It was the 1971 NCAA semifinals and the Crimson hockey team, led by Joe Cavanaugh, was favored over Minnesota to move into the finals against B.U. But it was not to be, as the Golden Gophers pulled a rabbit out of their hats in the final minute to tie the game while short-handed, and won it 6-5 less than two minutes into overtime.
When these same two colleges meet again in St. Louis, Mo., in the opening round of that city's Invitational Tournament on December 27, you can bet that coach Bill Cleary, then an assistant to Cooney Weiland, won't let victory slip away as easily as it did in '71.
The squad heads into the tournament with a 4-3 record, all of the losses coming by just a single goal. A sweep there would indeed be sweet. "The kids are really looking forward to playing these teams," Cleary said. "We've been getting hit with these one-goal losses which can hurt more than getting bombed, but this group bounces back better than any group I've had."
Harvard is the only Eastern representative in the tourney, as St. Louis and North Dakota clash in the other first round game. Should both St. Louis and Harvard advance to the finals, it will be the first meeting between the two. Both Minnesota (9-4 against Harvard) and North Dakota (4-1) however hold an edge in play over the Crimson.
The Crimson has been no stranger to success in recent holiday tournaments with a pair of ECAC Christmas tournament wins in 1969 and 1970, and a sweep of the Great Lakes Invitational last year at Detroit. Unfortunately, the only recent loss came in the 1971 St. Louis event, as Wisconsin knocked off Harvard in the first round.
This year's opening will be just as tough as the nationally ranked Gophers, ninth in the latest AP poll, sport a 7-4-2 record. But Bill Cleary remembers 1971, and you can be sure that his team won't let up for a minute.
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