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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

A history of 1990s college hockey in three minutes

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

In doing some research for this post, I learned that 1990s NCAA hockey was a pretty wild time. US college hockey was not huge deal it is nowadays, with the ability to attract to the top junior stars both in the US and internationally; that began to change as the 1990s progressed, and as you will read in the brief history below, the events of the decade set the NCAA on the path towards its current status as a major competitor to the Canadian junior circuit as the top development league for pro hockey.

Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, was a powerhouse for college hockey in the 1990s. The Lakers went to three straight championship games, winning titles in 1992 and 1994 and finishing as runner up in 1993. In 1992 Brian Rolston broke a tie with less than five minutes left, and the Lakers beat Wisconsin 5-3. The game was highly controversial as the Lakers received 11 power plays during the game. After the game Wisconsin players and coaches confronted the referee, with the NCAA sanctioning the team and vacating their tournament results. In 1993 they blew a 4-2 lead in the third period to Maine, with Jim Montgomery (current Boston Bruins coach) scoring a natural hat trick in 5 minutes to win the game. The Lakers got their revenge in 1994, thumping Boston University 9-1, taking every spot on the tournament all-star team except one forward position.

Boston University won one title in 1995, defeating Maine 6-2. They also finished runner up in 1991, 1994 and 1997. In the 1991 game they lost a triple overtime thriller 8-7 to Northern Michigan. The Terriers took an early 3-0 lead, then gave up five goals in the second period. Down 7-4 with less than eight minutes, the Terriers tied the game with less than 40 seconds remaining. The Wildcats ended the game with a goal in the third overtime from Darryl Plandowski. The Terriers that season featured future NHL stars Keith Tkachuk and Tony Amonte. Boston experienced heartbreak again in 1997, with North Dakota scoring the game winner with less than 40 seconds remaining.

It would be remiss to talk about 1990s NCAA hockey without giving full credit to the University of Maine. Champions in 1993 and 1999, and runners up in 1995. In 1999 the Black Bears blew a 2-0 lead on New Hampshire, but came out on top in overtime on Marcus Gustafsson’s winning goal. The Black Bears also produced several high-quality NHLers, including Paul Kariya, Garth Snow, Mike Dunham, Keith Carney, Peter and Chris Ferraro and Scott Pellerin.

Card 466 - Alexander Godynyuk

A defenceman, Godynyuk was drafted 115th overall by Toronto in 1990. Prior to the draft he played two seasons with Sokol Kiev in the Soviet Union and represented the Soviet Union at the 1990 World Juniors, where he was named best defenceman and a tournament all-star.

After starting the 1990-91 season in the Soviet Union, Godynyuk moved to North America, splitting time between Newmarket in the AHL and Toronto, playing in 18 games for the Leafs, recording three assists. In his second season, Godynyuk was sent to Calgary in the blockbuster Doug Gilmour trade, scoring three goals and 10 points between the two teams. In an odd twist, Godynyuk and Gilmour are the only two Leafs to ever wear # 93

During two seasons with the Flames he played in 33 games before being claimed by Florida in the 1993 expansion draft. 1993-94 was a career-season for Godynyuk, playing in 69 games, scoring three goals and 22 points, although in December he was traded to Hartford for Jim McKenzie. From 1994 to 1997 Godynyuk played in 72 games with the Whalers, spending significant time in the IHL with Detroit and Minnesota, as well as Springfield in the AHL.

In June 1997 he was traded to St. Louis for Steve Leach. Godynyuk never suited up for the Blues, spending the 1997-98 season with Chicago in the IHL, winning the Turner Cup. He returned to Europe the following season, where he played in Switzerland and Germany before retiring after the 2000-01 season.

In seven NHL seasons, Godynyuk played in 223 games, scoring 10 goals and 49 points. In retirement he has been involved in coaching, with Greensboro of the ECHL in 2001-02, and then the Ukrainian National Team and club teams between 2009-2016. Since 2018 Godynyuk has been a European scout for Vegas.

YouTube clip: scoring in a 1991 game for the Maple Leafs versus the original Winnipeg Jets. For a bonus clip watch Godynyuk get dusted by Bob Bassen in one of his six career fights.

