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John Mariucci Era: 1952-1953 through 1965-1966

(On leave 1955-1956)


Eveleth’s John Mariucci replaced Romnes after the 1951-1952 season.  Mariucci, a colorful individual who with his remarks and views was a newspaperman's dream, decided to recruit American players for his Minnesota teams.  With few exceptions the players on its teams during his 13 year stay were natives of Minnesota.  At times he found the going difficult as his opponents often iced teams with mostly Canadians on their rosters.  Often these Canadian players were over-age juniors, two or three years older than the Minnesota players and with many more games of experience under their belts.  In March of 1958 the WIHL dissolved over charges of recruitment of over age Canadian players.  There was no league play in the 1958-1959 season, but after the bad feelings had subsided the seven teams regrouped to form the newly named WCHA for the 1959-1960 season.

Mariucci amassed a 215-148-18 record for a winning percentage of .587%.  Under his guidance Minnesota was NCAA runner-up in 1953 and 1954, losing in the finals in 1953 to Michigan 7-3.  In 1954 the Gophers swamped Boston College 14-1 in the opening game, and lost in the finals to RPI 5-4 in overtime.  John Mayasich and Dick Dougherty each scored nine points in the two-game tourney.  In 1961 the NCAA Championship was held at Denver, with Minnesota finishing in third place.  Minnesota also captured league titles in 1953 and 1954 and placed second in 1961 and 1966, with third place finishes in 1955, 1964 and 1965.

John Mayasich, another Eveleth performer, led the Gophers in scoring for four consecutive seasons -- 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955.  He led the league in scoring for the season is off 1953, 1954 and 1955.  Jim Mattson, from St. Louis Park, was the league's leading goaltender in 1953 and 1954.  The Mayasich-Campbell-Dougherty line, which played together as a unit fourth these seasons, was one of the leading lines in college hockey. Mayasich and goalie Jack McCartan played important roles in the success of the 1960 Gold Medal winning U.S. Olympic team.  Mayasich was honored by the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame as being an outstanding high/prep school hockey player in America during the first half of the present century.  Another dominant player from the 1950s was that talented forward, Mike Pearson, from Fort Frances, Ontario, who played three seasons of standout hockey at 
Minnesota.

The following players who played for Mariucci were selected to the All-American team: John Mayasich (1953, 1954, 1955), Jim Mattson (1954), Ken Yackel (1954), Dick Dougherty (1954), Jack McCartan (1957, 1958), Dick Burg (1958), Mike Pearson (1958), Murray Williamson (1959), Lou Nanne (1963), Craig Falkman (1964), and Doug Woog (1965).

Under Mariucci, the following players from this era were selected All-WIHL or WCHA: Mattson, Mayasich, Wegleitner, Dougherty, Yackel, McCartan, Nanne, Woog and Gary Gambucci. Additionally John Mariucci, coached players who were members of the U.S. National and/or U.S. Olympic teams were as follows: Campbell, Dougherty, Mayasich, Dick Meredith, Wayne Meredith, John Petroske, Oscar Mahle, Donald Vaia, Burg, McCartan, John Newkirk, Jim Westby, Gerald Westby, Robert Turk, Thomas Riley, David Rovick, Larry Alm, Herb Brooks, David Brooks, Gary Schmalzbauer, Tom McCoy, Larry Johnson, Larry Smith, Falkman, Len Lilyhom, David Metzen, Glen Marien, Donald Norqual, Myron Grafstrom, Doug Woog, Jack Dale, Lou Nanne, Larry Stordahl, Jim Stordahl, Jerry Melnychuk, Gary Gambucci, Michael Larson, John Lothrop and Wendell Anderson. Mattson, McCartan, Larson and John Lothrop were Goalies who saw extensive duty during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

During the period from 1950 through 1972 the following players led the Gophers in scoring:

Year Name GP G A TP
1950 Russel Strom 16 9 8 17
Jack Bonner 16 9 8 17
1951 Cal Engelstad 26 19 34 53
1952 John Mayasich 26 32 30 62
1953 John Mayasich 27 42 36 78
1954 ** John Mayasich 28 29 49 78
1955 ** John Mayasich 30 41 39 80
1956 Kenneth Yackel, Sr. 29 19 20 39
1957 Terry Bartholome 29 14 7 21
1958 Richard Burg 28 19 16 35
1959 Stu Anderson 25 15 19 34
1960 Jerry Melnychuk 28 15 25 40
1961 Jerry Norman 27 22 17 39
1962 Ron Constantine 22 15 13 28
1963 * Lou Nanne 29 14 29 43
1964 Roy Nystrom 26 17 19 36
1965 Doug Woog 29 26 21 47
1966 Gary Gambucci 28 23 17 40
1967 Jack Dale 28 17 26 43
1968 * Bill Klatt, Jr. 31 23 20 43
1969 Peter Fichuk 31 21 24 45
1970 Mike Antonovich 32 23 20 43
1970 Dean Blais 33 16 24 43
1972 Doug Peltier 32 22 14 36

* Led WCHA in scoring

**Led league in scoring


It is interesting to note that in the four-year period from 1961-1964 three of the scoring leaders- namely, Norman, Constantine and Nystrom -were Eveleth products. 

