UAH vs. Bemidji at 20: The ultimate North-South rivalry

You can hear it at just about every game at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minnesota.

“Who hates Huntsville? WE HATE HUNTSVILLE!”

Even last season — just the third in the last 20 that UAH and Bemidji State did not play hockey against each other — Beaver fans made their distaste for the Chargers quite clear.

Mario Mazzuca 1996

Mario Mazzuca attacks the net against BSU goalie Robin Cook at the 1996 NCAA Division II championship.
(Photo by UAH Sports Information)

Bemidji, for the most part, is glad that UAH was accepted to join BSU in the WCHA. It means the rivalry will continue, as well as their chant.

And for UAH, having Bemidji State come to town to usher in the WCHA era — just seems right.

The Chargers have played the Beavers 70 times, more than any other opponent. They have faced off in four NCAA Division II championship series, each winning two. They were charter members of College Hockey America, with Bemidji State taking four of six games head-to-head (two in overtime) in CHA Tournament play. Close fought games with championship implicatoins — that is what rivalries are made of.

And so, after 20 years, the UAH-Bemidji State rivalry continues. Here’s a look back at one of college sports’ most unique rivalries:

UAH vs. Bemidji, 2004 NCAA Div. II championship

Mario Mazzuca (18) and Dave Slifka (2) in UAH’s first meeting with Bemidji State at the 1994 NCAA Division II championship.
(Photo by UAH Sports Information)

March 11-12, 1994 (NCAA Division II National Championship): Bemidji came to Huntsville looking to defend their Division II national championship from 1993. UAH, which earned the right to host as the No. 1-ranked team, won the first game 5-3 on Garry Symons’ two goals. Bemidji used two quick second-period goals to take Game 2 2-1.

The championship would be decided by a 20-minute “mini-game.” Mike Scanlan scored for UAH, and Eric Fulton tied the game at 1. The longest night in Charger hockey history came with heartbreak at 11:10 p.m., as Jason Mack’s goal at the 15:48 mark of OT gave BSU another title.

UAH 1996 championship

Derek Puppa raises the trophy as the Chargers celebrate the 1996 Division II national championship.
(Photo by UAH Sports Information)

March 8-9, 1996 (NCAA Division II National Championship): UAH would have to wait two years for a shot at revenge. Denied a chance for a rematch in 1995 while Bemidji beat Mercyhurst for a third straight championship, the Chargers rolled to an undefeated regular season.

Bemidji State retuned to Huntsville, and the Chargers would not be denied this time. Matt Parker got the party started with a goal 42 seconds into Game 1, and Mario Mazzuca added two more as UAH romped 7-1. In Game 2, Tony Guzzo, Jamie Baby, and Mazzuca’s second-period goals, plus Derek Puppa’s 23 saves, lifted UAH to a 3-0 win, a series sweep, an undefeated season, and its first national championship in any sport.

March 14-15, 1997 (NCAA Division II National Championship): UAH visited Bemidji for the first time, and while the Chargers stayed competitive in the loud John Glas Fieldhouse, the Beavers regained the Division II crown with 3-2 and 4-2 victories.

UAH at Bemidji 1997

UAH’s first visit to Bemidji was at the old John Glas Fieldhouse for the 1997 Division II championship, won by the Beavers.
(Photo by UAH Sports Information)

March 13-14, 1998 (NCAA Division II National Championship): Back to Huntsville for the fourth and final meeting between these two clubs as Division II members. The Chargers rolled to their second national title, beating the Beavers 6-2 and 5-2 in a series that amped up the animosity. In the closing seconds, BSU’s Jim Logan checked into Shane Stewart behind the UAH net. The Chargers retaliated and a fracas ensued.

Months later, both Bemidji and UAH announced they were moving up to Division I hockey. After a transition season in 1998-99, the Chargers and Beavers resumed the series as members of College Hockey America.

1999-2000 (5 meetings): Outside of a 5-4 overtime loss in Huntsville, UAH dominated Bemidji in the first CHA season. The Chargers won 6-4 and 6-3 in Bemidji, and 6-1 in Huntsville after the OT loss. At the CHA semfinal at the VBC, UAH cruised 10-4.

