The 2016 Beanpot has arrived.
College hockey’s most prestigious regular-season tournament begins Monday night at TD Garden with a pair of semifinal matchups featuring Boston College taking on Harvard followed by Boston University tangling with Northeastern.
The tournament will serve as a showcase of some of the sport’s best talent as three of these teams are ranked inside the top 10 of USCHO’s latest poll.
Here’s a quick snapshot of each school heading into the Beanpot.
NCAA rank: 5th (via USCHO poll)
Last Beanpot title: 2014
Player to Watch: Colin White, forward (15-18-33 totals, 23 GP)
Boston College had its streak of five straight Beanpot titles end last season after an upset loss to Northeastern in the semifinal. The Eagles are the team to beat this season, though.
They boast a powerful offense that scores 4.16 goals per game, good for fourth in the entire nation. The BC attack is led by forwards Colin White and Ryan Fitzgerald, both of whom have tallied at least 14 goals and 30 points through 24 games. White was a first-round selection of the Ottawa Senators in 2015, while Fitzgerald was taken by the Boston Bruins in the fourth round in 2013.
BC enters the 2016 Beanpot unbeaten in its last seven games (four wins, three ties).
NCAA Rank: 9th
Last Beanpot title: 2015
Player to Watch: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Forward (7-15-22 totals, 25 GP)
The Terriers won a record 30th Beanpot crown last season when captain and Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk scored in overtime to beat Northeastern in the final.
Leading scorer Jack Eichel and several other players from that squad have moved on, but the Terriers remain a deep and talented squad. BU has won six of its last eight games after an inconsistent start to the season.
It’ll be the first Beanpot for Forsbacka Karlsson, who the Bruins selected in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The Swedish center is a very good two-way forward who provides consistent scoring production and excels on faceoffs.
NCAA rank: Unranked
Last Beanpot title: 1988
Player to Watch: Zach Aston-Reese, forward (7-16-23 totals, 25 GP)
The Huskies started the season 2-5-0 and appeared to be headed for another disappointing season. There’s reason for optimism, though, as Northeastern comes into this tournament with a six-game win streak.
Northeastern hasn’t won the Beanpot in more than 25 years, the longest drought of the four teams. That said, the Huskies almost always are a tough out, and they upset Boston College in the semifinal and took a heavily favored BU team to overtime in the final last season.
The Huskies must improve defensively to have a successful tournament. They rank 10th among Hockey East teams in penalty killing and give up 3.00 goals per game, the most of the four Beanpot participants.
NCAA rank: 7th
Last Beanpot title: 1993
Player to Watch: Jimmy Vesey, forward (16-16-32 totals, 19 GP)
The Crimson are enjoying another excellent season. They rank second in the ECAC standings and their 44 goals against are the second-fewest of any team in the conference. Harvard enters this tournament feeling confident given its recent stretch of results. The Crimson have won three straight games, four of their last five and six of their last nine.
Harvard’s only game against a Beanpot team was a 6-5 loss to the Terriers on Jan. 7.
Vesey will be a difficult assignment for Boston College defensemen in the semifinal. The Nashville Predators draft pick is one of the most offensively gifted forwards in college hockey. He’s also a threat on the power play and has scored five times with the man advantage.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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