The 10 Greatest College Hockey Teams of All Time

Peter StrohmeierContributor IOctober 10, 2011

The 10 Greatest College Hockey Teams of All Time

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    The 2011-12 college hockey season has finally arrived.  Most college hockey teams kicked off the season this past weekend.

    I decided to take this opportunity to take a look back at some of the greatest college hockey teams of all time.

    Here are my rankings of the ten best college hockey teams of all time.


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    Compiling a list of the top ten college hockey teams of all time is not an easy task.

    Considering the differences that exist between today’s game and the past, it’s difficult to assess who exactly is the best college hockey team of all time.

    Regardless, I figured I’d give it a try.

    First, each team on this list had to have won a national championship.  This would help narrow down the list.

    From that list, I examined the overall record with an emphasis on the number of wins, the players and coaches involved and the final outcome of the national championship game.  I also attempted to provide balance between generations.

    I would also note that each college hockey program was eligible for one slot.  For example, arguments could be made that both the 1978 and 2009 Boston University teams belong on this list.  For the purposes of this article, I narrowed in on the one that I thought was the best.

    Clear as day, right?  Yeah, I know.

    Anyways, let’s move on to the rankings.

Honorable Mention

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    First, let’s take a look at a couple of teams that just barely missed the cut. 

    1995-96 Michigan (33-7-2)

    The 1996 Michigan national championship team is probably best remembered for Mike Legg’s crazy lacrosse-style goal against Minnesota in the NCAA Regional Tournament game, but Michigan did indeed go on to win it all that season.

    Michigan beat Colorado College 3-2 in overtime to win their ninth national championship.  The Wolverines were led by the great Red Berenson, and future NHL players such as Marty Turco and Brendan Morrison.

    1964-65 Michigan Tech (24-5-2)

    Given recent years, I am sure it’s difficult to imagine Michigan Tech as a powerhouse, but during the 1960s and '70s, they were.  During this era, this small hockey program in copper country would win three national titles and make eight appearances in the NCAA Frozen Four. 

    This championship team was toward the beginning of its tenure as an elite college hockey program.  The Huskies finished with a record of 24-5-2. 

    The team featured Hall of Fame goalie Tony Esposito and was coached by John MacInnes, one of college hockey’s greatest coaches.  The 8-2 stomping of Boston College gave MacInnes his second of three national titles.

    Photo:  The 1964-65 Michigan Tech championship team included NHL star Tony Esposito.

10. 1978-79 Minnesota (32-11-1)

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    The 1978-79 Minnesota Golden Gopher hockey team is probably best known for what it contributed a year later, but it was still one of the greatest college hockey teams of all time.

    The 1979 Minnesota national championship team was coached by the legendary Herb Brooks, and included eight members of the 1980 U.S. “Miracle on Ice” team, which Brooks also coached.

    The team featured such stars as All-American defenseman Bill Baker and future inaugural Hobey Baker Award winner Neal Broten.  In addition, all players on this championship team hailed from the state of Minnesota.

    Minnesota would go on to win their third national title by beating rival North Dakota 4-3 in Detroit after a memorable diving goal by Neal Broten.

    Minnesota would have to wait 23 years for another national championship.

    Photo:  The 1978-79 Minnesota Gophers were coached by the legendary Herb Brooks.

9. 2008-09 Boston University (35-6-4)

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    It was reported that Jack Parker said that his 2009 Boston University Terriers could possibly be the greatest team he ever coached.

    Who am I to disagree with him?

    Parker has had some great teams over his long tenure at Boston University, but there was something special about this one.  The 2009 BU Terriers pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in college hockey history to win the national title. 

    Down 3-1, Boston University rallied with two unanswered goals in the final minute of the national title game.  Zach Cohen scored with a minute left and Nick Bonino tied it up with 17 seconds left in regulation.  At 11:47 of overtime, Colby Cohen scored the game winner to give Boston University its fifth national championship.

8. 1989-90 Wisconsin (36-9-1)

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    Jeff Sauer had many good teams during his tenure at Wisconsin, but this one was one of his best. 

    The 1990 Badgers were led by great players like Gary Shuchuk, Chris Tancill, John Byce and goaltender Duane Derksen.  Shuchuk, Byce and Tancill combined for over 200 points of Wisconsin's offensive production.

    In goal, Derksen was as solid as they come.  The team also included a young player named Barry Richter, who would go on to be one of the Badgers' greatest defensive players of all time.

    The Badgers finished off their remarkable season with a 7-3 rout of Colgate in front of over 15,000 fans at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

    I can only imagine what it must have felt like for the Colgate players to play in that big of a game, in front of that many Badger fans.