2000-2001 (4 meetings): UAH won all four meetings, but not as easily as the season prior, even though the Beavers would win only four games all season. Three of the wins were one-goal affairs, and the other was a 4-2 victory.

UAH record vs. Bemidji
At Huntsville: 19-13-3
At Bemidji: 8-22-1
Neutral: 1-3-0
Total: 28-38-4

2001-2002 (5 meetings): The Chargers lost the first regular season meeting 7-3 in a penalty-filled matchup in Bemidji. UAH rebounded 6-3 the next night on two goals from Jessi Otis. In Huntsville, the Chargers won 5-2 (two Steve Charlebois goals) and 5-3 (Jared Ross hat trick). Charlebois struck again in the CHA semifinal, leading UAH to a 5-2 win.

2002-2003 (5 meetings): UAH played in nine overtime games that season, and while it seems like a lot, Bemidji State set an NCAA record with 14 OT games. Four of those games overlapped: The Chargers won both games in Huntsville in OT thanks to Joel Bresciani and Craig Bushey. In Bemidji, UAH won the first game 6-3 but fell in the second 2-1 in OT. The crushing blow came in the CHA semifinals, when Myles Kuharski’s goal ended UAH’s season at 12:30 of overtime.

2003-2004 (4 meetings): Bruce Mulherin’s two goals spearheaded a 3-goal outburst in the final five minutes to give UAH a 7-5 win in Huntsville, but the Chargers would lose the second game 5-3. In Bemidji, UAH allowed a last-minute goal to John Haider to force a 3-3 tie, the first draw in the series. BSU won the second game 4-2 for its first season series win since both clubs joined Division I.

2004-2005 (5 meetings): Bemidji won the first game in Huntsville 3-1, but the Chargers plowed the Beavers the next day 5-1 on Mulherin’s hat trick. In Bemidji, UAH won another 3-1 game as Scott Munroe stopped 38 of 39 shots, but BSU won the second game 3-2.

Chris Martini

Chris Martini scores the game-winning goal as the Chargers beat Bemidji 2-1 at the VBC on Feb. 3, 2006.
(Photo by UAH Sports Information)

The 2005 CHA Tournament in Grand Rapids, Mich., was where the “Who Hates Huntsville” chant was born. During UAH’s semifinal match against Niagara, a Charger player spat on the glass in front of a group of Beaver fans after a UAH goal. The rest is history — and Bemidji State scored three third-period goals and shut out the Chargers 3-0 in the championship game.

2005-2006 (5 meetings): Each club swept its two-game series at home, with UAH winning 2-1 and 4-2, and Bemidji rolling 3-1 and 5-0. Bemidji State ended the Chargers’ season for the second straight year, as Rob Sirianni scored in overtime to win 4-3 in the CHA semifinals.

Photo credit: Will Nickelson

Tom Durnie against the Beavers in 2010.
(Photo by Will Nickelson)

2006-2011 (29 meetings): There’s not much to say from a UAH perspective. Bemidji State went 23-3-3 against the Chargers during this period, including an 11-game win streak in the series.

It didn’t get better while UAH was an independent, although the last UAH win was in Huntsville, a 4-3 decision in January 2011. The last time the teams met was December 16-17, 2011 in Bemidji, with the Beavers winning 3-0 and 5-0. It was just days after UAH decided to give Division I hockey another go, but because the Chargers had a lot of work to do to get into a conference, it wasn‘t a given that the rivalry would be renewed.

Now it will, to the delight of both the fans in Huntsville and Bemidji. We expect great, loud crowds at Propst Arena on Friday and Saturday, letting Bemidji know that UAH hockey is indeed back, and that the Chargers intend to swing the series record back in their favor, no matter how long it takes.

And they can hate on that all they want.

Special thanks to Troy Mills of thebeaverpond.com for providing perspective from Bemidji.

Today in Charger Hockey History: 1998 NCAA Division II National Championship

Revenge. It’s the driving force behind any rivalry.

