by Tim Rosenthal/Staff Writer
Over the years, the Beanpot has brought a great tradition to the city of Boston, taking place the first two Mondays in February. This year is the 56th annual gathering for the bragging rights of this esteemed college hockey city.
This year's first round match-ups are Harvard vs. Northeastern (5 p.m.); and Boston College vs. Boston University (8 p.m.)
Harvard vs. Northeastern
After a 6-2-1 start to the season, the Crimson have struggled, going 2-8-2. Harvard did get back on track, somewhat, with a win over Dartmouth last Saturday, only to lose to Brown this weekend.
Goaltender Kyle Richter has been the backbone of the team, starting all 19 games for the Crimson and leads the ECAC in most categories.
The seniors for Harvard have gone 1-5 in The Beanpot and have never been in a Beanpot final. Will this year be the year they break the streak? The Crimson have not been to a Beanpot final since 1998 so history might be against them.
Northeastern had an early roll, but also struggled since then. Coach Greg Cronin and his team only won two games in January after going through the first half of the year with a 9-4-2 mark.
Unlike the senior class for Harvard, there is only one member of the class of 2008 for the Huskies, Jimmy Russo.
Northeastern has also seen some strong goaltending from sophomore Brad Thiessen. He shut out Massachusetts, 1-0, Friday to stop a four-game winless streak.
Captain Joe Vitale has been in two consolation games and will look to lead the team to their first Beanpot final appearance since 2005.
The first game between these two will be competitive, but overall the Huskies look like the better team.
Prediction: Northeastern 3, Harvard 2
Boston College vs. Boston University
Every three years, the schedule makes it impossible for these storied rivals to meet in the final, so the chance for history is diminished somewhat.
The Eagles are the hottest team of the four, but did lose to Providence on Friday. With their history against their rivals from Commonwealth Avenue in this tournament, BC once again will have to be on top of their game.
Although Brock Bradford is out again with an injury to the same arm he broke in the Ice Breaker at the beginning of the year, the offense is lethal. Led by Hobey Baker hopeful Nathan Gerbe, the Eagles are averaging 3.71 goals per game, which is third in the nation. Gerbe is not the only one contributing — sophomore Ben Smith and freshman Joe Whitney have stepped up in place of Bradford.
Freshman goalie John Muse has been a surprise to many this year as he has started every game and has shown some consistency as of late.
But of course, whenever you talk about the Eagles in the Beanpot, you have to talk about the Terriers. Although their roller coaster ride is on a downward trend, you can't count Jack Parker's squad out in any Beanpot game. In fact, the last time BU was in a consolation game of the tournament was 1994. BU has dominated the Beanpot, winning 28 of the 55 tournaments.
Led By Pete MacArthur, the offense has seen some good moments. BU ranks fifth in the country in scoring offense (3.38 goals per game) and Parker has seen great contributions from players such as Bryan Ewing and Colin Wilson.
It is on the other side of the puck, however, where the Terriers have been shaky. Inconsistent goaltending and getting the puck out of the zone are part of problems, as Parker's squad, who was one of the top teams in team defense last year, have given up 3.42 goals per game. That is 53rd in the nation.
This game might come down to the power play. BC's 25.4 percent success rate is tops in the nation, while BU's 20.2 percent success is good for 11th.
When it comes to crunch time however, the Terriers have always had the upper hand in this tournament. Make no exception this year, the Terriers are due to defeat their rivals and what a better time to get some momentum in what has become the "BU Invitational."
Prediction: BU 4, BC 3