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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

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The team we all know as the Minnesota State Mavericks went by a different name in 1995. Mankato State University transferred to the newly created Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in 1995. However, the school didn’t change its name until 1998. The Mankato State Mavericks hosted a team from the Twin Cities January 27, 1995. The St. Thomas Tommies made their way to southern Minnesota that Friday to take on the Mavericks in the first game of a home-and-home series that weekend. While both programs are currently playing Division I hockey, the Mavericks were Division II and the Tommies were Division III during the 1994-95 season.

The Mavericks had a 16-5 record going into the Friday night game. The Tommies held a lead going into the third period that night thanks to stellar play by goalie Brian Volp. Mark Zacharias scored 8:50 into the period to tie it for the home team. Then with 24 seconds remaining, Brian Amundson scored the power play game winner for the Mavericks. The two teams would play the next night in St. Paul where the Mavericks won again by a one-goal margin. This time in a higher-scoring affair: 6-5.

This January 27, 1995, game is historic for Minnesota State in that it was the last men’s hockey game played at All Seasons Arena in Mankato. The men’s team played the first game at the new Mankato Civic Center (now known as the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center) the following weekend. The Mavericks defeated Alabama-Huntsville 6-3 February 3, 1995, to christen the new arena. The Minnesota State men’s team still practices at All Seasons Arena and the women’s hockey team plays home games there.

The same two teams will meet for a best-of-three series this weekend in Mankato at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center during the opening weekend of the playoffs for the revived CCHA. Minnesota State is the top-seed in the conference. These two teams – along with all other CCHA teams – are looking to win the famed Mason Cup in this first season of the reforged CCHA. This is also the first season St. Thomas is participating in Division I hockey.

In the featured image, Aaron Broten of Mankato State takes a shot against St. Thomas goalie Brian Volp at All Seasons Arena.

Photo Credit: Mankato State Reporter, Vol. 66, No. 41, January 31, 1995.

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The Great Lakes Invitational tournament began in 1965 with Michigan Tech as the host team. The Huskies were the only Michigan-based team that participated that year. At least three of the four teams that have participated each year since the 1979 tournament have been Michigan-based Division I men’s teams. The champion is awarded the MacInnes Cup.

The 2013 edition of the tournament was unique in that it took place outdoors at Comerica Park in Detroit. It was held the final weekend in December and included four Michigan teams: Michigan Tech, Western Michigan, Michigan and Michigan State. This was the third time this grouping of teams had faced off against one another in the tournament. However, it was the first time this tournament was played outdoors.

This 49th edition of the tournament was included as part of the festivities around the 2014 NHL Winter Classic that took place on New Year’s Day. In that game, the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout at Michigan Stadium. The NHL game at Michigan Stadium was originally scheduled to occur the previous year – along with an outdoor Great Lakes Invitational tournament – but everything was pushed back due to the 2012 NHL lockout that season.

The first game of the 2013 Great Lakes Invitational was between Michigan State and Michigan Tech. The announced crowd was more than 25,000 on December 27. The Spartans came into the game with a 5-9-1 record in the first year of Big Ten Hockey. Michigan Tech had already swept the Spartans in Houghton, Michigan, the previous month. The Huskies also had a losing record of 6-9-5 in the new-look WCHA. Michigan State scored two early goals in the third period to go up 2-1. But Alex Petan of Michigan Tech scored the equalizer 8:13 into the period and that’s how it remained until the end of regulation. A shootout was needed to determine which team would advance to the tournament championship the following day. Michigan Tech’s Ryan Furne scored the shootout winner in the fifth round to send the team to the championship.

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The second game of the Day 1 was between Michigan and Western Michigan. Sitting at a 10-2-2 record, the Wolverines were the favorite to win the tournament. Western Michigan sported a 7-8-3 record and represented the brand-new NCHC conference. The Broncos were the runner-up in the previous year’s Great Lakes Invitational. The two teams had yet to face one another that season prior to the tournament. The Wolverines got on the board first with a shorthanded goal by JT Compher in the second period. But the Broncos bounced back and scored two of their own before the second frame was over. The Wolverines tied the score in the third and that’s how it remained at the end of regulation. With just nineteen seconds left in overtime, Josh Pitt scored the game winner for Western Michigan to send the Broncos to the title game.

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The MacInnes Cup would be awarded to either Michigan Tech or Western Michigan on December 28. But first the consolation game would be played between Michigan and Michigan State. The two rivals had yet to play that season. The Spartans surprised the college hockey world by shutting out Michigan 3-0. With many people picking Michigan to win the tournament, the team ended up in 4th place out of four teams.

