The Beanpot has become a catchall for any intercollegiate competition in Boston, from soccer, softball, and baseball to trivia and a cappella. But the original hockey tourney is still king, and the puck drops on its 60th iteration tonight at The Garden. Storylines for this year include Boston College gunning for its third straight title, Boston University looking to avoid their first 0-3 stretch since the early ‘80s in the tournament jokingly called the “BU Invitational,” and Northeastern and Harvard’s seemingly futile attempts to wrestle the trophy from the BC/BU deathgrip.
Sharing an Old Firm-esque dominance of the tourney, BU (29 titles) and BC (16) are prohibitive favorites; Harvard hasn't won since head coach Ted Donato was a rookie with the Bruins in ‘93, and no current Husky was alive the last time NU won in '88. The following are my predictions for tonight’s games.
Boston University v. Harvard: Ranked third in the nation in both USA Today and USCHO polls, the Terriers will have revenge on the mind as they take on Harvard in the early game; it was the Crimson, after all, who handed BU their first winless Beanpot in 31 years when they knocked them off in last year's consolation game. If BU was looking to go into the Beanpot on a high note, getting swept by Maine in back-to-back home games a couple weekends ago wasn't the best thing to do. But these Terriers have overcome far more this season, following an up-and-down start that had the team under .500 at Veterans’ Day with a five-game winning streak. Losing Charlie Coyle to the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs in the wake of Hockey East’s leading scorer Corey Trivino’s arrest on indecent assault charges and expulsion in mid-December might have triggered a slide for most teams, but Coach Parker’s crew responded by reeling off another five-game winning streak to kick off 2012. These Terriers can score in bunches, as Harvard learned in their first meeting when they squandered a 3-1 advantage.
For their part, Harvard plays up to nearly every one of their opponents. The Crimson have been tied going into the third period in 14 of their last 16 games (and have an obscene eight ties on their record) thanks to a defense that's held opponents to under two goals in five of their last seven games. They pair that stinginess with the nation’s most efficient power play, converting on nearly every third man advantage. Though they’re the lowest-ranked team in the tournament and only have a single digit in the wins column, that power play should be useful considering that BU is the most penalized team in Hockey East. Throw in the Crimson’s offensive minded D-men Danny Biega and Patrick McNally (a Canucks prospect if you’re looking for someone to boo), and the early game should be much closer than it looks on paper.
Prediction: 4-2, BU
Boston College v. Northeastern: The late game sees a rematch of last year's epic championship game, in which BC earned their 16th title in a 7-6 OT slugfest. First-year head coach Jim Madigan's Huskies played BC just as tight in three contests this season -- all three losses to the fifth-ranked Eagles were decided in OT or the third period -- but they’re coming off a dismal January, in which they stalled at 2-4-0 after an undefeated December. BC's dominance means Madigan likely won't be the first NU coach to win his Beanpot debut (the school’s debuting skippers are 0-7), but fans of the tournament’s black sheep have to feel good that the rookie head coach has been with the Huskies for 75 percent of their titles ('84 and '86 as a player and '88 as an assistant coach). Another couple reasons to be optimistic: Freshman forward Ludwig Karlsson, who’s tied with Steve Quailer for the team lead in points and with Cody Ferrerio and Braden Pimm for goals (nine), and strong play in net from last year’s Eberly Trophy winner Chris Rawlings.
On the other side, the Eagles season has been a mirror of the streaking Terriers. BC went 7-1-0 in October and won eight of their first 10 games, but they’ve played .500 hockey since. Junior Chris Kreider leads the team with 16 goals and 30 points, and the Boxford native, WJC gold medalist, and New York Rangers 2009 first-round draft selection elevates his game when it counts most: He leads all Eagles in the Beanpot, with four goals. On special teams, BC has the top penalty kill in Hockey East; they've given up only 17 power play goals in 176 chances and have scored eight shorthanded goals. Senior Barry Almeida not only has an inspiring story (he overcome a devastating eye injury), he also leads the team with eight power play goals and is tied with Kreider for the most goals on the team. If you’re looking for a local rooting interest, Dorchester’s Kevin Hayes, the Blackhawks first-round draft pick in 2010 and younger brother of last year’s Beanpot-winning goal scorer Jimmy Hayes, is having a solid sophomore season, with 5-14-19 totals. As little space as there’s been between the two teams this season, BC’s NHL-bound talent should squeak by the Huskies.
Prediction: 2-1, BC, but theyll probably need OT to do it
Who do you think will win tonight's Beanpot games?
Photo by Jess T-R (Flickr)
About Janssen -- I'm a public school teacher and music critic. I also teach adult ESL classes through a volunteer organization in Boston's Chinatown. So right off the bat you can guess my progressive bent in areas of education and immigration policy. Beyond the political, I've been attending DIY shows since I was 14 or so, getting heavily involved in Boston's metal scene. I've also been a subject of a 'Village Voice' cover story, which was sort of fun in a "through the looking glass" sort of way.
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