Card 467 - Geoff Courtnall

An undrafted left winger, Courtnall signed with Boston in 1983 after playing three seasons with Victoria in the WHL. He turned pro in 1983-84 with Hershey in the AHL, playing in three games with the Bruins. Courtnall’s first full NHL season came in 1984-85, playing in 64 games, scoring 12 goals and 28 points. He experienced a breakout campaign in 1987-88, scoring 36 goals and 66 points. Late in the season he was traded to Edmonton with Bill Ranford for Andy Moog. Courtnall contributed 12 regular season and 19 playoff games to the Oilers, winning his first Stanley Cup in the spring of 1988.

Shortly after winning the Stanley Cup he was traded to Washington for Greg Adams. Courtnall’s two seasons with the Capitals were the most productive of his career, scoring a career-high 42 goals and 80 points in 1988-89, followed by 35 goals and 74 points the following season. After two seasons in Washington he was traded to St. Louis for Mike Lalor and Peter Zezel. Courtnall lasted 66 games with the Blues before being sent to Vancouver in a six-player swap that landed the Blues Garth Butcher and Dan Quinn.

During the 1992-93 season Courtnall scored 31 goals and 77 points while leading the NHL in game winning goals with 11. During the Canucks’ 1994 run to the Stanley Cup Finals he contributed nine goals and 19 points in 24 games before Vancouver fell to the New York Rangers in seven games. The lockout shortened 1994-95 season would be Courtnall’s last in Vancouver, where he briefly played with brother Russ.

In July 1995 Courtnall returned to St. Louis as a free agent, where at age 35 during the 1997-98 season he scored 31 goals, the sixth and final time in his career he would break the 30 goal barrier. During the final two seasons of his career he played in only 30 games, retiring early in the 1999-2000 season as a result of post-concussion syndrome.

In 17 NHL seasons Courtnall played in 1049 games, scoring 367 goals and 799 points. He made the playoffs in 15 seasons, where he scored 109 points in 156 career games. From 2007-2009 Courtnall was head coach of Victoria in the BCHL. In retirement he and his brother Russ helped establish the Archie Courtnall Centre, an emergency facility designed to provide psychiatric assessment, stabilization and short-term crisis intervention in Victoria, named after their father.

YouTube clip: scoring in Game 6 of 1994 Finals. His goal put the Canucks up 4-1 with less than two minutes left in the third period, forcing a Game 7.

Card 468 - Frantisek Kucera

A defenceman, Kucera was drafted 77th overall by Chicago in 1986. He played four pro seasons in his native Czechoslovakia before coming to North America for the 1990-91 season, which was split between Chicago (40 games, two goals and 14 points) and Indianapolis in the IHL.

In his fourth season with the Hawks organization (1993-94), Kucera played in a career-high 76 games, scoring five goals (matching his previous career-high) and 21 points. Late in the season he was traded to Hartford with Jocelyn Lemieux for Gary Suter, Randy Cunneyworth and a draft pick. Kucera played parts of three seasons with the Whalers, scoring 20 points during the 1994-95 season.

In December 1995 he was traded to Vancouver with Jim Dowd and a second round draft pick for Jeff Brown and a third round pick. He played 26 games with the Canucks over two seasons before a trade to Philadelphia during the 1996-97 season. Kucera played four games in the NHL that season, playing primarily in the AHL. He returned to the Czech Republic for the 1997-98 season, where he would be a part of the golden era of Czech international hockey. This included winning third straight World Championships (1998-2000), including winning best defenceman at the 1998 tournament, and an Olympic gold medal (1998). Playing domestically, Kucera was named best defenceman in the Czech league three years in a row and won player of the year in 2000.

Kucera returned to the NHL in 2000-01 after signing with expansion Columbus. He played 48 games for the Blue Jackets before being traded to Pittsburgh for a draft pick. Kucera’s time with the Pens lasted seven games before he was traded to Washington in the summer as part of the Jaromir Jagr blockbuster. He played 56 games with the Caps before turning to the Czech Republic where he played the final three seasons of his pro career before retiring after the 2004-05 season, winning two more Czech league titles.

In nine NHL seasons, Kucera played in 465 games, scoring 24 goals and 119 points. In retirement he has stayed involved in hockey in Czechia as president of a lower-tier pro team from 2016 to 2020.

Card 469 - Benoit Brunet

A left winger, Brunet was drafted 27th overall by Montreal in 1986. He played two additional seasons with Hull in the QMJHL following the draft, scoring 143 points in his final season. Brunet turned pro for the 1988-89 season, scoring 41 goals and 117 points with Sherbrooke in the AHL, and was named a first team all-star. He also appeared in his first two NHL games that season, recording one assist.

