The Super Bowl rules this time of the year in most parts of the country, but for college hockey fans in Boston, the first week of February means one thing: It’s Beanpot time.
Each year, the city’s four hockey-playing colleges and universities — Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern — face off at the home of the Boston Bruins with the Beanpot trophy and a year’s worth of bragging rights on the line.
First, a quick primer for those who are unfamiliar with Beanpot hockey:
– The Beanpot has been played each winter since the 1952-53 season, with every tournament since the 1955 iteration beginning in the first week of February. Either the Boston Garden or the FleetCenter/TD Garden has hosted every year but the first, and the tournament’s four teams and format have never changed.
– Though the tournament features three Hockey East teams (Harvard is the only ECAC representative), Beanpot games do not count toward conference standings.
– Overall, Boston University has been the dominant Beanpot school — the Terriers have won the most tournaments of the four contestants, including eight in a row during the 1990s and early 2000s — but Boston College has ruled of late. The Eagles have been victorious in each of the last four Beanpots, though the 2011 final and both of their games in 2010 all went to overtime.
– This BC/BU stranglehold has resulted in some serious title droughts for the other two competing schools. Harvard hasn’t won in 20 years, and Northeastern has been trophy-less since 1988. The last time these two teams met for the Beanpot title was … well, never. All 61 Beanpot championship games have featured either BC, BU or both.
– That streak will continue this year, as Harvard and Northeastern will meet in the first semifinal Monday at 5 p.m. at TD Garden, with BC and BU taking the ice in the second game at 8 p.m. The losers will square off in the consolation game Monday, Feb. 10 at 4:30 p.m., with the championship game following at 7:30 p.m.
Now, let’s take a look at the teams.
Head coach: Jim Madigan (second year)
Record: 15-8-3 (8-5-1 HE)
Beanpot titles (most recent): 4 (1988)
Last season: Defeated BU 3-2 in semifinals, lost to BC 6-3 in finals
Players to watch (drafted): Soph. forward Kevin Roy (Anaheim), Sr. forward Braden Pimm, Jr. goalie Clay Witt
Scouting report: Northeastern has been one of Hockey East’s most surprising teams this season. Picked to finish dead last in the preseason poll, the Huskies enter Monday ranked No. 2 in the conference, trailing only Boston College. Roy — who last year became the first player since BU’s Sean Fields in 2004 to be named Beanpot MVP for a team that did not win the tournament — has continued the torrid pace he set as a freshman, leading the team with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists). Witt has also been stellar in his first year as a full-time starter. The junior boasts a 2.04 goals against average to lead a Huskies defense that has been the stingiest in Hockey East this season.
Head coach: Ted Donato (ninth year)
Record: 6-11-3 (3-9-3 ECAC)
Beanpot titles (most recent): 10 (1993)
Last season: Lost to BC 4-1 in semifinals, defeated BU 7-4 in consolation game
Players to watch (drafted): Soph. forward Jimmy Vesey (Nashville), Sr. goalie Raphael Girard
Scouting report: Harvard has struggled mightily both in the standings and in the offensive end this season, failing to place a single skater among the ECAC’s top 35 in points scored (Vesey, with 17, is tied for 38th). Girard, a starter since his sophomore year in Cambridge, does not boast a spectacular goals against average (2.35, sixth in ECAC), but he leads the conference with a .931 save percentage. The Crimson are seeking their first trip to the Beanpot finals since 2008, when they fell to BC 6-5 in overtime.
Head coach: Jerry York (20th year)
Record: 19-4-3 (12-1-1 HE)
Beanpot titles (most recent): 18 (2013)
Last season: Defeated Harvard 4-1 in semifinals, defeated Northeastern 6-3 in finals
Players to watch (drafted): Jr. forward Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary), Sr. forward Bill Arnold (Calgary), Sr. forward Kevin Hayes (Chicago), Fr. forward Ryan Fitzgerald (Boston)
Scouting report: There’s no way around it: BC is loaded. The line of Gaudreau, Hayes and Arnold is the best in all of college hockey, ranking 1-2-3 in Hockey East in scoring (Gaudreau and Hayes also rank 1-2 nationally). The goaltending duo of junior Brian Billett and freshman Thatcher Demko has been strong, as well, allowing more than three goals in a game just once since the beginning of December. With just one conference loss this season, BC holds a six-point lead in the Hockey East standings. The Eagles blew out BU 5-1 in the teams’ first meeting, but the Terriers showed much more fight the second time around, scoring three third-period goals before falling 6-4 after an empty-netter.
Head coach: David Quinn (first year)
Record: 8-14-3 (3-8-2 HE)
Beanpot titles (most recent): 29 (2009)
Last season: Lost to Northeastern 3-2 in semifinals, lost to Harvard 7-4 in consolation game
Players to watch (drafted): Sr. defenseman Garrett Noonan (Nashville), Fr. forward Robbie Baillargeon (Ottawa), Soph. goalie Matt O’Connor, Soph. goalie Sean Maguire (Pittsburgh)
Scouting report: Quinn has called goaltending one of the Terriers’ greatest strengths. For a team that’s dead last in Hockey East in goals allowed, that’s a pretty scary thing. BU started the season 4-4 (2-0 in conference) before flying off the rails, going 0-7-1 against its next eight Hockey East opponents before finally picking up a win over Vermont on Jan. 24. The Terriers’ 16 New England natives, including points leader Baillargeon, are the most of the four Beanpot schools.