Bangor In Focus

Maine and Merrimack prepare to face off in the Merrimack zone in a 1994 game at Alfond Arena.

"UMaine will go down in the annals of the game as one of the great teams in history. I can't think of a team I can remember that was better. They deserve to be the champions." -- Lake Superior State head coach Jeff Jackson.

College hockey will likely never see anything like the 1992-93 University of Maine Black Bears again -- at least not any time soon.

Led by freshman phenomenon Paul Kariya and senior captain Jim Montgomery, the Black Bears had a record of 42-1-2 and won the NCAA Division I championship, giving UMaine its first major national championship in any sport.

Head coach Shawn Walsh and Black Bear followers had high expectations for the '92-'93 season after a shocking 3-2 defeat to Michigan State in the 1992 East Regional at Providence, R.I., as the top-ranked team in the country. But it wouldn't be easy, as Maine had lost 1992 Hobey Baker Award winner Scott Pellerin to graduation and scoring threat Jean-Yves Roy to professional hockey. Montgomery would provide offense at center and strong leadership as captain; and goaltenders Mike Dunham, a junior; and Garth Snow, a senior, would give the Black Bears a formidable defense in goal. The freshman class was strong, led by Kariya and twins Chris and Peter Ferraro.

The season
to remember

Oct. 23 Providence 9-3 Win
Oct. 24 Providence 3-3 Tie
Oct. 30 New Brunswick 9-2 Win
Oct. 31 New Brunswick 11-1 Win
Nov. 7 at Providence 6-2 Win
Nov. 13 Merrimack 14-1 Win
Nov. 14 Merrimack 11-2 Win
Nov. 20 at Boston University 4-3 Win
Nov. 21 at Boston University 6-3 Win
Nov. 26 Yale (Alaska-Fairbanks tournament) 3-1 Win
Nov. 27 Bowling Green (Alaska-Fairbanks tournament) 8-1 Win
Nov. 28 Alaska-Fairbanks (Alaska-Fairbanks tournament) 6-4 Win
Dec. 4 Northeastern 5-4 Win
Dec. 5 Northeastern 11-2 Win
Dec. 11 New Hampshire (at Portland) 4-3 Win
Dec. 12 at UMass-Lowell 6-3 Win
Dec. 19 Western Michigan (Great Western Freeze-out) 4-1 Win
Dec. 20 Lake Superior State (Maine wins Great Western Freeze-out) 3-2 Win
Dec. 29 Ohio State (Cleveland tournament) 9-4 Win
Dec. 30 Bowling Green (Maine wins Cleveland tournament) 6-2 Win
Jan. 2 Miami of Ohio (Dexter Hockey Classic) 3-1 Win
Jan. 3 Brown (Maine wins Dexter Hockey Classic) 12-4 Win
Jan. 15 Clarkson 4-4 Tie
Jan. 16 Clarkson 6-0 Win
Jan. 22 at Boston College 8-1 Win
Jan. 24 at Boston College 4-1 Win
Jan. 29 at New Hampshire 5-2 Win
Jan. 30 at New Hampshire 8-3 Win
Feb. 5 UMass-Lowell 7-4 Win
Feb. 6 UMass-Lowell 4-2 Win
Feb. 12 at Northeastern 7-1 Win
Feb. 13 at Northeastern 6-2 Win
Feb. 19 Boston University 7-6 Loss (OT)
Feb. 20 Boston University (Maine wins Hockey East season title) 6-1 Win
Feb. 26 at Merrimack 4-2 Win
Feb. 27 at Merrimack 8-1 Win
March 2 Boston College 9-1 Win
March 6 New Hampshire 5-2 Win
March 12 Northeastern (Hockey East playoffs) 6-1 Win
March 14 Northeastern (Hockey East playoffs) 9-5 Win
March 19 UMass-Lowell (Hockey East playoffs, at Boston Garden) 7-5 Win
March 20 Boston University (Maine wins Hockey East tournament) 5-2 Win
March 27 Minnesota (NCAA playoffs, at Worcester, Mass.) 6-2 Win
April 1 Michigan (NCAA Frozen Four, at Milwaukee) 4-3 Win (OT)
April 3 Lake Superior State (NCAA Championship, at Milwaukee) 5-4 Win

But few people thought the team would dominate as it did.

After opening the season with a 9-3 win over the Providence College Friars in front of a record Alfond Arena crowd of 5,442, the Black Bears had to settle for a 3-3 tie the next night. The Black Bears then won five straight games before facing Hockey East rival Boston University in Boston in a two-game series on Nov. 20 and 21. In the five games preceding their showdown with the Terriers, the Black Bears outscored their opponents 51-8.

At Boston, Snow made 40 saves in the first game as the Black Bears beat the Terriers 4-3. The next night, Peter Ferraro scored three goals to lead the Black Bears to a 6-3 win that ended in a brawl and harsh words between the two teams.

The charged atmosphere so early in the season between the two teams proved to be a harbinger for things to come.

From there, the Black Bears showed the rest of college hockey the meaning of a team by winning three holiday tournaments without Kariya and the Ferraro twins, who went to Europe to play in the World Junior Championships. The Black Bears' biggest game came against defending national champion Lake Superior State in the Great Western Freezeout final, when Dunham made 32 saves as the Black Bears held on for a 3-2 win.

Few people had expected the Black Bears to do so well without their star freshmen, who provided a bulk of the team's offense.