More than 26,000 fans were in attendance to see which team would be the first to hoist the MacInnes Cup outdoors. It was a rematch of the previous year’s Great Lakes Invitational championship game that saw the Huskies blank the Broncos 4-0. In this rematch, the teams were evenly matched and both had great scoring chances. At one point in the second period Daniel Holmberg of Michigan Tech hit the cross bar for no goal. By the end of the game, shots were 33-31 in favor of Michigan Tech yet no goals had been scored. The game would be decided in overtime. It only took two minutes and one second for Justin Kovacs to score the game-winning goal. It was the second time the Broncos won the Great Lakes Invitational and first time since 1986.

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The same four teams will participate in this year’s Great Lakes Invitational. It will be the fifth time this grouping of teams will participate in the tournament (with the fourth being in 2016.) However, it will be a showcase tournament with games being held at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing and Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. The first two games will be held December 29 when Michigan State will host Western Michigan and Michigan will host Michigan Tech. The two visiting teams are scheduled to swap ice arenas the following night with Michigan State hosting Michigan Tech on Saturday and Michigan hosting Western Michigan. Unfortunately, Michigan announced December 27 that the team is cancelling the game on Saturday against Western Michigan. The official release stated health and welfare protocols but it sounds like it is not due to COVID but instead to prevent wear and tear on a roster that is missing five players to the IIHF World Junior Championship in Canada. This tournament will look different than previous iterations and no champion will be crowned for the second year in a row since last year’s tournament was canceled due to COVID. But the bright spot is that college hockey will be showcased again this holiday season in the state of Michigan.

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Let’s flash back to the late 1970s. Ohio State and Bowling Green are not only in-state hockey rivals, but also in-conference rivals within the previous incarnation of the CCHA. The two teams played four times in the 1976-77 regular season with all games taking place in the second half of the season in 1977. The teams split the first series at Ohio State after the Buckeyes won 5-4 in overtime in the second game of the weekend. The final regular season series of the year for both teams saw the Buckeyes travel to Bowling Green in what resulted in another split. The Falcons put 10 goals on the board in the Friday night game on February 25, 1977. The Buckeyes rebounded to win 4-2 the following evening. The Falcons finished second within the CCHA with a 10-6-0 conference record and the Buckeyes finished third at 8-7-1. With four teams advancing to the CCHA playoffs, this set the stage for a rematch the following weekend at Bowling Green.

In 1977, the CCHA playoffs included four teams and consisted of two semifinal series and a championship series. All three series included two games apiece with the aggregate goals rule in effect. This meant that the team that scored the most total goals within the two games was declared the winner. The first semifinal game between OSU and Bowling Green took place on Friday, March 4. With the season series tied 2-2, something had to give. The first night saw the Falcons defeat the Buckeyes 5-2. If Ohio State wanted to keep its season alive, the team had to win the second game by a minimum of four goals. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, that didn’t happen. In the second game that took place March 6, 1977, Bowling Green finished off Ohio State by a score of 4-1. This effectively ended Ohio State’s season while the Falcons moved on to the CCHA championship series against top-ranked St. Louis.

The following weekend saw the Falcons defeat the Billikens 4-0 in game one. St. Louis responded in game two by winning 4-1. However, the total goals scored differential favored the Falcons by one goal. The 1977 CCHA tournament title earned Bowling Green an invite to the 1977 national tournament. It was the first appearance in the Division I men’s national tournament for Bowling Green. It also happened to be the first time the national tournament field had expanded past four with the Falcons securing the fifth spot. The Falcons ended up losing the first round game 7-5 to eventual national runner-up Michigan.

Ohio State and Bowling Green will begin a home-and-home series this week on Thursday night. It’s the first time the teams will face one another since October 27, 2018, when the Falcons and Buckeyes tied 2-2 at Bowling Green. The first game is Thursday in Columbus and the teams will travel north to Bowling Green for a Friday night matchup. The two teams are no longer both within the same conference. Bowling Green is once again affiliated with the new-look CCHA while Ohio State is in the Big Ten hockey conference. This is the ninth season since the two programs parted ways for different conferences yet this week’s matchup will be the sixth season the in-state rivals will face off against one another in that time period. So despite changes in conference alignment, the Battle for Ohio continues on. With all of the conference shifting in the past decade within Division I men’s hockey, a focus on keeping in-state rivalries in tact is very beneficial for the sport.

