Harvard vs. BU
One thing is for sure as Harvard University and No. 3 Boston University prepare to face each other in the first round of the Beanpot – one of them won’t be returning to the consolation game this year.
The consolation game is where the two teams met last season, when Harvard came from behind in the final four minutes to take down BU 5-4. The loss gave BU its first fourth place finish since 1980.
While the teams have returned many of the same players from last season, Harvard coach Ted Donato does not think that last year’s consolation result will have much effect on this year’s semifinal.
“I think for us, last year, it was helpful to us because we played pretty strongly coming down the stretch and that was certainly a little bit of a springboard for us,” Donato said. “As far as its value this year, to be honest with you, I don’t think it really has any impact.”
The Crimson are coming into the opening round hot, as they are unbeaten in their last six games. In fact, their last loss was a non-conference loss at home to the same BU squad they will be facing on Monday night.
In that game, BU found itself down 3-1 after two periods before storming back in the third to win 4-3 in overtime. Junior forward Alex Fallstrom scored just over three minutes into the game to give Harvard the early lead. Fallstrom would later add a second goal, which was followed by a power-play goal by senior forward Alex Killorn.
BU senior captain Chris Connolly broke his scoring drought in the game, scoring his first two goals of the season while also assisting on sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan’s overtime game-winner.
While Harvard hasn’t lost in the past six games, the Terriers have also had a pretty good run the past few weeks, having won six of their last eight games. They were swept last weekend by the University of Maine at Agganis Arena, but besides that Jack Parker’s squad has been playing its best hockey lately.
The recent success of BU has come as a surprise to many, especially considering the adversity it faced entering the new year. Within a week, the Terriers lost their leading goal scorer in center Corey Trivino, as well as arguably one of their best players in center Charlie Coyle. Since those losses, however, the team is 6-3-0 and has averaged just under four goals per game.
“We’ve had some trying times,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “But a lot of guys have stepped up and the thing that is most noticeable is that this team is really confident in themselves. They don’t think they’re the best team in college hockey. They don’t think they can win every night without effort, but they’re confident in themselves and the guys show up for each other.”
With the two teams playing good hockey entering the matchup, it should be a close contest in the opening game of the tournament.
“I think it is a one-game shot. They have been as good as or better than anybody at it over the years in the Beanpot, so we will have our hands full,” Donato said. “But we are excited for the opportunity and the challenge.”
Northeastern vs. BC
In a rematch of last year’s Beanpot championship, No. 5 Boston College will be facing off against Northeastern University in the second matchup of the opening round. In a thrilling finale to last year’s tournament, the Eagles won in overtime 7-6.
The teams traded the lead back and forth throughout the game until BC took a 6-5 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game. Northeastern’s Wade MacLeod tied the game in the final two minutes to force the game into overtime, but Eagles forward Jimmy Hayes netted the game-winner six minutes into the extra session.
However, the two squads have both changed a lot over the last year thanks to some key players leaving at the end of last season. Hayes has since left for the Chicago Blackhawks organization. Other notables that will not be there to help BC defend its Beanpot title are former captain Brian Gibbons, Hobey Baker finalist Cam Atkinson, and four-year starting goaltender John Muse.
With the loss of Muse, BC has been in search of a consistent starting goaltender. Junior Parker Milner has started the majority of the games this season, and has posted a 2.39 goals against average and .904 save percentage. While Milner’s numbers are respectable, he has been inconsistent this season and has made way for freshman netminder Brian Billett to start eight games. Billett has performed similarly to Milner, with a 2.66 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
However, BC’s offense still has some offensive firepower left over from last year’s Beanpot team. Beanpot MVP Chris Kreider leads the Eagles’ offense with 16 goals and 14 assists, while senior wing Barry Almeida and sophomore center Bill Arnold have 24 and 23 points this season, respectively.
Northeastern’s team has a different look to it as well, with its top three scorers from a year ago – Wade MacLeod, Tyler Mcneely, and Steve Silva – all graduated from the team. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak was drafted in the first round after last season and has since moved to the OHL. Northeastern also hired a new coach in the offseason, with Jim Madigan stepping in and taking over the team. Madigan’s team started off slowly, losing nine of its first 10, before going unbeaten over its next eight games.
“We started off going through a little bit of a tough period early in the year with the players and the coaching staff all being on the same board earlier in the year,” Madigan said.
The Huskies offense is pretty balanced with nine double-digit scorers. Freshman Ludwig Karlsson, who is playing in his first Beanpot on Monday, leads the Huskies with 23 points. Senior captain Steve Quailer is the only other player with 20-plus points, with 22.
The most consistent performer for Northeastern has been junior goaltender Chris Rawlings, who has a .922 save percentage this season. Despite giving up seven goals in last year’s final, Rawlings made 39 saves and kept the Huskies in the game.
So far, the Eagles have swept the Huskies this season, winning all three of the matchups between the teams. However, all three games have been decided by one goal, with the first one decided in overtime and another in the final seconds of regulation.
The two teams have very different rosters from last season’s championship game, but they have new looks that should make this Beanpot semifinal just as entertaining as last year’s final.