7. 1990-91 Northern Michigan (38-5-4)

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    Small hockey programs that defy the odds are one of the many reasons people love college hockey.

    The 1991 Northern Michigan Wildcats embody that, and will go down as one of the greatest college hockey teams of all time. 

    The Northern Michigan Wildcats finished with an incredible 38-win season, led by Coach Rick Comley.  However, their most amazing accomplishment came in the 1991 national championship game, by defeating a star-studded Boston University Terriers team that included future NHL stars such as Tony Amonte, Keith Tkachuk and Shawn McEachern.

    At 1:57 of the third overtime, Darryl Plandowski scored the game-winning goal, giving Northern Michigan its first and only national title.

    Pictured:  Before he won a national title at Michigan State, Comley won his first national title at Northern Michigan.

6. 1984-85 Rensselaer (35-2-1)

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    Many people have heard of Adam Oates.

    Not many people have heard of RPI.

    Rensselaer Polytechnic University is a private institution located in Troy, New York.  It was also home to one of college hockey’s all-time greatest teams.

    During the 1984-85 season, Adam Oates led RPI to an amazing 30-win unbeaten streak.

    Oates finished his three-year career at RPI with 66 goals and 150 assists.  Oates holds the school record for most points and assists in a season.

    RPI would cap off their amazing year in Detroit by defeating Providence 2-1 in the national championship game, and putting RPI on the map in college hockey.

    Pictured:  Adam Oates won a national championship in college at RPI in 1985.

5. 1960-61 Denver (30-1-1)

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    Murray Armstrong was to college hockey what Bear Bryant was to college football.

    When he first took the Denver job, the bold Armstrong made a promise that he’d win a national championship within three years.

    He won it a year early, in 1958.  Armstrong would go on to win five national championships at DU.

    The 1961 Denver national championship team was one of his most dominant teams during his long-storied career behind the Denver bench.  The 1961 Denver team consisted of five all-Americans in Bill Masterton, George Kirkwood, Grant Munro, Marty Howe and Jerry Walker.

    Denver completely demolished St. Lawrence, 12-2, in the national championship game in front of a hometown crowd in Denver.  This game remains one of the most lopsided national title games in the history of college hockey. 

    Murray Armstrong passed away this past year at the age of 96.

4. 1948-49 Boston College (21-1)

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    Boston College is one of college hockey’s finest programs, and it has been that way since the start of organized college hockey.

    In 1949, Boston College would go on to win the second recorded national title in college hockey.

    BC was led by legendary coach John “Snooks” Kelley.  During that season, Jack Mulhern led BC in scoring, putting up an amazing 65 points.  In the net, Bernie Burke led the team with a 20-0-1 record as starting goaltender.

    Dartmouth handed BC its only loss in the regular season, but BC would get their revenge in the national title game, defeating Dartmouth 4-3 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

    Photo:  The winning tradition continues on at Boston College.

3. 1986-87 North Dakota (40-8)

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    North Dakota has won seven national titles and has had many great teams over the years, but this team was by far the best and most exciting to watch. 

    The team set a record at the time for most wins in a season (with 40) and outscored conference opponents by a margin of about three goals per game.

    The team was coached by the great John “Gino” Gasparini, and was his last of three national titles behind the North Dakota bench.

    The team nicknamed the “Hrkac Circus” was led by Tony Hrkac, who scored an NCAA record of 116 points that season.  The team also included Bob Joyce, who scored a school record of 52 goals, and future NHL all-star goaltender Ed Belfour.

    Photo:  Tony Hrkac led UND to one of its best seasons of all-time.

2. 1992-93 Maine (42-1-2)

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    The 1992-93 Maine hockey team was one of the most dominating forces in college hockey in the modern era.  The team finished with an overall record of 42-1-2, losing only to rival Boston University in overtime. 

    The team was led by future NHL star Paul Kariya, who scored 100 points during the season, and by Maine’s all-time leading scorer Jim Montgomery.  The team also featured one of the best goalie tandems college hockey has seen, in Garth Snow and Mike Dunham. 

    Maine would go on to capture its first national title in 1993 by beating Lake Superior State 5-4 in Milwaukee.

1. 1969-70 Cornell (29-0)

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    Whenever a team goes undefeated in a season and wins a national title, they are bound to land high on a best-of-all-time list.

    After a tough 4-3 loss to Denver in the national championship in 1969, Cornell would rebound and become the first college hockey team to go undefeated, with a perfect record of 29-0 on the season.

    The team was coached by the great Ned Harkness, who holds the coaching record for all-time winning percentage.  Harkness passed away in 2008.

    The team still remains the only undefeated team to win a national championship in college hockey history.

    Photo:  The tradition lives on at Cornell.

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