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February 4, 2014 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Second Thoughts

Dial Back the Beanpot Rhetoric

by Ryan Lambert/Columnist

The problem with the Beanpot is a pretty simple one: We're told it's important and it is in fact not.

Well, that's not entirely true. It's important to the four teams which participate in it. Obviously. But the number of people outside of those schools to whom it is important numbers more or less zero. You can't say that, though.

It's a great tradition and it's so much fun and it's the “Greatest Show On Ice” and it's the “social event of winter season” and it's one of the big sporting events you have to “experience before you die.” That's what we're told every year isn't it? Not only in the run-up to it, which is itself interminable, but also during it. Constantly.

What we're not told every year is that you can probably pick the winner of the Beanpot around the end of October when you've seen every team in it play once or twice. Northeastern's upset of Boston University to kick off last season's tournament was the first time someone not named Boston College beat the Terriers in the first round since Harvard did it in 1994. BU has only lost in to either Northeastern or Harvard in the first round seven times in the entire history of this tournament. For the Eagles, that number is 12, but just two of those have come since Jerry York took over the program, and the vast majority were prior to the election of Jimmy Carter to the office of President of the United States.

Put another way: Northeastern and Harvard have a combined first-Monday record of 20-62 against BC and BU, with a lot of those coming in the 1950s and '60s, and then again in the '80s. Five of those wins have come in overtime. You can probably infer that kind of thing, though, from the fact that in the previous 61 years, those two schools have pulled out championships just 14 times. The number of times those wins were facilitated by BC/BU first-round matchups? Six. The number of times Harvard and Northeastern have met in the final? That'd be zero.

Essentially, this is a two-team tournament, with BC really running down its archrival in the last few years and closing that gap in titles to a mere 11. There was a time when the difference was monumental. Meanwhile, that sorry old stat is that Harvard and NU have been left standing around with their hands in their pockets and relatively little to show for their participation since 1993, when the vast majority of players in this year's tournament were either not alive or still in diapers. What have there been, like a dozen actual surprise results in the past 61 years? That's almost 500 games of largely predictable wins and losses.

But you'd never know it the way everyone waxes poetic about this thing the way they must sigh wistfully at the societal innocence in your average Mad Men episode. The one word you can use to characterize the Beapot isn't “important,” but rather “self-important.”

How bad is it? There's a Beanpot Hall of Fame, and you can sometimes make it in with like two or three good games in your entire college career. Not to denigrate having a good game here and there — because someone has to have them, right? — but when you've had a tournament for 61 years, and there are 54 guys in your Hall of Fame, maybe you pull back on the reins just a little bit. At that point, you might as well just say, “Here's a list of Beanpot MVPs.” Because really, who cares? That argument about The Hall of Very Good versus Hall of Fame reaches its logical endpoint when you're letting in close to one guy a year based on an absolute maximum of eight career games in anything.

It's just all so colloquial, and lent such import by dint of its taking place in Boston, which is one of the most self-important places in the sporting world to begin with. Again, if you or your alma mater or the school you support isn't participating, why are you being asked to care? Why does UMass Lowell's Joe Pendenza, for instance, have to be asked about what a great tournament this is?

One hopes, for the sake of fans' sanity overall, that this level of idiocy doesn't eventually descend on the nascent North Star College Cup, or whatever they call the tourney between the four Connecticut schools if they ever decide to get that together. No one outside of Minnesota or Connecticut will care about those either, and they shouldn't. One further hopes that a half-century from now we don't have to look at a 71-year-old Adam Wilcox whimsically giggle his way through the same anecdote he's been tellings for decades, about something funny Sam Warning said to him before the shootout started and how it really helped keep him loose. Whatever. (Although, to the Beanpot's credit, at least it has the common decency to not resort shootouts after a brief overtime. There is at least that purity in a deep pool of foul nonsense.)

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll take the four college hockey games on consecutive Mondays, and I'll do it happily. But just because you hand out a trophy that looks like it was stolen from the kitchen of someone's grandmother at the end of it doesn't mean it's not any less predictably boring than a normal non-conference game between opponents with a huge disparity in quality. They don't give BC a trophy for sweeping Merrimack every year. This really isn't that much different.

Second thoughts

Atlantic Hockey

Air Force: After dropping the first game at home against UConn, the Falcons really pulled it together, and allowed just 22 shots on goal in the back half of the series. That's a pretty good way to win your games against a team charging hard up the standings.

American International: The Yellow Jackets picked up a W against Canisius on Saturday, snapping a lengthy league winless streak that stretched back six games and almost a month.

Army: Speaking of winless streaks, Army hasn't won an NCAA game since Dec. 7. At least they beat the Royal Military College of Canada two weeks ago, though. America has that going for it.

Bentley: Bentley may be making a run to the top of Atlantic Hockey, but losing to the team in front of the pack two times in one weekend says there's more to climbing the mountain than many might think. Time is very much running out. That slow start might cost them an NCAA bid.

Canisius: At least the Griffs picked up a win in that first game against AIC. A 4-1 win, as a matter of fact. And that shutout was only snapped when the game was well in hand, with just 59 seconds left in the game. Heartbreaker there.

