The Beanpot Effect
Results Dictating Seasons for Boston Clubs
by Michael King/CHN Reporter
BOSTON It uniquely matches the players and fans of four schools — which all share just a few square miles — in one building for two Monday nights each winter. But more is at stake than just city bragging rights in the annual Beanpot tournament.
Unlike other competitions, a loss doesn't result in season's end or indicate the last opportunity for a significant accolade. However, it does represent the failure to defeat one's local rivals and assert college hockey dominance in the city of Boston.
Over the past two decades, winning the coveted city title has been a strong predictor of impending conference and national success. From 2008-2010, the Beanpot victor also won the Hockey East Tournament and national championship.
In 2007-08 and 2009-10, Boston College won the tournament, then proved itself to be the top team in the nation two months later. BU accomplished the same feat between those seasons.
"If you win this tournament, then you have a pretty good team," victorious Boston College coach Jerry York said, after his team bested Boston University, 3-2, in overtime Monday night. "You need a lot of bounces and good fortune to win it, but that experience certainly helps you down the stretch."
Though the two programs have recently dominated the contest, winning the Beanpot is not simple. The emotion of the event is unparalleled. Although arguably more is at stake during conference playoffs or the NCAA Tournament, the Beanpot yields a year's worth of pride and genuine accomplishment.
The atmosphere at the TD Garden for the championship game is replicated in few other scenarios. The proximity of the event to each school allows both competing teams to have equally large — and equally boisterous — delegations of students and alumni supporters present.
"It's such a big stage with so much media coverage and exposure, the experience can only help you as it gets bigger and bigger later in the season," York said.
Adding to the intensity is the fact that rarely is the result certain before the final whistle; nine of the last 10 finals have been one-goal games. It's no surprise that that six of the finals since 2005, including this year, have required an extra period.
Persevering under such emotional circumstances can transform a team. It can teach the squad how to win important games and render it capable of coping with significant adversity. It can also propel the team onto even greater accomplishments.
"My freshman year, we won this tournament and continued to roll off the momentum (to a national championship)," said junior defenseman Brian Dumoulin, whose dominate defensive efforts and strong transitional play were key to the victory over BU. "Again my sophomore year, we won it and continued strong, but we just ran into some bad luck down the stretch. This win will provide our younger guys with some great experience and hopefully teach them how to be successful."
Even beyond the victor, playing well in the tournament — even for one game — can change a season.
After his team's victory in the consolation game Monday night, Harvard coach Ted Donato acknowledged that he hoped that the 3-2 triumph over Northeastern would further his team onto greater success in 2012.
Donato would prefer a replay of last season. The Crimson defeated BU in the consolation game and subsequently won five of their last six regular season games. Harvard then nearly upset Dartmouth in the ECAC Tournament quarterfinals.
Despite the premature ending to the season, the results were in stark contrast to the 4-17-1 record the Crimson amassed entering the Beanpot last year.
As much as a successful Beanpot showing can turnaround a season, a bad tournament can be equally deflating. Northeastern — losers of both its Beanpot games this year — needs to prevent the losses from crippling the remainder of the season. The Huskies are currently fighting for the final spot in the Hockey East Tournament.
The status of both Northeastern and Harvard consistently finishing in the lower half of their conferences, also has translated into subpar Beanpot results for both squads — something that's marked most recent seasons.
Therefore, triumphing in the tournament meant the Eagles or Terriers besting each other. In 11 of the past 12 years, the two teams have played in either the first Monday or the final. Only in 2009 — BU's national championship season — did the two teams not meet during that time period.
Though neither Harvard nor Northeastern has won the tournament since 1993, some of the programs' most recent successful seasons came on the heels of a Beanpot title.
Harvard's 1993 victory preceded the 1994 season where the team advanced to the Frozen Four. In addition, the 1989 Crimson team that won the national championship took the Beanpot trophy.
Similarly to their Cambridge rivals, Northeastern rode its most recent Beanpot victory (1988) to a NCAA Tournament appearance that same year.
It remains to be seen if 2012 Beanpot champion Boston College can expand its impressive victory to Hockey East and national glory. However, it's likely that experience from the tournament will have an affect — whether positive or negative — on the remainder of the season for all four Boston schools.