Donato, Madigan Hope to End Beanpot Droughts
1993 and 1988 Are Respective Last Titles for Their Alma Maters
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
BOSTON Every year as the Beanpot approaches, we hear the same thing: "Everyone has a chance to win it this year." In theory, it's obviously true. But in practice, it hasn't been coming to fruition. Harvard hasn't won a Beanpot since 1993 and Northeastern hasn't triumphed since 1988, as Boston University and Boston College have combined to win each of the last 18 tournaments.
No one feels the pressure to get Harvard and Northeastern off the schneid more than the schools' head coaches, both of whom played for the schools they now coach.
Crimson coach Ted Donato won a Beanpot (and national championship) as a Harvard player in 1989, but has struggled in the annual tournament as a coach. Donato's teams have made it to the title game just once in seven years, although that one was a valiant effort to end the drought — the Crimson fell 6-5 in overtime to eventual national champion BC in the 2008 final.
"I do, yes," Donato said at Monday's Beanpot luncheon when asked if he feels a growing sense urgency as the drought continues. "Even on my way over here, I said, 'Geez, we need to win one of these.' I'd be lying if I said anything other than we feel like we need to win one and we're overdue."
Huskies coach Jim Madigan isn't under quite as much pressure, given that this is his first year behind the bench, but he feels the urgency nonetheless. Madigan won two Beanpots as a player in 1984 and 1985 and another as an assistant coach on the school's last title team in 1988. He then held various administrative positions at Northeastern over the last two decades before being hired as the coach this summer, so he knows first-hand how starved the school is for Beanpot success.
"It's hard not to know," Madigan said, "because every time you get to this point in the year, people are saying it's been since 1988 since Northeastern last won."
While fans and media are going to continue to talk about the Huskies' lack of success until they win one, Madigan said he doesn't want it to weigh on his players' minds.
"I want to make sure our players go out and have fun in this tournament," he said. "I don't want them to have to wear the burden of the last 23 years of not winning the Beanpot. We want to win it for our team and for our institution right now, and don't worry about the fact that we haven't won a title."
Harvard and Northeastern will be considered the underdogs in their matchups against BU and BC, respectively, in Monday's first round, but there is also reason for both schools to be optimistic.
The Huskies have already played BC three times this year, and although the Eagles have won all three games, each one has been a nailbiter. In the first meeting, Northeastern led 3-1 entering the third, but BC came back and won in overtime. In the second, Tommy Cross scored the game-winner for BC with just three seconds left in regulation. The third showdown, which took place three weeks ago at Fenway Park, was another one-goal game.
Close games like that are nothing new for these two teams, either. Four of their five meetings last season were decided by a goal or less as well, including last year's thrilling Beanpot championship game that BC won 7-6 in overtime.
"I think it's a pretty common theme for us against Boston College," Madigan said. "Because they're such a good team, you've got to play a full 60-minute game. You've got be mindful of playing with discipline, executing your systems and playing how we need to play to be successful for a full 60 minutes.
"If not, they're just too good. They can pounce on a loose puck on a poorly executed play or an undisciplined play. That doesn't just mean power plays or penalties. You can be undisciplined just in your positioning, and they can take advantage of the situation. So we've got to play 60 minutes and not give them opportunities on mistakes."
Before Northeastern and BC face off, Harvard will take on BU in a rematch of a game three weeks ago that was pretty exciting in its own right. The Crimson led the Terriers 3-1 after two, but BU scored twice in the third and Garrett Noonan tallied the game-winner for the Terriers 2:08 into overtime. Donato said that even though the game was recent, there's not a whole lot to take away from it.
"It gives us a little bit of familiarity with some of their personnel, but to be honest, there's not a ton of carryover," he said. "There's been a few years where we've played very well or even beaten them before the Beanpot, but then didn't have the same result in the Beanpot. It's a one-game shot. They've been as good or better than anybody at it over the years. We'll have our hands full, but we're excited about the opportunity and the challenge."
Both the Crimson and Huskies have already proven they can play with their first-round opponent. So yes, either or both schools could advance to the championship and end BU and BC's 18-year stranglehold on the Beanpot. Maybe this will finally be the year one of them does. After all, everyone has a chance, right?