On Jan. 15, 1993, however, Clarkson University was within 1 minute, 39 seconds, of ending the Black Bears' 22-game unbeaten streak when Cal Ingraham scored a power-play goal to tie the game 4-4. The scrappy 5-foot-4 Ingraham, a transfer from the Air Force Academy, would lead the nation in goals scored with 46. Neither team scored in overtime and the Black Bears escaped. The next night, the Black Bears prevented Clarkson from getting a shot on goal in the first period and won 6-0.

After the Clarkson scare, the Black Bears dispatched opponents with ease for the next month, winning another eight straight games and outscoring opponents 49-16. Kariya dazzled fans and players alike with his speed an expert stick-handling, making him the favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award, given to college hockey's top player.

The Terriers visited Alfond Arena for a two-game series on Feb. 19. The Black Bears took a 6-2 lead on Feb. 19 and appeared headed for an easy win that would clinch the regular season Hockey East title. But the Terriers scored four straight goals to send the game into overtime. In overtime, Mike Prendergast broke away with the puck at center ice and scored against Dunham to give the Black Bears a 7-6 loss.

After the game, Walsh said the Black Bears needed to lose then to keep things in perspective.

Prendergast said: "My sister could have scored that goal."

On the Maine side, Kariya lamented the poor defensive play of Maine's forwards, including himself: "We were horrible. We hung Mike [Dunham] out to dry."

Struck with the reality that their 30-1-2 record did not mean they were infallible, especially after failing to hold a four-goal lead, the Black Bears returned the next night and beat the Terriers 6-1 to capture the Hockey East regular season title.

The next obstacle for the Black Bears was one of the worst nor'easters to hit Maine. With the violent winter storm bearing down on Orono on March 12, the Black Bears won the first game of their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series against Northeastern. More than 3 feet of snow fell on some parts of Maine that night and the next day. Hockey East officials vowed the game would go on, but it was evident there would be nobody in the stands to watch, so officials rescheduled the game for the next afternoon.

Game 2 wasn't pretty, but the Black Bears won 9-5 before a sparse crowd that had managed to make the trek to Orono despite local roads still being difficult to drive.

Former Maine assistant coach Bruce Crowder and his UMass-Lowell Chiefs made things difficult for the Black Bears in the Hockey East semi-final March 19 at the Boston Garden. The Chiefs led 4-3 late into the second period when Walsh decided to pull Dunham in favor of Snow, whose stick-handling for a goalie made him a virtual third defenseman. The change in goal seemed to revive the sluggish Bears, as they came back to win 7-5. Senior Kent Salfi tied the game with a goal with 2:58 left in the second period. Kariya and junior Patrice Tardif each scored in the first 3:17 of the third period.

Walsh had Snow start in his regular turn the next night in the Hockey East championship game against the Terriers and Montgomery and sophomore Mike Letendresse each scored two goals as the Black Bears won 5-2. Snow made 28 saves.

Determined not to be upended in the NCAA quarterfinal at the Worcester Centrum in Worcester, Mass., the Black Bears eliminated the Minnesota Golden Gophers 6-2 to advance to the Frozen Four at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. In the semifinal at Milwaukee, Michigan took an early 2-0 lead and led Maine 3-2 with 4:03 left in the third period when Ingraham scored his second goal of the game to tie the score 3-3.

Defenseman Lee Saunders won the game for Maine when, 1:36 into overtime, he dived forward and somehow managed to push the puck enough to go between the legs of the disoriented Michigan goalie.

The comeback

Despite stumbling in the midst of NCAA violations in the 1993-94 season, Maine returned to the NCAA Division I Championship in 1995, losing to Hockey East rival Boston University. In 1999, Maine defeated Hockey East rival New Hampshire to win its second championship.

Although the Black Bears were 41-1-2 heading into the April 3 championship game against Lake Superior State, whom they had beaten 3-2 earlier in the season without Kariya or the Ferraro brothers, the Black Bears were inexperienced against the defending national champions.

And it showed.

After taking a 2-1 lead into the second period, the Black Bears found themselves against the wall -- literally -- as the Lakers waged an aggressive defense by pushing them into the boards and tying up the puck. The Lakers scored three unanswered goals in the second period to lead 4-2 heading into the second intermission.

Walsh had long stressed the importance of strenuous conditioning regimens in practices, and it paid off. Snow replaced Dunham in goal to spark the defense and Kariya assisted Montgomery on three straight goals in a span of less than five minutes to give the Black Bears a 5-4 win and Maine its first major national championship.

It wasn't easy after Montgomery's natural hat trick, though: the Lakers managed to hit the cross bar above a sprawled Snow with 1:05 left in the third period, almost tying the game.

"I was just praying," Snow said afterward. "I heard the ping of it hitting the crossbar. I was lucky."

As soon as the clock struck 0:00, students back in Orono erupted in cheers and hollering. Groups of students scampered into pickup trucks and sped around the campus. Others ran through dorm hallways.

The 1992-93 season was magical. On the eve of the championship game, Kariya became the first freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award. His three assists in the championship game gave him a record 75 for the season to go along with his 25 goals. He would turn pro during the next season, joining the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and eventually playing in the National Hockey League's all-star game alongside his idol, Wayne Gretzky.

During the 1993-94 season the university and NCAA uncovered a long list of NCAA violations involving academic deficiencies for players and the acceptance of gifts from boosters and even the university itself. The Black Bears returned to the national championship game in 1995, where they lost to the Terriers. But in 1999, the Black Bears were the underdogs when they beat New Hampshire 4-3 in overtime for that year's championship.

View the 1992-93 final statistics for the Black Bears.

1995-2012, Ryan R. Robbins. All rights reserved.

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