The Michigan Wolverines and Denver Pioneers have a long history against one another on the ice. The first meeting between these storied programs took place in 1951. The teams were long-time division rivals in the WCHA until Michigan left for the CCHA in 1981. The two teams met four times throughout the 1961-62 regular season with each team sweeping at home. All four games took place in February 1962. The tiebreaker would take place in the WCHA playoffs at the beginning of the following month.
The 1962 WCHA tournament included the top four teams in the conference and took place at the Weinberg Coliseum in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Third seed Denver faced second seed Michigan in a battle of familiar foes in the second semifinal game March 2, 1962. The other semifinal game took place between Michigan Tech and Michigan State the previous night. The Wolverines proved to be too much for the Pioneers and won 8-4 in front of the home crowd. The legendary Red Berenson scored a hat trick in the game. As in the previous season, Berenson was selected to the All-WCHA First Team during the 1961-62 season. He was honored as a West All-American in those two seasons as well.
Both teams lost their next WCHA playoff game. Denver lost the consolation game to Michigan State 4-3 and Michigan lost the WCHA title game later that night to Michigan Tech 6-4. This marked the end of the Pioneers season while the Wolverines were invited to the 1962 NCAA tournament as the West’s at-large bid. Michigan lost the opening semifinal game to Clarkson but defeated St. Lawrence to earn the Third Place trophy. Michigan Tech defeated Clarkson in the championship game 7-1 to earn the program’s first national title.
Red Berenson added another honor to his name when he was voted to the NCAA All-Tournament First Team in 1962. He would later play in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings. Berenson coached the Blues before heading back to his alma mater to coach the Michigan hockey team. He was the long-time head coach of the Wolverines from 1984 through 2017 and won two NCAA championships.
Denver and Michigan will meet Thursday, April 7, in the 2022 Frozen Four semifinal in Boston. This will be the 84th meeting in the series. The teams have only played each other twice since a 1981 WCHA playoff series and both games took place within the NCAA tournament. The winner on Thursday will play either Minnesota or Minnesota State in the NCAA Division I men’s championship game on Saturday.
In the featured image Red Berenson is shown scoring one of his three goals against Denver in the 1962 WCHA playoff game March 2, 1962.
Photo Credit: U-M Library Digital Collections. Bentley Image Bank, Bentley Historical Library.