It’s not uncommon to hear it said that one of the beauties of the NCAA men’s hockey tournament is that it matches teams that may not be familiar with one another.

If you subscribe to that line of thinking, this season’s national tournament is a gold mine.

Of the eight first-round games, only one features teams that have an all-time series of more than 10 games. Half of them have fewer than five games, and one is a pair of teams that have never before faced each other.

The most recent game played that matches one of this year’s first-round matchups was four seasons ago when Boston College beat Air Force.

Needless to say, the coaching staffs of the 16 teams in the 2012 tournament have had to do some extra studying heading into the regionals.

In all, there have been 50 games played in these eight all-time series, 25 of them from the Boston University-Minnesota pairing, which is where a historical look at these eight matchups has to begin.

The old rivals: Boston University vs. Minnesota

In those 25 games between the Terriers and the Golden Gophers are seven NCAA games (Minnesota holds a 4-3 lead in those) and one of the most notorious national tournament games of all time.

Minnesota and Boston University played a national semifinal on March 26, 1976, at the old Denver Arena, and before the game was 70 seconds old it produced a wild, bench-clearing brawl that not only stopped the game for, according to some accounts, 30 minutes, it started a war of words between coaches Jack Parker of BU and Herb Brooks of Minnesota.

The accounts vary, but things hot heated after the Terriers’ Terry Meagher was sent to the penalty box for slashing, barely a half-minute after Minnesota’s Russ Anderson was called for cross-checking. The penalty box at DU Arena at the time was one undivided area that also happened to be right next to the Minnesota bench.

According to a Denver Post account of the melee, Parker said Meagher was spit upon by a Minnesota player. Meagher spit back and hit Gophers trainer Gary Smith, and then sticks started swinging and the brawl was on.

The Gophers’ side of things, through Smith, was that the Minnesota bench was only verbally confronting Meagher, who spit first.

However it happened, it took about 10 minutes before order was restored, and then game officials Dino Paniccia and Frank Kelley headed into the referees’ dressing room to meet with the officials from the other semifinal, Medo Martinello and Bill Riley, Harvard coach Bill Cleary, former Boston College coach Snooks Kelley, WCHA head of officials Bob Gilray, NCAA ice hockey committee chair Burt Smith, the NCAA’s Dennis Poppe and both coaches.

They eventually came up with punishments that would keep the game going — game misconducts to just Meagher and Anderson.

“Normally, everybody that left the bench would be gone,” Smith told the Rocky Mountain News at the time.

Without Meagher, the MVP of the ECAC tournament that season who for the last 29 years has been the coach at Division III Bowdoin, Boston University fell 4-2 to Minnesota, which became national champions with a victory over Michigan Tech.

As for that war of words between Parker and Brooks?

Parker told the Boston Globe at the time there was “no question they came out with the intent of running at us. It obviously is the coach’s philosophy. He not only tolerates it. He condones it.”

Parker added to the paper: “Herb Brooks is known as Herb Bush in the WCHA and now I know why. It is obviously the way he thinks the game should be played. It’s the way he wants it. I don’t happen to agree with him.”

For his part, Brooks, who later famously coached players from both teams to the Olympic gold medal in 1980, dismissed Parker’s accusations and fired back.

“He blew his team’s chances by not pulling the goalie and creating a six-on-four chance in that last minute,” Brooks told the Denver Post at the time. “If he says we came out deliberately trying to run at them, it shows an immature coach and it’s sour grapes.”

A lot has changed in just short of 36 years since. That 1976 game was the seventh in the series, so there have been 18 played since (19 if you count a 1996 Hall of Fame Game that was, at the time, an exhibition).

They have played more NCAA tournament games, including BU wins in the national semifinals in 1994 and 1995. The Terriers played their last game at Walter Brown Arena and their first at Agganis Arena against the Gophers in 2005, the most recent games in the series.

In all, Boston University holds a 12-11-2 lead over Minnesota.

“We have had a great rivalry, there’s no question about that,” Parker said this week.

He said the game that stands out, though, was the one in Denver in 1976.

“In reality, everybody should have been kicked out for fighting, according to the rules,” Parker said this week. “The other semifinal was already played. I think if we were the first semifinal, they probably would have let the other semifinal be the national championship game, that’s how bad the fight was.

“And that had a bad taste in our mouths for a while. We wound up in the same league, so to speak, when we had the interlocking schedule with the WCHA and Hockey East [from 1984 to 1989], and the animosity disappeared.”