In the above photo, Jack Laine and Paul Titanic of Bowling Green look down at an OSU player who has the puck beneath him. The photo was taken during the CCHA semifinal series at Bowling Green in March 1977.

Photo Credit: Bowling Green State University, “The Key 1977” (1977). BGSU Key Yearbooks.

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The 1991 Division I men’s title game required three overtimes to determine a champion. When it was all said and done, fifteen goals were scored in the final game of the 1990-91 season. Two teams that were powerhouses throughout the season met in this final game: Northern Michigan and Boston University. The Northern Michigan Wildcats came into the game with a record of 37-5-4. As the WCHA regular season and tournament champion, the team was riding a staggering 25-game unbeaten streak. The Boston University Terriers were boasting a 28-10-2 record as the Hockey East tournament champions. The team only had one loss in the last twelve games.

In 1991, the national tournament teams were divided between East and West regions. Four east teams would face four west teams in the first round. Northern Michigan and Boston University were 2 seeds in the respective regions. This meant both programs received a bye in the first round. The Quarterfinal Round was a best-of-three series. In the quarterfinals, Northern Michigan swept Alaska Anchorage while Boston University swept Michigan sending both teams to St. Paul for the semifinals. (The Frozen Four title wasn’t officially coined until 1998.) The Wildcats defeated Maine 5-3 while the Terriers ran through Clarkson 7-3. This set the stage for one of the most thrilling title games in college hockey history.

Boston University got on the board quick – exactly one minute into the game – when Ed Ronan scored his fifteenth goal of the season. Before the period was halfway over, the Terriers would tally two more; one being Ronan’s sixteenth of the season. The score remained 3-0 at the first intermission.

Members of the crowd were likely wondering if this was the beginning of a blowout when it reality it was the polar opposite. Head coach Rick Comley lit a fire under the Wildcats as Dean Antos put them on the board 1:33 into the middle frame on a power-play goal. Mark Beaufait would score less than three minutes later for the Wildcats. They wouldn’t stop there. In fact, Northern Michigan scored three more unanswered goals during the period to make it 5-3 Wildcats at the second intermission. Two of the goals would be numbers 46 and 47 on the season for Scott Beattie.

It was a back-and-forth start to the third period. The Wildcats extended the lead to 6-3 on Scott Beattie’s hat trick goal just over three minutes into the final period. Dave Tomlinson stopped the bleeding and put the Terriers back on the board several minutes later. After another Wildcat goal, the score was 7-4 with less than eight minutes left in regulation. That’s when Boston University would kick it into another gear. Tony Amonte and Shawn McEachern both scored within three minutes of each other. Then with only 39 seconds left in the game, David Sacco scored the late-tying goal to make it 7-7. It was Sacco’s second goal of the night and would send the game to overtime.

Two overtime periods would end up scoreless. Then only 1:57 into the third overtime, Darryl Plandowski netted the championship-winning goal in the third overtime. It also give him a hat trick for the game. It was Northern Michigan’s first Division I men’s hockey championship. Boston University would need to wait four more years to win the program’s fourth championship trophy.

Both of these teams will meet this weekend for a two-game series in Marquette, Michigan. This will be Boston University’s first visit to Marquette since 1988 and first time playing at the Barry Events Center. Northern Michigan will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the championship this weekend. The historic 1991 team will be honored during the first intermission of the Saturday night game.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated (April 8, 1991)

This is the first article in our new On Location series where we will live tweet a college game that we attend in person and then later post an article here on the site.

Teams: St. Cloud State Huskies at St. Thomas Tommies

Where: Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota

When: October 3, 2021 at 5:07 p.m.

Puck drop at the first St. Thomas home game on October 3, 2021
Opening puck drop at the first St. Thomas home game on October 3, 2021.

This was the second game of a home-and-home series to begin the 2021-22 season for these two teams. St. Cloud State hosted the first game on Saturday night and showed the new Division I team why they are ranked #2/3 in the preseason polls. The Huskies impressively won 12-2. The same two teams met on Sunday evening on October 3, 2021, in St. Paul. It’s credited as the first Division I home game for St. Thomas despite it being at the Xcel Energy Center instead of the team’s St. Thomas Ice Arena. 4,261 fans were in attendance.

St. Cloud State jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a power play goal from Zach Okabe in the first period. Jami Krannila and Spencer Meier assisted on the play. Shots on goal in the first period were 12-4 in favor of the Huskies.

St. Cloud State celebrates a first period goal to put the Huskies up 1-0
St. Cloud State celebrates a first period goal to put the Huskies up 1-0.

