It’s the same sport on the same stretch of ice. And yet college hockey offers a dramatically different experience than the NHL.
When two intercollegiate teams face off, a long history of competition comes to a head, setting both the tone of the play and the intensity of the crowd. And the dynasties and legacies that determine that history at each school often have just as much to do with the men standing behind the bench as they do with the men sitting on it.
When the 47th annual Great Lakes Invitational kicks off next week at Joe Louis Arena, four coaches with an intertwined history in college hockey will be directing their teams in pursuit of the MacInnes Cup.
Two of the most regaled, veteran coaches in college hockey will be pitted against two new coaches ready to make a name for themselves and their teams.
University of Michigan – Red Berenson
|The Wolverines have won 12 Great Lakes Invitational titles under head coach Red Berenson. |
Competing in their 41st GLI, Michigan is led by coach Red Berenson, who has helped the Wolverines maintain the status of a powerhouse club for the past 28 seasons.
After a stint coaching the St. Louis Blues in the early 80s, Berenson took over at his alma mater in 1984. In 27 seasons, he has led the Wolverines to 11 Frozen Fours and two NCAA championships (1996 and 1998).
Since Berenson’s second year behind the bench, the Wolverines have finished every season with a winning record, a feat that puts Berenson No. 6 all-time in the NCAA record books for career victories.
Against Boston College coach Jerry York, Berenson has a 27-22-1 career record.
Michigan Tech University – Mel Pearson
Michigan Tech fans are probably hoping that some of Berenson’s expertise rubbed off on Mel Pearson, who took the coaching position with the Huskies at the beginning of this year after spending 23 years as an assistant coach at UM.
Hailed as one of the best recruiters in the nation, Pearson has recruited 54 future NHL players and is credited with helping to build the UM squads that won two NCAA tournaments.
In Pearson’s first season, the Huskies are 7th in the WCHA standings with a 6-7-1 conference record and 9-9-1 overall. Michigan State University – Tom Anastos
In East Lansing, the Spartans are also under the direction of a rookie coach. But Anastos, appointed after coach Rick Comley retired, has more than his fair share of hockey experience.
Anastos served as head coach of the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1987-1990, then as assistant coach under Ron Mason (the winningest coach in NCAA hockey history) from 1990-92.
In 1998, Anastos’ involvement with college hockey was broadened when the NCAA hired him as commissioner of the CCHA, a position which he used to promote the reception, growth and longevity of college hockey.
Since Anastos took over at MSU, the Spartans have gone 10-6-2 (6-5-1 within the conference) and are currently ranked 14th in the NCAA.
Boston College – Jerry York
|Head coach at Boston College since 1994, Jerry York has 892 NCAA career wins. |
No matter how much or little experience the Michigan coaches have under their belts, they will all have to keep their heads up when facing off against BC's York, who is the winningest active coach in the NCAA.
York has won the NCAA three times at BC (2001, 2008, 2010) and once at Bowling Green in 1984. He has led the Eagles to five Hockey East season titles, eight Hockey East tournament titles, and nine Frozen Four appearances.
Currently a top of the Hockey East Conference with an 8-3-0 record (11-5-0 overall), the Eagles will be a serious contender in the GLI.
In 41 years of competing at the GLI, UM leads the competition with 14 championships, including a victory last year over Colorado College. MSU trails with 12 wins in 37 appearances, Michigan Tech has 9 wins in 45 appearances and Boston College has one win in 3 appearances.