And so it was with UAH and Bemidji State. The Beavers took the NCAA Division II championship from the Chargers in sudden death overtime in 1994. UAH got even with a convincing sweep in 1996.

htimes_sports_front_19980315

The Huntsville Times sports section, March 15, 1998.

The Beavers took the 1997 title with a sweep in Bemidji. Naturally, it was UAH’s turn.

“We don’t like each other,” Darren Awender told The Huntsville Times. “It‘s a rivalry, simple as that.”

Fifteen years ago, on March 14, 1998, the Chargers got revenge. Again.

And it cemented UAH-Bemidji as one of the hottest rivalries in college hockey, despite the approximately 1,200 miles between the schools.

The Chargers won the 1998 NCAA Division II national championship with 6-2 and 5-2 wins over the Beavers. UAH finished the season with a 24-3-3 record.

1998championshipgame1_htimes_robinconn

Cedrick Billequey, Marc Lalonde, and Jim Alauria clamp down during Game 1. (Photo by Robin Conn of The Huntsville Times)

It appeared things were going UAH‘s way early in the first game. Bemidji’s Marc LeFleur had UAH goalie Cedric Billequey down with 40 seconds left in the first period, when defenseman Tim McAllister flew into the crease and blocked LeFleur’s shot to keep the game scoreless.

From there, the Chargers took command with three goals in the second and three more in the third. Mark Motowski netted two goals, with Colin Schmidt, Ryan Stewart, Mike Hamlin, and co-captain John McCabe also scoring.

With the game in hand, tempers flared. Twenty-four players were called for penalties between the teams, including a game misconduct penalty on BSU’s Bruce Matatall for butt-ending Stewart.

Bemidji opened the scoring in Game 2, but Ryan Gavigan’s deflection of a McAllister shot from just inside the blue line snuck past BSU goalie Neil Cooper to tie the game at 1.

Ryan Stewart then blew the doors off Bemidji and UAH didn’t look back. His blast from the far circle with 3:16 of the second period hit Cooper’s pad, trickled past him, and broke a 1-1 tie.

Schmidt made it 3-1 two minutes later when he buried a Ryan McCormack pass from behind the goal line. Jay Woodcroft and McCabe’s power-play goals in the third put the game out of reach. Billequey’s 30 saves made it stand.

1998championship_htimes_robinconn

Ryan Stewart holds up the trophy and acknowledges the crowd as the Chargers celebrate their second NCAA championship. (Photo by Robin Conn of The Huntsville Times)

The end of the championship was marred by one final scuffle. Shane Stewart had the puck alone behind the UAH net as the final seconds were counted down, ready for the celebration, when BSU’s Jim Logan checked into Stewart. The Chargers retaliated and a fracas ensued.

Call it the heat of the moment, but the incident led to harsh words on live TV by McCabe: “We’re 20 times the team that team is down there, and showed it both nights.

“They can’t carry our skates and they’re going Division I? They’re brutal. See you, Bemidji!”

Bemidji State would announce a move to Division I in May of 1998. UAH followed a month later, ending the head-to-head series in Division II at two championships apiece. After a year as independents, the schools would continue the rivalry as charter members of College Hockey America.

But on that night, the Chargers got the best of the Beavers again.

Huntsville native Matt Parker, who was a senior this go around, told The Huntsville Times: “This was my second championship, and it was just as good.”

1997-98_uahchargers

Back row: Coach Mike Quenneville, Dwayne Blais, Ryan Gavigan, Mike Hamlin, Coach A.J. Baker, Ryan McCormack, Tim McAllister, Tom Williams, Dr. Michael Linder. Middle row: Coach Lance West, Robert Cross (equipment), Jay Woodcroft, Jamie Baby, Joe Provenzano, Shane Stewart, Marc Lalonde, Mark Motowski, Dave Marcelli, Nathan Bowen, Colin Schmidt, Derek Young, Ryan Stewart, Trainer Theresa Brooks, Trainer Jeff Kinard. Front row: Cedrick Billequey, Paul Schloss, Matt Parker, John McCabe, Coach Doug Ross, Jim Alauria, Jason Mucciarone, Darren Awender, Steve Briere.