Mention should be made of two Gopher forward lines that were an important part of the Minnesota hockey scene during the 1960s.  These are the David Brooks- Len Lilyholm- Gary Schmalzbauer “Buzzsaw Line” of the 1961-1963 era, and the Mike Crupi- Greg Hughes- Rob Shattuck combination that played in the late 1960s.  It is interesting to note that of the six players only Lilyholm, who hailed from Robbinsdale, did not play high school hockey for the St. Paul Johnson Governors.

Lou Nanne won the 1963 WCHA scoring title with 14 goals and 29 assists in a 29 game schedule.  He became the first defense men in the history of the WIHL (WCHA) to accomplish the feat.

During the 1955-1956 season Marsh Ryman, Captain of the 1932 Gopher six, replaced Mariucci as the Minnesota mentor on an interim basis when Mariucci took over the coaching duties of the 1956 U.S. Olympic team and led them to a Silver Medal at the Winter Games in Cortina, Italy.  Ryman, who later became Athletic Director at Minnesota, coached the team to a fourth place finish in the WIHL.

League opponents scheduled regularly during this period were Colorado College, Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and North Dakota.  Denver, a member of the league, was not scheduled for several years as the Gophers did not approve their use of older and more experienced Canadian players.  During the Mariucci years, teams added to the schedule were: RPI, Boston College, Boston University, U.S. nationals, U.S. Olympics, Czech Nationals, Providence, McMasters, Northeastern and Army.

After 13 seasons, Mariucci was fired from coaching duties and took a position with a newly formed Minnesota North Stars.  Known as the “Godfather of Hockey” in the state of Minnesota, he did more than any other individual to popularize the sport in the state.  A much sought after speaker, he gave freely of his time to further advance the game in Minnesota and surrounding areas.  He led the Gopher hockey team to national prominence.  Attendance at home games increased greatly during his reign.  The record  crowd for a Minnesota game was set January 18, 1956 against North Dakota as 9,490 fans crowded into Williams Arena.  Later the Minneapolis Fire Marshall reduced the allowable attendance in the rink to 7,600.

After their playing days, former Gophers Herb Brooks, Larry Johnson, Ken Yackel, Murray Williamson, Bob Johnson, Lou Nanne and Doug Woog continued on to successful coaching and management careers. In the 1970s Brooks led the Gophers to three NCAA championships and one second-place finish.  Following his Minnesota coaching career he led the 1980 U.S. Olympic team to the Gold Medal at Lake Placid, N.Y. later in his duties led him to the National Hockey League where he directed the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars and New Jersey Devils.

Bob Johnson, a product of Minneapolis Central high school, played for the Gophers in 1954 and 1955.  Following high school coaching careers at Warroad and Minneapolis Roosevelt, he took over the reins at Colorado College.  After several years at Colorado College he moved to Wisconsin where, in a period of 11 years, he led the Badgers to three NCAA Championships and one runner-up spot.  In 1982 Johnson migrated to the NHL to coach the Calgary Flames for five seasons.  The fall of 1990 found him at the helm of the Pittsburgh Penguins, where in his first season, that of 1990-1991, he led the team to the Stanley Cup.  In the fall of 1991 Johnson died of brain cancer at the age of 60.

Lou Nanne, a Gopher defensemen from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, after playing with the Minnesota North Stars managed the team for 11 seasons, 1977-1978 through 1987-1988.  In addition, he coached the North Stars for a short time during the 1977-1978 season.

Ken Yackel, who also played baseball and football in addition to hockey at Minnesota, coached high school hockey, the Minneapolis Millers of the International Hockey League and the 1965 U.S. Nationals.  During the season of 1971-1972 he replaced Sonmor as Gopher mentor on an interim basis.  He died in 1991 at the age of 59.

Murray Williamson, one of the few Canadian players to play for Mariucci, coached three U.S. National teams, those of 1967, 1970 and 1971. In addition, he coached the 1968 U.S. Olympic sextet as the Silver Medalist 1972 team.  For several seasons he coached senior and junior teams in the state.

Doug Woog, another Gopher player who had a successful coaching career at Minnesota, took over the position for the 1985-1986 season. Before accepting the Gophers spot Woog had 19 years of experience coaching at South St. Paul high school, the St. Paul Vulcans, and at the U.S. National Juniors.  Through his first seven years of experience as coach at Minnesota Woogs teams had a 228-85-11 record, giving him a winning percentage of .720%, the highest of any college coach in the nation.  He led his teams to seven consecutive NCAA appearances and the NCAA Final Four, four times.

Another notable figure from the Mariucci era was Wendell Anderson, a St. Paul Johnson graduate, who played defense for the Maroon and Gold in 1952, 1953 and 1954.  He was also a member of the second-place 1956 U.S. Olympic team.  Anderson entered Minnesota politics at an early age and by the 1960s was a prominent Democratic party figure in the state's politics.  He was Governor of Minnesota during the 1970s, and in 1978 was all pointed to the US Senate to fill out the vacancy caused by Walter Mondale's decision to run as Democratic vice President.

Edina’s Larry Johnson, an all around athlete who played football and hockey at Minnesota, became active in USA hockey activities.  He managed the 1984, 1988 and 1992 U.S. Olympic six is in addition to other USA hockey teams.

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