The Minnesota Gophers will face off against the Boston University Terriers in the first NCAA Frozen Four Semifinal Thursday afternoon in Tampa. It will be the fifth time that the Gophers and BU have faced off in the NCAA semifinals and the ninth time the two teams will have faced off in the NCAA Tournament. These two teams have some of the most stories history against one another, and will look to add another chapter to that lore on Thursday. Lets take a quick look at the NCAA Tournament games between these two teams.
March 20, 1971— NCAA Championship Game @ Syracuse NY
Boston University 4, Minnesota 2
BU finished second in the ECAC and advanced to the then four team NCAA Tournament for the 7th time. They knocked off Denver in the semifinals before facing the Gophers who were not expected to be there. Minnesota entered the WCHA East Region Tournament with a 11-14-2 record and then upset Wisconsin and North Dakota to make the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers then defeated Harvard 6-5 in OT to get to a title matchup with BU., Minnesota was the first and only team to make the NCAA Championship game with a losing record. The Terriers had defeated the Gophers 6-0 earlier in the season. The Gophers just did not have enough horses and BU would win 4-2 and pick up their first NCAA Championship in program history. But the Gophers would get their revenge a few years later. Here is a short video with clips from the game.
March 14, 1974, NCAA Semifinal @ Boston, MA
Minnesota 5, Boston University 4
The Gophers would knock off the Terriers in the NCAA semifinals in 1974 in the Terriers’ home town. In Herb Brooks’ second season behind the Gopher bench Minnesota knocked off Michigan and Denver in the WCHA Tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota was the #2 seed from the west and would face ECAC Champion BU, the #1 seed from the east in what would be legend Jack Parker’s first NCAA game behind the bench for BU. Minnesota had a 4-2 lead in the third period before the Terriers stormed back to tie the game at four with ten minutes to play. BU earned a power play with two minutes left in the game but Minnesota would get a shorthanded goal from Mike Polich to pick up a 5-4 win over the Terriers and then advance to knock off Michigan Tech in the Championship game the next night to win their first NCAA Championship. But more drama was just two years away.
March 26, 1976, NCAA Semifinal @ Denver, CO
Minnesota 4, Boston University 2.
The infamous brawl game incorrectly turned into a scene in Miracle. The true facts of that game and than night will depend on whether you are talking to a Gopher supporter or a BU supporter. Just 70 seconds into the game a bench clearing brawl began and lasted for up to 30 minutes according to some people there that night. Via an article on USCHO.com, “The accounts vary, but things got 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.”
Normally everyone that left the bench would have been ejected—but that would have been both full rosters ending the game. Instead the referees decided to just kick out Anderson and Meagher, a huge benefit to the Gophers as Meagher was one of the best players in the country and Anderson was a large enforcer type for the Gophers. BU coach Parker was irate and went off in the postgame interview on Herb Brooks infamously calling him “Herb Bush” and claiming he had set it all up to get BU’s best player out of the game. Brooks never did fess up, but as we all know from 1980 he could play mindgames with his teams in the best way. In either case, the game was played and Minnesota would win 4-2 and then advance to defeat Michigan Tech 6-4 after battling back from a 3-0 deficit to win NCAA Championship #2
The incorrect part in Miracle? The movie showed BU alum Jack O’Callahan squaring off with former Gopher Rob McClanahan because, according to the script, Minnesota had stolen the 1976 national championship from BU. The minor problem—McClanahan was playing his senior season at Mounds View in 1976 and was not on the Gophers roster.
March 21-22, 1986, NCAA First Round Series @ Boston, MA
Minnesota 6, BU 4; Minnesota 5, BU 3
In 1986 the Gophers and Terriers faced off in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament in what was then a two-game total goals series. BU won Hockey East and was the #1 seed in the east while the Gophers squeaked in as the #4 seed in the west in Doug Woog’s first season behind the bench for the Gophers. Minnesota would go into Walter Brown Arena and upset the Terriers in both games winning the total series 11-7 and would advance to the Final Four in Providence. The Gophers would lose in the semifinals to eventual NCAA Champion Michigan State 6-4 before knocking off Denver in the third place game that was played at that time. BU would get their revenge in the 90’s though.
March 31, 1994, NCAA Semifinal @ St. Paul, MN
Boston University 4, Minnesota 1
The Gophers were back in the Frozen Four in St. Paul for the first time since losing in overtime to Harvard in 1989. Minnesota knocked off Mass-Lowell in overtime in the West Regional in East Lansing to advance back to the familiar confines of the St. Paul Civic Center. Awaiting them was BU who was the #1 seed from the East and had no trouble knocking off Wisconsin in their opening game. BU went up 3-0 in the first period in front of the Minnesota heavy crown and the Gophers couldn’t catch up. Lake Superior State would trounce BU 9-1 two nights later wo win the NCAA title. But BU would again get its revenge the next season.
March 30, 1995 NCAA Semifinal @ Providence, RI
Boston University 7, Minnesota 3
Minnesota returned to the Final Four the next season defeating RPI and Colorado College in the regionals. BU was again a #1 seed and needed to just get past defending champ Lake Superior State in their opening game—and did. Next up was the Gophers and BU never slowed down a bit cruising to a 7-3 win and then a defeat of Maine in for the NCAA title two nights later.
March 24, 2012 NCAA First Round @ St. Paul, MN
Minnesota 7, Boston University 3
The most recent time these two teams faced off in the NCAA Tournament came in 2012 when the Gophers knocked off BU 7-3 on the backs of a pair of goals from Jake Hansen and a goal and three asists from Kyle Rau to advance to the Rehion Final the next day. Minnesota would defeat North Dakota and advance to the Frozen Four—also in Tampa before running into eventual champion Boston College in the semifinals and falling 6-1.
In total the Gophers have a 5-3 edge over BU in NCAA Tournament play, but the teams are split evenly 2-2 in NCAA Semifinals. Who will take the lead in that series after Thursday’s game, and will it be as memorable as 1976, or just fade away like one of the games in the 1990’s.
We will have a full preview looking at this year’s Gophers and Terriers squads on Thursday.