Last season, the Huskies were among the top teams in the nation as they paced the Hockey East standings. This year, they're 7-10-1 in the conference, just six points ahead of last-place Providence.
"There's no carryover," said head coach Greg Cronin. "We have so many guys that aren't with us. We lost seven guys [from last year's roster] and then we had three guys that went out with season-ending injuries. That's a big chunk of your team missing. So whatever substance we had from last year's tournament is absent."
For a team that's won just four Beanpots and hasn't held the trophy since the Reagan administration, that's not good news. It is, however, reality.
Included in that group of players that's no longer with the team are Ryan Ginand and Joe Vitale, two seniors last season who combined for 59 points. They also lost goaltender Brad Thiessen, who opted to forgo his senior season in favor of beginning his pro career. Thiessen was a Hobey Baker finalist last year and posted a 25-12-4 record to go with his .931 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average.
Making matters worse are the injuries this season. Cronin noted that he's yet to put out the same roster for consecutive games all season.
"I don't know what we're going to have for a team on Monday. I mean that seriously," Cronin stated plainly. "I don't know who's going to be healthy. It's been a steady flow [of injuries] the entire year for us. It's like musical chairs for who plays."
If the Huskies need some inspiration though, it won't be too hard to find. The team beat Boston University earlier in the season in what was an instant classic. Freshman goaltender Chris Rawlings stopped 43 shots in handing BU its first road shutout in five years while Wade MacLeod scored the game's only goal midway through the final period.
That game built no momentum, however, as the Huskies lost 5-1 to Boston College the following evening. That's something that emphasizes Cronin's statement that his team is inconsistent.
"We've had a hard time finding consistency throughout the year," he said. "Our guys are starting to figure some things out. We can beat any team on any given night."
They'll need to do that on Monday, when they take on BU — a team that really started to get hot in a 5-2 month of January. Included in that hot streak was a win over BC at Fenway Park, something that Cronin feels adds to the tradition of this hockey season and this Beanpot.
"After the afterglow of the Fenway event," he said, "I think there's still a lot of magic left in this tournament."
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