Here’s the full series between the teams:

Dec. 20, 1963 — Minnesota 4, Boston U. 2 (at Boston Christmas Tournament)
Dec. 20, 1966 — Boston U. 8, Minnesota 5 (at ECAC Tournament, New York)
Dec. 22, 1970 — at Boston U. 3, Minnesota 0
March 20, 1971 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 2 (NCAA final at Syracuse, N.Y.)
Dec. 29, 1971 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 3, 2OT (at Syracuse Holiday Tourney)
March 14, 1974 — Minnesota 5, Boston U. 4 (NCAA semifinal at Boston)
March 26, 1976 — Minnesota 4, Boston U. 2 (NCAA semifinal at Denver)
Dec. 26, 1979 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 4
Dec. 27, 1979 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 1
Oct. 19, 1984 — Minnesota 5, at Boston U. 2
Oct. 20, 1984 — at Boston U. 5, Minnesota 4, OT
Jan. 10, 1986 — at Minnesota 3, Boston U. 1
Jan. 11, 1986 — Boston U. 4, at Minnesota 2
March 21, 1986 — Minnesota 6, at Boston U. 4 (NCAA tournament)
March 22, 1986 — Minnesota 5, at Boston U. 3 (NCAA tournament)
Jan. 16, 1987 — at Boston U. 6, Minnesota 1
Jan. 2, 1988 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 3
Jan. 21, 1989 — at Boston U. 1, Minnesota 0
March 31, 1994 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 1 (NCAA semifinal at St. Paul, Minn.)
Dec. 31, 1994 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 3 (at Mariucci Classic)
March 30, 1995 — Boston U. 7, Minnesota 3 (NCAA semifinal at Providence, R.I.)
Oct. 12, 1996 — Boston U. 4, Minnesota 3 (Hall of Fame Game at Minneapolis)
Jan. 2, 2004 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 5
Jan. 3, 2004 — at Minnesota 5, Boston U. 5
Jan. 2, 2005 — Minnesota 2, at Boston U. 1
Jan. 3, 2005 — at Boston U. 2, Minnesota 1
Note: The Oct. 12, 1996, game was an exhibition and not counted in records.

The interlockers: Maine vs. Minnesota-Duluth

From 1984 to 1989, the established yet depleted WCHA and newly formed Hockey East played an interlocking schedule in which games against teams from both leagues counted in the standings.

It was designed in part to give each side a boost. Most of the founding of Hockey East had just split off from the ECAC, while the WCHA was just three years removed from losing Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Michigan Tech to the CCHA (although Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan were part of the WCHA by the time the interlock started).

That connection is the reason Maine and Minnesota-Duluth have anything more than a single game of history. The Bulldogs lead the eight-game all-time series 5-3, with seven of the games taking place between 1984 and 1989.

Of note, Minnesota-Duluth’s record for power-play goals in a game (five) is still tied to the Nov. 22, 1985, game against the Black Bears.

Here’s the series:

Nov. 30, 1984 — at Minnesota-Duluth 6, Maine 2
Dec. 1, 1984 — at Minnesota-Duluth 7, Maine 2
Nov. 22, 1985 — Minnesota-Duluth 7, at Maine 2
Nov. 23, 1985 — Minnesota-Duluth 6, at Maine 3
Jan. 3, 1987 — Maine 2, at Minnesota-Duluth 1
Jan. 16, 1988 — at Maine 6, Minnesota-Duluth 2
Jan. 7, 1989 — Maine 4, at Minnesota-Duluth 1
Dec. 27, 2005 — Minnesota-Duluth 4, Maine 1 (at Florida College Classic)

Old NCAA foes: Cornell vs. Michigan

Cornell was sent to Michigan for a best-of-three NCAA first-round series in 1991, and the Big Red won the first game 5-4 in overtime.

The Wolverines responded with 6-4 and 9-3 wins in Games 2 and 3, respectively, to advance. That series represents half of the six-game all-time series that Michigan leads 3-2-1.

Here’s the breakdown:

Jan. 2, 1965 — at Michigan 7, Cornell 1
Jan. 2, 1988 — Cornell 6, Michigan 3 (at Yale Hockey Classic)
March 15, 1991 — Cornell 5, at Michigan 4, OT (NCAA first round)
March 16, 1991 — at Michigan 6, Cornell 4 (NCAA first round)
March 17, 1991 — at Michigan 9, Cornell 3 (NCAA first round)
Jan. 7, 1997 — at Michigan 3, Cornell 3

Big numbers: Air Force vs. Boston College

Air Force and Boston College have met only five times in a series that dates to 1977, and the Eagles have yet to be challenged.