UConn: UConn is still third in the conference, and was handed just its fifth loss in 19 league games on Saturday. Which is to say that this team is on one hell of a turnaround. A big weekend with second-place Bentley looms.

Holy Cross: Senior Adam Schmidt scored twice on Saturday to bring his career total to 100 points, but he's got a long way to go to break Joe Lunney's 103-116-219 school record.

Mercyhurst: You really can't say enough good things about the job Rick Gotkin has done getting the Lakers going for pretty much the entire season. They have just two league losses, which is nearly on Boston College levels of dominance over the conference.

Niagara: Tough way to lose on Friday, as Sacred Heart scored the game-winning goal with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Dave Burkholder did not burkhold back afterward: “From start to finish we had a lot of guys who were non factors in the game.”

RIT: Holy Cross grabbed three points at RIT on the weekend, capped by a three-goal third period on Saturday that took a one-goal deficit to a two-goal win. That's quite a turnaround and an awful way to blow your own three-point weekend.

Robert Morris: The Colonials scored 10 goals on the weekend, and now have 33 goals in their last seven games. Which is a lot.

Sacred Heart: Not only did Sacred Heart score with less than a second to go on Friday, but they also chased Niagara starter Adrian Ignagni with two goals in 30 seconds less than six minutes into the game. Sounds like a weird one.

ECAC

Brown: Sophomores Mark Naclerio and Nick Lappin scored four of Brown's six goals on the weekend, which leads one to wonder whether secondary scoring is an issue. A quick look at the stats say: “Yup.” After them, Matt Lorito has eight goals and 21 points, and then the next-best guy has five and 13. Not good enough.

Clarkson: Allowing two goals at home inside the final 11 minutes of the game is a serious gutpunch.

Colgate: If the other team spends most of the game playing just 17 skaters and then gives you a ton of power plays including a lengthy 5-on-3, it's best not to lose by three.

Cornell: It's been nine games since Cornell lost, but opponents are getting closer. The Big Red needed overtime to put down Yale, then only beat Brown 2-1. Gonna be a heck of a last month.

Dartmouth: This was a pretty predictable result.

Harvard: A 3-2 win over Princeton was the perfect precursor to Beanpot disappointment, because at least it snapped a four-game losing streak.

Princeton: Here's something you probably don't see very often: a defenseman (Alec Rush) scored a 5-on-3 goal and an extra-attacker goal in the third period, and his team still lost in regulation.

Quinnipiac: Jordan Samuels-Thomas also joined the century club this weekend in that win over Dartmouth, with a goal and an assist. His 101 currently has him in the top-20 all-time among Div. 1 players at the Q.

RPI: Ryan Haggerty scored two goals in a conference game? The devil, you say.

St. Lawrence: And one of those Haggerty goals was the game-winner at a time when St. Lawrence had entered the final period with a lead? I just don't believe it.

Union: Here's a conversation with Mat Bodie in which he reveals absolutely nothing about what sparked that big brawl. Despite being asked twice.

Yale: Given how banged up the Bulldogs were over the weekend, the fact that they went 7 for 8 on the PK is pretty impressive.

Hockey East

Boston College: Ho hum another Johnny Gaudreau goal and another win. Do you think they're getting sick of this yet?

Boston University: BU's tie out in Amherst felt so much like a loss that David Quinn called it one in his postgame presser. This is what happens when you get outshot 49-22 in 65 minutes of hockey. Just such a lost season for BU.

Maine: With the Black Bears taking the weekend off, the only news out of Maine lately is that they're not going to play in that Florida tournament any more. Just another set of games outside Orono they won't win.

UMass: Steven Iacobellis went 22 for 32 at the dot on Friday night. How on earth did he take 32 faceoffs in a single game?

UMass Lowell: A completely unsurprising sweep of Merrimack (even with dressing just 17 skaters for the second and third straight games) brings the River Hawks to 21 goals in their last five games. There's that offense they were lacking earlier this season.

Merrimack: The Warriors were F-L-A-T flat in the first period on Friday night, but responded with a huge second period in which they scored twice. The difference, according to Mark Dennehy? “I inserted my boot up their ass. Pardon my French.”

UNH: A big sweep of Notre Dame has the Wildcats on three wins in their last four despite missing two of their best players. Doesn't hurt that three of those games were in Durham.

Northeastern: Northeastern also had the weekend off, in order to prepare for the Beanpot. They are, understandably, feeling good.

Notre Dame: The Irish really shouldn't be this bad. This is really pretty remarkable.

Providence: Nate Leaman says the reason PC lost to Boston College on Friday was that they didn't get to the net enough. The fact that they now have 19 goals in their last eight games should be worrisome, especially because 12 of those were in their only two wins during that stretch, 7-2 over Colorado College and 5-4 over Lowell.

Vermont: So it was Vermont which ended up getting the commits from the Privitera brothers. Okay, great.

Player of the Week

Thatcher Demko has a .947 save percentage in his last six appearances, and allowed just one goal on 58 shots in his last two. Which is good.

The Johnny Gaudreau Goal of the Week

The penalty shot goal by Adam Chapie at 24 seconds of this video was Lowell's first penalty shot goal since the 1996-97 season.

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