Tournament Trophy is on the right and was on hand to be presented to the winner on the ice after the championship game March 19, 2022.
The second semifinal game was second seed North Dakota against third seed Western Michigan. The Fighting Hawks were looking to become the first repeat Frozen Faceoff champion in conference history. The Broncos were looking for the program’s first Frozen Faceoff win. This was Western Michigan’s first game at the X since losing an opening round NCAA tournament game to North Dakota March 24, 2012. This was North Dakota’s first game in the venue since a 4-1 victory over UMD in the 2018 Frozen Faceoff consolation game. It’s worth noting the consolation game for this season was cancelled due to the Minnesota Wild hosting a hockey game during the day on Saturday prior to the NCHC championship game.
North Dakota got off to a fast start by scoring first but Western Michigan answered back less than two minutes later. The first period ended 1-1. The Broncos went up 2-1 in the second period and then scored again with less than a minute remaining. The Fighting Hawks answered back by cutting the lead back to one with less than eight seconds remaining in the period. The third period remained scoreless until an empty-net goal from Western Michigan clinched the program’s first Frozen Faceoff win. It would be Western Michigan versus Minnesota Duluth in the title game the following night.
There’s an area in the Xcel Energy Center that is dedicated to the Patty Kazmaier and Hobey Baker Memorial Awards. It includes a list of past winners, jerseys, a replica award, and information about the trophies and players they are named after.
The 2022 NCHC championship game took place the evening of Saturday, March 19, 2022. The Western Michigan Broncos were looking for the program’s first NCHC tournament title and were facing two-time winners Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. Following the blueprint from the first game of the weekend, the Bulldogs jumped on the board first in the opening period. UMD scored in the middle frame to take a 2-0 lead on a power play goal from Casey Gilling. Ryan Fanti continued his hot streak and made some fantastic saves to prevent the Broncos from getting momentum. Wyatt Kaiser’s goal in the third period iced the game.
The UMD Bulldogs won the program’s third Frozen Faceoff title. Noah Cates accepted the trophy at center ice after the game and Ryan Fanti was awarded the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. He did not allow a goal throughout the last six periods of play. By the end of the tournament Fanti was sitting at an active shutout streak of 145:21 dating back to the St. Cloud State series. With this win, UMD broke the two-way tie with Denver for the lead in number of NCHC tournament championships.
The Minnesota State Mavericks elevated its men’s hockey program to Division I prior to the 1996-97 season. The Mavericks were known as the Mankato State University Mavericks at the time. While still considered an independent team the following season, MSU was scheduled to join the WCHA in 1999. The first time the Mavericks traveled up highway 169 to meet the Minnesota Golden Gophers was January 2, 1998.
The second year Division I program was facing a Minnesota team that was coming off a 28-13-1 season that ended in a tie for first place in the WCHA. The Mavericks posted a 17-14-3 record the previous season against a mix of Division I and III teams. The favored home team welcomed the Mavericks to Mariucci by defeating them 6-2. The following night was a closer affair with the Gophers victorious once again; this time in a one-goal game 4-3. The Mavericks would end up with a 15-17-6 record in the first-ever season against only Division I opponents. While not technically a part of the WCHA during the 1997-98 season, the Mavericks were invited to play in the WCHA playoffs due to the future admission of the team. At 17-22-0, the Gophers ended with a surprising losing record that season as well. It was the Gophers first losing season since 1976-77. Both teams would lose in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
Fast forward twenty-four years and both of these hockey programs have ascended to the top of Division I men’s hockey. While this is relatively new success for Minnesota State, it’s a return to glory for the Gophers. Minnesota State won the first NCAA tournament game in program history last season and rode the momentum to the 2021 Frozen Four. In fact, the Mavericks shut out the Gophers 4-0 to reach the Frozen Four last year in the first-ever meeting in the NCAA tournament between these programs. The same two teams will play Thursday, April 7, in the second semifinal of the night in Boston. The Gophers are out for revenge while the Mavericks hope to make the leap to the NCAA title game for the first time.
In the featured photo, Mavericks goalie Des Christopher blocks a shot January 2, 1998, in the first-ever meeting between these two teams.