As the second half of the season races by and most teams are in hot pursuit of crucial conference points, four Boston teams gather at TD Garden in pursuit of something else, hardware and bragging rights.
The first Monday of February is upon us, and it’s Beanpot time.
The tournament brings with it storylines of Beanpots past: this year all four coaches have won the tournament as players for their respective teams.
All four teams also enter the tournament coming off wins. The only team with the weekend off, Boston College defeated University of New Hampshire 3-2 last weekend. Boston University took two points from #4 Merrimack with a 4-1 win on Friday while Northeastern secured a more comfortable position for playoff hopes by breaking their 7th place tie with University of Massachusetts with a 4-3 overtime win. In ECAC play, Harvard trumped Quinnipiac 6-3, also on Friday.
These four teams are coming in hot, all poised for playoff contentions in their respective leagues.
Boston College (16-10-1, 12-7-1 Hockey East) vs. Northeastern (11-11-3, 7-11-2 Hockey East)
This season: BC won the season series, 3-0
Oct. 22, 2011 – BC 4, NU 3 OT (Matthews Arena)
Nov. 11, 2011 – BC 2, NU 1 (Conte Forum)
Jan. 14, 2012 – BC 2, NU 1 (Fenway Park)
Three one-point losses this season have done nothing to wipe away the bitter taste of last year’s 7-6 overtime Beanpot loss to BC for Northeastern and its fans. The Eagles have continued their dominance of the Huskies and most of Hockey East with four straight wins over Northeastern since 2011’s Beanpot matchup. Northeastern hasn’t seen a victory against Jerry York’s Eagles since Feb. 19, 2011.
Despite BC taking the sweep in this season’s series, the rivalry is very much alive between the two schools; such close games and overtime decisions have made sure of that.
While the Eagles remain reigning champions of the Beanpot for the past two years, the Huskies haven’t been victorious since 1988. But something the Huskies had over two decades ago has returned, and that’s first year head coach Jim Madigan, who was around for three of Northeastern’s four Beanpot wins, in 1984 and 1985 as a player and 1988 as an assistant coach. Maybe Madigan’s past Beanpot luck will rub off on his Huskies, but even at their best, it’s unlikely Northeastern can match the talent level of an incredibly well-rounded BC team. With two of the Huskies’ top scorers out, Steve Quailer for three weeks with torn knee ligaments and Cody Ferrierio for the season after undergoing knee surgery, the team should face offensive challenges against a surging BC team.
Prediction: BC wins, 4-2
Boston University (16-8-1, 13-6-1 Hockey East) vs. Harvard (7-6-9, 6-4-7 ECAC)
Jan. 14, 2012 – BU 4, Harvard 3 OT (Bright Hockey Center)
If BU and Harvard’s one matchup of the regular season was any precursor for what’ll happen in their semifinal Beanpot matchup, it could be a good one. The overtime battle determined who was the victor in their one regular season game, but Harvard has a chance to see their first Beanpot final since 2008 if they can pull out a win against the Terriers in the first round of the tournament.
Like Northeastern, Harvard will be looking for its first Beanpot win in over a decade; their last came in 1993. BU will be looking to take back the title from BC for the first time in two years.
While the Terriers’ season has been anything but short on drama, BU has proven itself strong without top scorers Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle, ousting BC from its first place position.
Harvard has seen its own share of success this season, sitting in third place in the ECAC behind Cornell and Union, only four points back from first place with a less than challenging end of season schedule ahead of them.
Prediction: BU wins, 3-1
At first and second place in Hockey East, it’s hard to think BU and BC aren’t poised for a matchup in next week’s final, but the Beanpot brings its share of surprises and although it hasn’t always seemed so, it’s anyone’s year to win it.