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.
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