The road to this year’s national championship has delivered two distinctly different matchups headed for the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. On one side of the bracket, a longtime power is going head to head with a rising force while the other side features one of college hockey’s most storied rivalries adding another chapter to its growing volume.
To say that North Dakota and Minnesota are familiar with one another is like saying the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens are just friendly acquaintances. The two schools have met on the ice 283 times, the NCAA’s third highest total, and up until this season they were Western Collegiate Hockey Association combatants before Minnesota joined the newly formed Big 10 while North Dakota, the last at-large bid to make it into this year’s tourney, jumped over to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in its first season.
Despite their new homes, don’t expect any of the heat to come off the hostility between the teams. The two schools have long been among the best in the collegiate game and perennial national championship contenders. Some of the biggest names in hockey history have graced their respective ranks, including Herb Brooks and Neal Broten (Minnesota) as well Ed Belfour (North Dakota) and Dean Blais (both), while many current NHLers such as Thomas Vanek (Minnesota) and Zach Parise (North Dakota) have played a part in the teams’ histories.