The 64th annual Beanpot tournament was billed as one of the toughest in recent memory and the first round certainly lived up to the hype. With three of the four teams ranked in the top 10, a first for the Beanpot, they each faced an uphill battle to make it to the finals.
Boston College entered as the highest ranked at number 4 while Harvard sits at number seven and Boston University is ranked ninth. Unranked Northeastern, however, may have been the hottest team entering the tournament. The Huskies were on an eight-game unbeaten streak, the longest in the country, entering the Beanpot. As a group the four schools were 21-4-5 since January 1.
"I think it's my 22nd Beanpot and out of all of those I thought this was the most balanced field of major payers in college hockey now," Boston College coach Jerry York said following the game. "I think we're all at the top of our games . . . It's probably the most competitive the four teams have been."
In the end Boston College won a come-from-behind game against Harvard, 3-2, to advance to the Final. There they will meet Boston University for the 22nd time after the Terriers defeated Northeastern 3-1 in a rematch of last year's Beanpot Final. It was the Huskies first loss since a December sixth contest against Boston College.
In the first game of the night Boston College took an early lead with a Casey Fitzgerald goal just 1:35 into the game, but they saw it disappear when the Crimson netted two first period goals to take a 2-1 advantage into intermission.
Harvard entered the game with the second best power play in the country but it was the Eagles who took advantage of the power play opportunities, going two for two on the power play and retaking the lead and eventually the game 3-2.
According to York, BC's success on the power play can be attributed to a new team rule.
"We tried to establish a 'no dust rule'. When there is too much stick handling it's just like dusting back-and-forth," York said. "What that leads to is a stagnant power play so we are trying to go tape-to-tape-to-tape without stick handling."
The second contest was a bit more one sided, though Northeastern gave the Terriers a scare late in the game. After going up 2-0 BU let in a Northeastern goal with 3:12 left to play in the third. Northeastern subsequently pulled their goalie to get an extra skater on the ice; but doing so left them venerable to an easy goal. BU took advantage and scored an empty netter with forty seconds left to seal the game for the Terriers.
"It got a little hairy there when it was two to one. We had plenty of chances to make it three and as the game keeps going on it just takes one goal to change your momentum," Boston University coach David Quinn said. "I thought we responded well when they made it two to one. I thought we spent a lot of time in their end. Obviously the open net goal was the big one to seal the deal."
With the win the Terriers ended two streaks for Northeastern. They ended the unbeaten streak at eight games and they also ended the Huskies streak of three straight Beanpot Final appearances. Northeastern has never appeared in four straight Beanpot Finals.
"I'm disappointed for our seniors who have never had the opportunity to win this tournament," Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. "They were in three Beanpot Finals and it would be nice to get to a fourth and for them to win it this year. But as I said to our kids, we'll have to use this as a platform moving forward."
The road to a hoisting the Beanpot trophy only gets harder for BU and BC. The Terriers have history on their side as they have a 12-9 edge over the Eagles in Beanpot Finals. The Eagles, on the other hand, have won their past five Beanpot games against Boston University.
"They've got a great program. They've had a lot of success and I'm not surprised," Quinn said of BC. "There's really not a lot connected between those [last] five games and the game we are going to play next Monday."
Quinn continued: "I don't know the last time we played BC in the finals but any time you play them, even if we played them the last ten in a row, it doesn't take any of the excitement away from it. It'll be an exciting game next Monday night."