From 1989 to 1992 Brunet played in 35 games for the Habs, scoring five goals and 14 points. His NHL breakthrough came in 1992-93, scoring 25 points in 47 regular season games. Brunet also contributed two goals and 10 points during the 1993 playoffs as the Canadiens won their 23rd Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Brunet became a regular bottom six forward over his next eight seasons in Montreal, scoring 10+ goals five times and 30+ points three times. During the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 he recorded back-to-back 14 goal seasons, representing career-highs. In November 2001 Brunet was traded to Dallas with Martin Rucinsky for Donald Audette and Shaun Van Allen. He played 32 games with the Stars, scoring 13 points before being traded a second time, going to Ottawa at the trade deadline for a draft pick. Brunet played 13 regular games with the Sens, scoring five goals and eight points, as well as 12 playoff games, before retiring at end of the season at the age of 33.

In 13 NHL seasons Brunet played in 539 games, scoring 101 goals and 262 points. In retirement he worked in broadcasting for RDS.

YouTube clip: scoring a beauty shorthand goal against Los Angeles during the 1995-96 season undressing both Aki Berg and Byron Dafoe

Card 470 - Mark Vermette

A right winger, Vermette was drafted 134th overall by Quebec in 1986 following his freshman season at Lake Superior State. He played two more seasons with the Lakers, scoring 45 goals (leading the nation) and 75 points in 46 games during his final season, where he was named CCHA Player of the Year and a Hobey Baker Award finalist. Vermette helped guide the Lakers the 1988 NCAA hockey championship, scoring the winning goal in overtime of the championship game versus St. Lawrence.

He turned pro during the 1988-89 season with Halifax of the AHL, appearing in 12 NHL games as well, recording four assists. Following 11 games with the Nordiques in 1989-90, Vermette had his finest NHL season in 1990-91, playing in 34 games, scoring three goals and seven points. During the 1991-92 season he played his final 10 NHL games, followed by a full season with Halifax in 1992-93, scoring 42 goals and 79 points. Vermette played one final pro hockey season in 1994-95 with Vegas of the IHL before retiring.

In four NHL seasons, Vermette played in 67 games, scoring five goals and 18 points.

YouTube clip: fighting Rod Buskas during a March 1988 game between the Nordiques and Penguins. Notable in this clip is the Penguins’ Rob Brown taking a bit of a dive after an uppercut attempt from a Nordiques player.

Card 471 - Tim Watters

A defenceman, Watters was drafted 124th overall by Winnipeg in the 1979 draft. After two seasons at Michigan Tech, he spent the 1979-80 season with the Canadian National Team, representing Canada at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. Watters returned to Michigan Tech after the Olympics, then turned pro the following season.

In Watters’ rookie season with the Jets he scored two goals and a career-high 24 points in 69 games. In his first four seasons he scored between 22-25 points each season, representing the best offensive production of his career. In the 1983-84 season he recorded a career-high 169 penalty minutes, more suited to his role as a defensive defenceman.

During the 1987-88 season Watters played only 36 games with the Jets, leaving the NHL to rejoin the Canadian National Team and participate in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. In the summer of 1988 he signed as a free agent with Los Angeles, recording three goals, 21 points and 168 penalty minutes in his first season as a King.

From 1990 to 1993 Watters played in 104 games for the Kings, spending time in the minors. During the 1992-93 season he played as many playoff games as regular games (22) as the Kings made the Stanley Cup Finals, with Watters contributing two assists and 30 penalty minutes. Following 60 regular season games in 1993-94, Watters wrapped up his NHL career in 1994-95, playing a handful of games with Phoenix in IHL and one final NHL game with Los Angeles.

In 14 NHL seasons, Watters played in 741 games, scoring 26 goals and 177 points while recording 1289 penalty minutes. He also played in 82 playoff games, recording one goal and six points. Watters was an assistant coach with Boston for one season (1995-96) and coached his alma mater at Michigan Tech from 1996 to 2001. During his final season as coach the Huskies posted a 3-34-0 record. In retirement Watters has worked in commercial real estate, and most recently is back working for the Kings as part of their hockey development program in China.

YouTube clip: taking on Mike Eagles during a February 1991 game between the Kings and Jets, one of 40 career fights for Watters.

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