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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.

Photo Credit: MSU Reporter, January 8, 1998

USC and Minnesota met in game 2 of the series March 26, 1938, as described in the Daily Trojan.
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This is Part 2 of a two-part series where we look back at the unique two-game series between the USC Trojans and Minnesota Golden Gophers that took place more than 83 years ago. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

On March 26, 1938, USC and Minnesota faced off for game two of their series in Los Angeles. The Trojans defeated the heavily-favored Gophers 5-2 just two days beforehand. Minnesota had hoped to jump out to an early lead to quiet the packed Polar Palace arena crowd in Hollywood. It looked like they may be in luck early on as the Gophers were awarded a power play in the first period. Unfortunately for the away team, they gave up the puck in front of the USC net and Herm Schaller skated the length of the ice to tally a short-handed goal for USC to make it 1-0. The Trojans extended the lead to 3-0 on two second period goals from Bennie Novicki. The Gophers gained a little momentum back when Bill Bredeson scored at the end of the second period making it 3-1 heading into the third.

Eventually the Gophers tied it up 3-3 with two unanswered goals in the final frame. However, USC stood tall and wouldn’t back down. Earl Robson stole the puck from the legendary John Mariucci and scored the game winner with less than two minutes to go in regulation. The Saturday night game ended 4-3 in favor of the home team and earned the Trojan hockey team a sweep of the Big Ten champion Gophers.

The Gophers would head north three days later to Washington to face Gonzaga in the last game of the three-game West Coast trip. The team lost 5-1 in the only hockey contest to date between the two schools. The Trojans and Gophers would face off again the following season. USC traveled east to Minnesota just nine months later. The cold weeknights in December didn’t faze the Trojans as they swept the Gophers yet again; accounting for one third of Minnesota’s losses in the 1938-39 season. The early series set the tone for USC that season with the Trojans eventually regaining their Pacific coast championship from Loyola in 1939.

December 1938 would be the last time these two teams shared the ice together. Eighty-two years later USC can still claim they are undefeated against the Minnesota hockey team with a 4-0 record.

The golden state of California was home to very talented college hockey teams in the 1930s. Yes, you read that right. In fact, these teams would routinely put up great competition against the best that the United States and Canada had to offer. USC and Loyola dominated the four-team league in California. We highlighted these two teams in our coverage of the 1930s in our U.S. College Hockey History summary.

Today we’re focusing on the first time the Golden Gophers of Minnesota visited Los Angeles to take on the host USC Trojans on March 24, 1938. USC had recently lost the league championship to Loyola the previous week. This marked four championships in a row for Loyola. It had to have stung the Trojans who were hoping to regain the West Coast title they routinely touted in the early 1930s. The heavily-favored Gophers were the reigning Big Ten champions. It was rumored that the Gophers purposely avoided Loyola on the team’s West Coast tour due to the alleged “poaching” of Minnesota’s Iron Range prospects by the Loyola team. USC hockey teams routinely included players from Canada, Minnesota and Massachusetts but there was no ill will between the two universities.

The indoor Polar Palace arena was packed with 3,500 spectators who wanted to see how this West Coast-Midwest tilt was going to shape up. They were treated to a fast-paced game from the opening puck drop. Both teams had four shots on goal within the first two minutes of regulation. Nat Harty of USC broke the proverbial ice five minutes into the game. The Trojans would jump out to a 2-0 lead later in the first period. The Gophers were able to get on the board in the final period to cut it to 2-1. Minnesota was able to narrow the lead to one goal again later in the final period but the Trojans scored twice in 20 seconds and took the opening game of the series 5-2.

Leading the Trojans that night was the team’s senior captain Nat Harty with two goals. The Daily Trojan applauded goalie Jerry Beranek as well as defensemen Al Fitzgerald and Howie Smith for bottling up Minnesota sophomore John Mariucci. The paper claimed it was the first time in Mariucci’s college career where he was held scoreless in a game.

Nat Harty captained the Southern California Trojans in 1938

In Part 2 of our USC-Minnesota series, we will highlight the second game that took place on Saturday, March 26, 1938.