The Xcel Energy Center is home to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff. This weekend of hockey played every March includes the final four teams left in the conference tournament with the winner of the title game hoisting the Frozen Faceoff trophy and earning an automatic bid to the national tournament. The NCHC conference tournament took place in Grand Forks, North Dakota in 2021 but the Frozen Faceoff will return to St. Paul in 2022. This game against St. Thomas is the first time St. Cloud State has played at the Xcel Energy Center since March 23, 2019, when the Huskies lost 3-2 in 2OT to UMD in the 2019 NCHC Frozen Faceoff title game.

NCHC team logos showing that the Xcel Energy Center is home of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff
The Xcel Energy Center is home to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

In the second period, the Huskies scored again to make it 2-0 heading into the third period. This time the goal was from Micah Miller with the assist from Kevin Fitzgerald. The Tommies had several chances but came up short. Shots in the second frame were 7-6 in favor of St. Cloud State.

St. Thomas gets a shot off in the second period of the October 3, 2021 game
St. Thomas gets a shot off in the second period of the October 3, 2021 game against St. Cloud State.

There’s an area in the Xcel Energy Center that is devoted to the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Memorial Awards. It includes a list of past winners, replica Hobey Baker Award, and jerseys of a handful of past recipients. There are also summaries of the awards and what they mean to the hockey community.

There was no scoring in the third period. St. Thomas pulled the goalie but no goals were scored for either team before time expired. St. Cloud State outshot the Tommies 29-14. David Hrenak recorded his first shutout of the season as the Huskies opened the season with two wins. The Tommies put up a good fight but are still looking for the program’s first Division I win.

St. Cloud State still pushing the puck in the final minutes of the St. Cloud State and St. Thomas game on October 3, 2021
Final minutes of the St. Cloud State and St. Thomas game on October 3, 2021.

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The St. Thomas Tommies will begin a new chapter this Saturday, October 2. When the puck drops in St. Cloud against the Huskies, St. Thomas will have officially made the jump to Division I. The Tommies will be the second team in as many years to join the ranks of the top men’s division of college hockey. But unlike Long Island, who created a program from scratch prior to the 2020-21 season, St. Thomas has a long and storied history of hockey. This is a program that began play in 1920. Prior to this season, the Tommies had only been a part of one conference: Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). With a new division comes new scenery. The Tommies will immediately participate in the revamped CCHA. However, the team must first play the national runner-up and NCHC powerhouse, St. Cloud State to begin the season. The home-and-home series will occur on Saturday and Sunday with the Tommies first home game taking place at the Xcel Energy Center; home of the Minnesota Wild.

In the featured photo, the St. Thomas hockey team is shown participating in an intrasquad scrimmage in 1924. The location is presumably on campus. The Tommies went 8-2 during the 1923-24 season. The program holds the record for most wins among all Division III hockey schools. As the sixth Division I hockey program in Minnesota, the program will have its hands full on the ice in the CCHA as well as the recruitment trail. But if past accomplishments are any indication and early trends continue for this new-look program, Rico Blasi’s team will not only fit right in, it will excel within the State of Hockey.

Photo Credit: Minnesota Historical Society.

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A little over 50 years ago in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the Huskies hosted the hockey team from Mankato. The southern Minnesota team we currently know as the Minnesota State Mavericks were known as the Mankato State University Indians when this game occurred. St. Cloud State games at that time were played outdoors on campus. This January 1971 game took place towards the end of the outdoor game era in St. Cloud as they moved indoors to the Municipal Athletic Complex in the early 1970s. The two teams split the series in St. Cloud during the second-to-last weekend in January that year. The accompanying photo was taken at one point during these two games. In it, Paul Oberstar skates with the puck for the Huskies as the two teams look on in front of a snowy embankment. These two programs faced each other four times in a row at this point in the 1970-71 schedule with Mankato winning three. This game took place two years prior to the designation of Divisions within the NCAA. However, both of these teams at the time were effectively Division II-equivalent programs. St. Cloud State made the leap to Division I in 1987 and Minnesota State followed suit in 1996. St. Cloud State and Minnesota State were WCHA foes for 14 seasons before conference realignment in 2013. Up until now, they have never faced one another within the NCAA Division I National Tournament. That streak will end Thursday as they face off against each other in the first semifinal game of the 2021 Frozen Four. The Huskies and Mavericks are both looking for their first Division I men’s hockey championship.

Image courtesy of the St. Cloud State University Archives.