Photo Credit: Andy Cross, The Denver Post
There is no denying the extensive history between the University of Denver and the University of North Dakota hockey programs.
Since their first meeting when both programs joined the Midwest Collegiate Hockey League (MCHL) back in 1951, the incredibly talented teams have battled each year to create a unique conference rivalry.
Both teams rank second in all-time NCAA DI Men’s Ice Hockey Championships with seven apiece (Michigan has the most with nine). However, there are far more similarities between the Pioneer and the Fighting Hawks than just championships alone.
Jim Montgomery enters his third season with the Pioneers as the program’s eighth head coach.
Prior to DU and his coaching career, Montgomery was a Hobey Baker Award Finalist during his campaign at the University of Maine and ended his career as the Black Bears’ all-time leading scorer. That effort led UMaine to their first NCAA Championship.
Following college, Montgomery played six seasons in the NHL. He spent time with the St. Louis Blues (93-94), Montreal Canadiens (94-95), Philadelphia Flyers (94-94), San Jose Sharks (00-01) and the Dallas Stars (01-02 and 02-03).
Brad Berry, on the other hand, is in his first year as head coach for his alma mater, North Dakota. He is the program’s 16th head coach.
After a standout career as a defenseman under NoDak’s John “Gino” Gasparini, his professional career consisted of 241 games over eight years.
Berry had stints with Winnipeg, Minnesota, and Dallas. Ironically, Berry was a professional scout with the 1999-2000 Dallas Stars team around the same time Montgomery was in Dallas.
The rosters this year between teams are almost identical in class comparison. DU holds a roster of 26 while North Dakota lists 27. Both teams are led by a modest class of four seniors.
Grant Arnold, Gabe Levin, Quentin Shore, and Nolan Zajac will finish out their collegiate career with Denver this year while Drake Caggiula, Bryn Chyzyk, Coltyn Sanderson, and Colten St. Clair close out their senior season with North Dakota.
The junior class for both teams is similar in size as well. Denver holds nine juniors and North Dakota has six.
The sophomore classes are equal with six apiece on each side. Both teams also encompass promising youth among their large freshmen classes. DU’s roster consists of seven freshman while North Dakota compasses a staggering eleven.
The top lines for the Pios and the Fighting Sioux compare evenly in age and obvious chemistry.
This season alone, North Dakota’s top line known commonly as the “CBS line” has generated national attention as one of college’s most potent, dynamic lines of the season. Senior left-wing, Drake Caggiula, sophomore center, Nick Schmaltz, and freshman right-winger, Brock Boeser make up NoDak’s biggest threat.
Denver’s top line include junior left-wing, Trevor Moore, freshman center, Dylan Gambrell, and right-wing, Danton Heinen.
While Denver’s top line hasn’t scored in every game together this season like the CBS line, the Pios top line has generated 70 combined points this season.
Denver and North Dakota’s rivalry dates back over a half-century and includes a variety of crucial matches where the Pios and Fighting Hawks (formerly Fighting Sioux) clashed.
In 1958, North Dakota advanced to their first National Championship after crushing Harvard 9-1 in the semifinals. The Fighting Hawks were denied the win by Denver after the Pios won comfortably, 6-2.
Five years later in 1963, North Dakota sought revenge against Denver, topping the Pios 6-5 to earn the Hawks’ second National Title.
Another five years later, in 1968, Denver shut out North Dakota 4-0 to claim DU’s 4th National Title.
More recently, in 2005 Denver’s Paul Stastny led Denver with two goals in a 4-1 victory over North Dakota for Denver’s 2nd straight and 7th overall National Title.
The substantial similarities between No. 13 Denver and No. 2 North Dakota will be put to the test this weekend as the conference rivals will clash in Magness Arena for their second series of the year.