Photo Credit: USC Digital Library. The Daily Trojan Collection

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In part two of our series about the Robert Morris Colonials, we’re going to take a look back at the season where the program reached the national tournament for the first time in its history: 2013-14.

Looking to build upon a successful 20-14-4 campaign from the previous season, the Colonials had high hopes heading into the fall of 2013. However, it didn’t start out exactly how the team had planned with Robert Morris going winless in the first four weeks of the season with a 0-5-1 record. Tough interconference games against Lake Superior State, Ohio State and Penn State put the team in an early hole. In fact, it set the tone for the first half of the season. By the time the calendar flipped to 2014, the Colonials were staring down a 2-12-2 record. The Colonials even ended up in fourth place out of four teams in the Three Rivers Classic; a Pittsburgh holiday tournament RMU hosted in December that the team had won just the year before.

If the Colonials were going to dig themselves out of the hole they created, the schedule makers didn’t do them any favors. The second half of the season saw RMU begin play with four away games in seven days. Perhaps the team felt it had nothing to lose and played loose or Coach Derek Schooley made the necessary adjustments but no matter what it was, the team won three of the four games. This began a run of games that resembled what the team expected to do at the onset of the season. The Colonials ended up going 11-4-3 in the second half.

This impressive second half pushed the Colonials to a 5 seed in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. With an automatic bid to the national tournament on the line, 8 of the 12 teams faced off during the first weekend of March in best-of-three series. The top four seeds received byes. Robert Morris hosted Army and easily won 8-4 in the opening game. Army bounced back to win the second game to force a deciding game three. In this third game, Army scored first but the Colonials rallied for three unanswered goals to advance to the next round. Robert Morris traveled to UConn to take on the Huskies in the best-of-three Quarterfinals. The Colonials blanked the Huskies in game one 3-0 and swept the series 3-2 the following night to earn a spot in the semifinals in Rochester, New York.

It would be single elimination from here on out for the four remaining teams in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament with the victor earning a bid to the national tournament. The Colonials squandered a 4-2 lead to Niagara late in the third period and the game ended up going to overtime. Scott Jacklin was the hero as he scored with five minutes left in overtime, sending RMU to the championship against 7 seed Canisius. The Colonials took home the hardware by defeating the Golden Griffins 7-4 behind a hat trick from Cody Wydo. It was the first (and only) AHA Tournament title for RMU. Four Colonials made the All-Tournament Team with Wydo receiving the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.

Robert Morris received a tough draw for the national tournament. During the tournament selection show, the team learned they were going to face the number one overall seed, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, in their backyard in St. Paul on March 29, 2014. The Colonials put up a good fight for the majority of the first period but three Gophers goals in three minutes and thirty seconds late in the first period proved to be too much. Wydo put RMU on the board in the second period. Goals by Zac Lynch and David Friedmann later in the game weren’t enough to overcome the early deficit as the Gophers won 7-3. In the accompanying photo, goalie Dalton Izyk makes a sprawling save while losing his stick in the second period at the Xcel Energy Center.

Looking back seven years later, it can be considered a successful season for the Colonials. The team overcame a very rough first half of the season and could have easily packed it in after winter break. Instead, the team went on a very impressive run of games and won the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. The Colonials made it to the national tournament for the first (and only) time in school history and eventually lost to the national runner-up in their home state. All involved should be proud about what they accomplished during the 2013-14 season.

Michigan defeats Minnesota in Minneapolis on Jan. 6, 1951, by a score of 6-4. Photo courtesy of the Star Tribune via the Minnesota Historical Society.
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Minnesota hosted Michigan at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on January 6, 1951. In the second game of the series, the Wolverines completed the sweep by defeating the Golden Gophers 6-4. Michigan was victorious the night before when they won 5-4 in overtime. These two teams face off against each other this weekend in Minneapolis during the final weekend of the regular season. Minnesota has a chance to claim the Big Ten regular season championship for the first time since 2017. The regular season banner would also give the team a first round bye in the conference tournament. The Gophers currently lead the season series 2-0 after they swept the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in December.