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Larry Armstrong Era: 1935-1936 through 1946-1947

Larry Armstrong, well-known Canadian athlete and former St. Paul Saints mentor, took over the coaching duties at Minnesota for the 1935-1936 season. Armstrong held the Gopher coaching spot for 12 seasons, relinquishing his reins to Doc Romness after the 1946-1947 season. Armstrong’s record was 125-55-11 for a winning percentage of .681%. He suffered only one losing campaign, that of 1937-1938.  With Bud Wilkinson, later to become the famous Oklahoma football coach, in the nets the Gophers defeated the University of Manitoba in 1937 for the first time in 11 seasons. In 1937 the following Minnesota players were chosen on the Midwest All-Star team: Bud Wilkinson, Dick Kroll, Jimmy Carlson, Reynard Bjork and Ed Arnold. In 1938 and 1939 the Gophers lost all four games played against the University of Southern California, probably the best college team in the country at that time. The previous three seasons prior to World War II (1938-1939, 1939-1940 and 1940-1941) the Gophers posted a 46-9-2 record. National Championship honors were accorded the 1939-1940 team as they won 18 games and finished the season undefeated. Among their college victims were Michigan, Michigan Tech, Illinois and Yale. In the National AAU Championships they defeated with ease the New England All-Stars 9-4 and Connecticut’s Brock Hall 9-1. During the season the team scored 138 goals to their opponents, 25. Led by such performers as Babe Paulsen, John Mariucci, Frank St. Vincent, Hayden Pickering, Jim Magnus, Ken Cramp, Fred Junger, Dave Lampton, All Eggleton, Norb Robertson and goalie Marty Falk, the 1939-1940 team was the strongest at Minnesota since the sport was inaugurated at the college in the early 1920’s. Ching Johnson- former Eveleth RedMinneapolis Miller and New York Rangers star- who watched the Gophers practice and play, was amazed at their abilities. He compared them favorably with any of the great Canadian amateur teams. The 1938-1939 sextet, made up of underclassmen with the exception of Captain Kenny Anderson, also posted a fine record of 15 wins and 6 losses. The team finished second in the National AAU finals. They won their first two games, swamping the Philadelphia Arrows 10-1, edging the St. Nicholas Club 3-2 and losing in the finals to Cleveland Legion 4-3. Had there been a 1940 U.S. Olympic team several members of the Gopher team would undoubtedly have been members of the team. Although the 1940-1941 team lost seven players from the champion 1939-1940 team, the team bolstered by the addition of sophomores Bill Galligan and Bob Arnold, managed to finish the season with a respectable 11-3-2 record.

During the war years the Gophers schedule was curtailed, as many colleges did not ice teams as the Government discouraged travel.  Minnesota scheduled a view college contests against Dartmouth, Michigan and Illinois, but the bulk of their schedule was against local amateur clubs such as Honeywell, Fort Snelling, Berman’s and Wold Chamberlain and Canadian junior teams from Winnipeg, Fort William and Port Arthur.  Among the leading players during the war period were Bob Graiziger, Mac Thayer, Jack Behrendt, Pat Ryan, Don Nolander, Bob Arnold and Burton Joseph.  Following the ending of World War II Coach Armstrong added several Canadian players from Winnipeg to the Gopher roster.  Among them were Bob Fleming, Ray McDermid, Dennis Bergman, Jack O'Brien, Roger Goodman, Bud Frick and Allen Burman.  By the season of 1946-1947, Armstrong’s last, the Gophers had a nucleus of a strong team. Minnesota-bred players such as Bill Hodgins, Roland DePaul, Bob Harris, Jim Alley, Ken Austin, Al Opsahl, Dennis Rolle, Jerry Lindegard, Cal Engelstad, Bill Klatt, Jerry Remole, Dick Roberts and Tom Karakas were welcome additions to the club.  Harris, Roberts, Austin, Alley, Lindegard and Engelstad were among the first players from northwestern Minnesota to play for the Gophers.  They were natives of such small communities as Warroad, Roseau and Hallock.  Injuries and ineligibility dodged the team, but they managed to finish the 1946-1947 season with a respectable 12-5-3 record.  Goalie Tom Karakas, from Eveleth, proved to be one of the top goaltenders in the country.  DePaul, Hodgins, Roberts, Fleming and Frick were the team's leading scorers. Players from the Armstrong era who were members of the U.S. Olympic National teams were Bob McCabe, Graiziger, Pat Finnegan, Van, Opsahl, and Bud Frick.  Players who were coached by Armstrong and turned professional include John Mariucci, Graiziger, Bill Galligan, Tom Karakas, Ray McDermid and Allen Burman.  Fleming has been the longtime chairman of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Committee.

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