Thursday, December 27, 2012

UNH Returns to Dartmouth for Holiday Tourney

Thompson Arena - Photo by Mike Lowry

This Sunday, the UNH Wildcats (#2 in National Polls) and the Big Green of Dartmouth (#10 Rank) will renew a holiday tournament tradition that began with the Blue-Green Invitational in 1974. That was the first time either UNH or Dartmouth sponsored a tournament during the Christmas-New Years break. This time around, the UNH-Dartmouth matchup at 7:00 PM is the much anticipated, featured event of the 2012 Ledyard Classic at the Thompson Arena in Hanover, NH. In the opening game at 4 PM, the UMass Minutemen (Hockey East) will play the Bemidji State Beavers (Western Collegiate Hockey Association).

Holiday Tournament History
The two premier, college hockey programs from the Granite State first played each other in a Christmas holiday tournament on December 19, 1970. It was in the consolation game of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Association (ECAC) Christmas Tournament at the old Boston Garden. UNH, who played in the ECAC back then, defeated Dartmouth 11-2. Long-time fans may remember that Dartmouth teams were still called the "Indians" - an offensive term, but an awesome logo. The two teams faced each other again in the 1972 ECAC Christmas Tourney with Dartmouth beating UNH 5-4 in the opening round.

In the 1974-75 season, Dartmouth and UNH combined forces to co-sponsor the inaugural Blue-Green Invitational at the old Snively Arena in Durham. In the original format, the two teams did not play each other in the opening round. On December 29, 1974, UNH lost to Pennsylvania - the Ivy League varsity program that ended in 1978 - while Dartmouth defeated St. Mary's. Dartmouth lost to Pennsylvania in the Championship Game.

The following season, the Blue-Green Invitational was a celebration of the opening of the Rupert Thompson Arena on the outskirts of the Dartmouth campus. The Thompson arena, which plays host to this weekend's games, is an architectural wonder with vaulted ceilings made of massive, triangular concrete panels. The festivities were capped by a Dartmouth-UNH matchup in the Championship Game on January 3, 1976. UNH won the tournament by defeating Dartmouth 6-3. There would be two more editions of the Blue-Green Invitational in the 76-77 and 77-78 seasons. UNH won the 1977 crown at Snively Arena but did not face Dartmouth. In the tournament's swan song, Dartmouth defeated UNH in a thrilling overtime victory at Thompson Arena. The holiday competition between the schools went on hiatus for a few years until the Auld Lang Syne Tournament in the 1980-81 season.

Dartmouth launched the Auld Lang Syne Tournament during Christmas break of the 1978-79 season. The tournament was designed, in part, to showcase the Thompson Arena. Dartmouth won the inaugural event beating Clarkson University. UNH began its participation in the Auld Lang Syne in December, 1980. That year, UNH lost in the opening round and did not play Dartmouth. In the 1981 tournament, the two teams faced each other in the opening round with UNH losing to Dartmouth 4-5. In the five year stretch from 1980 to 1984, UNH faced Dartmouth in the Championship Game twice with UNH winning both times in '82 and '84. During this time, the Auld Lang Syne tourney was occasionally called the "North Country Beanpot Tournament" because it included UNH, Vermont, Maine, and Dartmouth.

In the '84-'85 season, UNH helped launch the newly-formed Hockey East. UNH did not play in the Auld Lang Syne from 1985 through 1987. However, for the 1988-89 season, UNH combined with Dartmouth and the University of Vermont to launch a new format for the Auld Lang Syne. From 1988 through 1993, Dartmouth, UNH, and UVM took turns hosting the holiday tournament. During this 6-year stretch, UNH and Dartmouth always played against each other in the opening round (like they will this year). UNH won in '89, '90, '91, and '93 while Dartmouth won in '88 and '92. In 1993, the final year of this format, UNH won the Championship defeating Boston University 3-2.

From the 1994-95 season through the '98-'99 season, UNH did not play Dartmouth, either in a holiday tournament or regular season game. In November, 1995, the Whittemore Center opened on the campus of UNH. Dartmouth has only played one time at the Whitt, losing to UNH 2-3 in overtime in January, 2000. The following season, UNH returned to the Auld Lang Syne Tournament at Dartmouth. The Big Green defeated UNH 6-3 in the opening round on December 29, 2000.

In the 2001-2002 season, Dartmouth and UNH began playing a yearly, regular season game on neutral ice at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, NH. The winner has been awarded the RiverStone Cup representing the bragging rights as the top Division I hockey program in New Hampshire. In the 11-year history of the RiverStone Cup, UNH holds a 7-3-1 advantage.

And now, UNH and Dartmouth have come full circle as they prepare to compete at the 2012 Ledyard Classic. In 1998, the Ledyard National Bank became the corporate sponsore of the Auld Lang Syne Tournament. Since 2002, the holiday tournament has been known as the Ledyard Bank Classic. When the tournament organizers began planning for this year's tourney, they could not have known that it would feature two teams ranked in the top ten of college hockey. For those lucky enough to have tickets - the games are reportedly sold out - it surely is a fortunate event.

Scouting Report
A scouting report on UNH, Dartmouth, UMass, and Bemidji State is available on


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