BC’s average margin of victory in those five games is 6.4 goals, and no game has been closer than four goals.

The Eagles’ 14-7 victory on Jan. 6, 1979, still is in the Falcons’ record book for combined points in a period (26 in the second) and game (51); combined goals in a period (10 in the second) and game (21); and combined assists in a period (16 in the second) and game (30).

Here’s the full series:

Dec. 28, 1977 — at Boston College 6, Air Force 1
Jan. 5, 1979 — Boston College 11, at Air Force 1
Jan. 6, 1979 — Boston College 14, at Air Force 7
Dec. 28, 1993 — Boston College 5, Air Force 1 (at Denver Cup)
Dec. 29, 2007 — Boston College 8, Air Force 2 (at Mariucci Classic)

One-sided: North Dakota vs. Western Michigan

North Dakota and Western Michigan worked out a home-and-home series trade in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, the first end when the Broncos were coming off an NCAA tournament appearance.

But Western Michigan had slipped by the time it first faced the Fighting Sioux, and UND won all four meetings.

Two items of note: The Broncos allowed eight goals in the third period of a 12-5 loss on Jan. 2, 1998, a Western Michigan record for goals allowed in a period that still stands. And Broncos coach Andy Murray’s son, Brady, played for North Dakota from 2003 to 2005.

Here’s the series list:

Jan. 3, 1997 — North Dakota 6, at Western Michigan 3
Jan. 4, 1997 — North Dakota 5, at Western Michigan 3
Jan. 2, 1998 — at North Dakota 12, Western Michigan 5
Jan. 3, 1998 — at North Dakota 5, Western Michigan 1

One and done: Denver vs. Ferris State

Ferris State has appeared in Denver’s tournament more times (twice) than the teams have played each other (once).

The Bulldogs beat the Pioneers 3-2 in the 2005 Denver Cup third-place game.

Both Denver and Ferris State missed the NCAA tournament that season.

Dec. 31, 2005 — Ferris State 3, at Denver 2 (at Denver Cup)

All tied up: Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Miami

First, a reminder that shootouts don’t count toward your record as far as the NCAA is concerned.

With that disclaimer out of the way, Massachusetts-Lowell and Miami tied 4-4 in the only game they’ve played, a semifinal of the 2003 Nye Frontier Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.

The River Hawks advanced to the title game with a 4-2 shootout win.

Oct. 17, 2003 — Mass.-Lowell 4, Miami 4 (at Nye Frontier Classic, SO: UML 4-2)

Nice to meet you: Michigan State vs. Union

The first-round game between Michigan State and Union will be the first between the teams.

Union is the only of the 12 current ECAC Hockey teams that the Spartans have yet to play. Michigan State is 50-22-4 against the other 11.

Michigan State is one of three of the 11 CCHA teams that the Dutchmen haven’t played; Miami and Northern Michigan are the others. Union is 9-10-3 in games against CCHA teams, including a win over Michigan and two ties against Western Michigan this season.

  • Guest12

    Good article.

  • Helg56

    I wish the media could dig up more stories like the ones between Minnesota and Boston University, but all they can ever find is crap between Michigan and Ohio State football or some stupid clip about a last second shot we have all seen 1000 times in 1000 different games.

    No offence to the basketball tournament or woman, but why is woman’s college basketball on ESPN 1 and 2 while we have to scrounge and just hope we can watch our favorite team play some hockey…?

    Good article though! 

    • Irish Spectre

      …agreed on all counts, but college hockey doesn’t do itself any favors, either, by shipping Frozen Fours to remote venues like Florida and California.  Heck, why don’t they just have it in Havana, and be done with it!!

    • JS

      Friday marks the 10 year anniversary of the “Molly McGannon Game” at Yost which forever changed how regionals were hosted (and not for the better).

      • Patm

        I remember the incident, poor girl didn’t know how big a bee’s nest she made by making some very unpopular comments regarding the atmosphere…… far as the big hit in the game…. the hit today would probaly have been called a major as the check was above the shoulders……….personnely I’m happy to see the regionals in a different location then Yost every year, but that’s just me.

        • JS

          Now we get it at the Xcel Center every year with teams clawing not to have to play Minnesota at home (before you even start, don’t kid yourselves Gophers) and empty tombs bereft of any atmosphere throughout the rest of the Midwest.  I don’t see the improvement.  The one thing campus sites will always have over neutral arenas is atmosphere.

