BOSTON — The Beanpot tournament represents a major milestone for the city’s four hockey-playing colleges.
Not only has it been one of the largest events on the New England college hockey calendar for decades, with its format remaining unchanged since the early 1950s, the Beanpot also marks the unofficial yearly starting line for the frantic sprint to the playoffs.
Coaches and players from Boston College and Northeastern, who currently occupy the top two spots in Hockey East, spoke Tuesday at the annual Beanpot media luncheon at TD Garden about being happy but not satisfied with their success. Content but not complacent.
“We’re really excited with our season so far,” BC senior captain Patrick Brown said. “The team’s doing well, but we’re still hungry.”
Meanwhile, for Boston University and Harvard, who have gone a combined 2-10-1 since New Year’s Day, the Beanpot will represent a chance to refocus and perhaps gain some momentum heading into the home stretch. The Terriers have fallen on particularly hard times, dropping seven of their last eight games and already losing twice to BC this season.
BU head coach David Quinn said his young team — nine freshmen dress for each game — was “starstruck” by the more experienced Eagles during the teams’ first meeting, when BC blew out the Terriers 5-1 on their home ice. The next matchup was closer (a 6-4 BC win on Jan. 17), but Quinn was honest when talking about the skill that Jerry York’s club possesses.
“Anytime BU and BC get together, whether it’s on the Charles River or Agganis Arena or Conte Forum, it’s always a great night,” Quinn said. “We’re ready for the challenge, and a challenge it will be.”
Harvard and Northeastern will face off at TD Garden in the first semifinal Monday at 5 p.m., with Boston College and Boston University taking the ice for the nightcap at 8 p.m. The consolation and championship games will be held Feb. 10, also at the Garden.
“It’s a great Boston tradition,” said Harvard senior captain Dan Ford, who is searching for his first trip to the Beanpot title game. “We’re really lucky to be a part of it. The beginning of February every year is a really exciting time that we look forward to as players.”
Here are some more notes and news from media day:
— The 1988-89 Harvard squad was the greatest in school history, defeating BU in the Beanpot title game en route to the Crimson’s lone national championship. That team’s superstar, Lane MacDonald, was on hand Tuesday for his induction into the Beanpot Hall of Fame.
MacDonald, who totaled 111 goals and 225 points in his four years in Cambridge, was Beanpot MVP, made first-team All-ECAC and won the Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation’s top player, as a senior that season.
Harvard head coach Ted Donato also was a member of that championship team, netting 14 goals and earning NCAA Tournament MVP honors as a freshman.
— The Florida Panthers were in town for their date with the Boston Bruins, giving Avon, Mass., native and former BC star Mike Mottau a chance to swing back through his old stomping grounds. Mottau, the 2000 Hobey Baker winner, was allowed to make the trip despite being on injured reserve, and he took the opportunity to impart some wisdom on the current college players in attendance.
“We didn’t have much success my years,” said Mottau, whose tenure in Chestnut Hill coincided with BU’s reign of dominance. “… But you can use it as a catapult or a jump-start if you’re having a tough season, because you throw the records out the window these first two Mondays.”
— Another former BC star, Panthers winger Jimmy Hayes, also was in the building, prompting Quinn to joke that he should have tapped into the Terriers’ deep NHL contingent for next Monday’s game.
“I actually got nervous earlier today when I saw Jimmy Hayes and Mike Mottau in the building,” Quinn said. “I thought the NCAA had passed a rule that allowed alumni to play in the tournament. It didn’t get to the BU hockey office. I was about to speed dial [St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin] Shattenkirk and [former All-American Colby] Cohen and [Nashville Predators forward Colin] Wilson and get them in the lineup, but that’s not the case.”