        • collegehockeyrocks

          Typical for the media, but they only printed half of what she said. She slammed Minnesota and North Dakota fans more than Michigan. What I never understood was the stupid Huskie mascot not getting off the ice AND spearing the guy from Micigan. Was agreat hit though.

    • bluetell

      Sometimes I think that it makes sense that college hockey isn’t on TV much since it has a smaller fanbase, but then I see ESPN hyping up women’s college basketball and then I wonder why college hockey isn’t on TV all the time

    • Joe C

      I would love to get video of the 1988 three-game series at Walter Brown between North Dakota and BU. I was there and it was there that I truly became hooked on the college game after growing up being hooked on the high school game.

      There was a great donneybrook before the first puck drop for the first game. For the rest of the series, the referee and linesman had to stand on the red line during warmups, making sure no one went across to the other side.

      Sitting in section eight was so much fun!

  • Dwvandy

    Interesting was some bad blood early on in the WCHA / Hockey East composite schedule in the mid 80s between UMD and Maine….  UMD dominated Maine in these series, and Maine was not yet the program that they became a few years later…  Story was that the late Maine coach Shawn Walsh got into the UMD locker room the before a game and measured curves on UMD players sticks…most notably Brett Hull and I believe Matt Christensen …  Measurements were requested after goals in several instances and penalties resulted having an effect on games strategy….True story.

  • MPLS Sioux

    Great Article. Probably one of the most interesting I’ve read on USCHO.  I had never heard about this story between BU and UofM. 

  • Swb

    Agree with Irish bring it back to the states who have college hockey and where fans really appreciate and follow the great game of hockey. Read an article about how the ncaa wants to bring the games to college campuses. Show me a college in Fl. or Cal that has hockey. So much for the students!!!

  • Mr Hockey

    Some false the movie Miracle you are led to believe that Rob McClanahan from Minnesota and Jack O’Callahan from Boston had it out in the 1976 playoffs. Problem is McClanahan wasn’t on the 1976 National Championship team.

    • Tomnnme

      Agree with your point on “Miracle” colorizing the facts, but they got the level of raw animosity between East and West of those days about right. I was in Denver in ’76. The college game is much different now. It was really a cult sport then, with a few geographic areas with major, rabid fan bases but zero national appeal. As tough as the re-alignment shakeup has been, an increase in inter-league play is a good thing for the sport.  

      • Mr Hockey

        I agree with you on every point. As unpopular as the Big 10 is, I like it. I like the fact the Gophers will play Michigan and Michigan St. more. It also will allow for more games vs East teams.  

  • Nyquist77

    Typical Jack Parker, pointing the finger at others for dirty play!!

    And Jack Parker never loses to a better team it is always an excuse

    Your act is very old Jack

  • TNick

    The reason IMHO that the NCAA Ice Hockey Committee moves there tournament to warm destinations on occasions is tri-fold.  1.  A city firstly has to put in a bid to host it.  Tampa/St. Pete put their bid in, impressed the committee, and they agreed it would work as they have an NHL arena with the Tampa Bay Lightning and rabid fans to boost.  2.  The NCAA wants to try out “non-traditional” hockey markets to host the tournament every 10 years or so to increase the popularity of the college game.  3.  Find locations where there are plenty of things for people to do on the off days of the tournament.  No doubt water activities will be aplenty this year in Tampa!

  • Bboeder

    I attended the 1976 semi final game in Denver while a law student at Minnesota.
    College hockey was a much different game back then.  Bench clearing brawls weren’t that unusual, at least in the WCHA. Frankly, from what I remember it wasn’t exactly like BU was a reluctant participant in the brawling.  Russ Anderson, the UM player kicked out of the game, immediately signed with the Hartford Whalers and had a fairly long career in the NHL, with the added sidelight of being married, for a while, to Miss America, who grew up about 2 miles from him in the Twin Cities.  A different time in college hockey.  I don’t think Jackie Parker was or has been exactly an innocent either then or in the year’s past but that’s the view from our west!  Should be a good game Saturday.

  • Patm

    You will increase the popularity by filling an arena with rabid hockey fans from the schools involved not by placing the biggest event of the year in a partially filled arena. If they want to play that game move the BCS championship game to Hawaii. The cameras will never pan above the ball field due to the sparsely inhabited bleachers. There are hotbeds for college hockey, if they bid to host then they should be given the game. All I can say is who ever was involved with the decision making process must have been wined and dined to the nines.

  • CCT’70

    The unpredictability of the first round is part of the fun.  I bent elbows with two friends who went to Union yesterday; they had fun!  Nice to see such a good team run with the big dogs!