Early February is a special time in Boston sports. The Bruins and Celtics are in the playoff chase. The Patriots are once again in the Super Bowl and one of college hockey’s finest traditions is around the corner. On Monday, February 5th, Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern, and Harvard will travel to the Boston Garden to play for the Beanpot Title. Before the action takes place, let’s preview Monday’s games and see how the teams stack up.
Game 1: Northeastern(15-7-5) vs Boston College(13-11-3) 5:00 pm
The most dominant program of the last twenty years faces a school that hasn’t won the Beanpot since the Reagan administration.
Going only off history and experience, BC should be the favored team in this matchup. However, this year is a different story. Boston College doesn’t have their usual form. This is a young team without a senior on the roster. Julius Mattila, Graham McPhee, and Jogan Hustko have shown skill on the offensive front. The trouble is they’ve shown moments of offensive spark instead of sustained punch.
BC has a strong defensive corps, led by Michael Kim, Casey Fitzgerald, and Luke MacInnis. The blue line can provide some offensive push, but the best part of their game is forechecking and skating. They can hang with any team and make offense hard to come by if they stay out of penalty trouble.
Eagles goalie Joseph Woll is having a sophomore slump, with only a .901 save percentage and a 2.74 GAA. He can still make the hard saves to keep the Eagles in the game.
Northeastern is the most explosive team in the tournament. Adam Gaudette and Dylan Sikura are the top scorers in Hockey East and Gaudette is tied for the most points in the nation.
Captain Nolan Stevens is on the same line and is fourth in Hockey East in scoring. The Huskies sport the sixth highest points per game and the fifth best power play in the country. While the top line is the driving force behind those numbers, the other forwards have scored well too. Matt Filipe, Zach Solow, and Grant Jozefek have good offensive punch.
Jeremy Davies is the fourth leading scorer and anchors the blue line. Ryan Shea and Eric Williams also provide good depth on the defensive corps.
The difference between this team and Husky teams of yesteryear is the goaltending. Ryan Ruck was the starter to begin the year. But a concussion suffered at BU in November forced Cayden Primeau into the spotlight. The Freshman from Voorhees, New Jersey, has made the job his, with the second-best save percentage in Hockey East, .921, and the best goals-against average, 2.01.
The defense is supporting the offensive at a strong rate and the team has every piece needed to win their first Beanpot since 1988.
Northeastern and BC have split their season series with the road team winning each game. BC’s win at Matthews was closer than the 4-1 score indicated, as BC’s goals were the result of funky bounces and odd puck luck. Northeastern’s win in Conte Forum was a demonstration of their dominance on the power play and offensive punch.
Northeastern has the talent, offensive push, and defensive ability to win a tournament. BC has to play a defensive style in order to win. Northeastern prefers to play a track meet style of game but can play BC’s game too. I think Northeastern will win and contend for their first Beanpot Title in 30 years.
Game 2: Boston University(14-11-2) vs Harvard(10-8-4) 8:00 pm
The rematch of last year’s Beanpot Final sees two talented yet disappointing teams walking into the Garden. The defending champion Harvard Crimson are looking to be the first team to repeat in four years. They’ve got one of the most talented collegiate players in Ryan Donato and skilled forwards Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Jake Horton at the head of the offense. Nathan Krusko, last year’s Beanpot MVP, Jack Badini, and Henry Bowlby provide some good depth to support the top lines. Adam Fox and John Marino can both quarterback the power play and man the blue line.
The trouble for Harvard is two-fold. First, Merrick Madsen has regressed from his junior season to his senior season. His numbers are only slightly different, but he has surrendered more Grade A chances than last year and not been as dominant as last year.
Second, the depth for Harvard is young and still proving themselves. Badini and Bowlby are freshmen and this will be a tough test for them. Additionally, if the Crimson make the championship game, they will be without Ryan Donato, who will be skating in the Olympics. It will be a tall task for Harvard to repeat as champions.
Meanwhile, Boston University has been a roller coaster. The Terriers started the year ranked second in the nation and enter the Beanpot outside the rankings. The Terriers have looked dominant at points and uninterested at others. Since opening 2018 with a debilitating loss to Maine, the Terriers are 6-0-1 and have shown their talent. Jordan Greenway, Bobo Carpenter, and Patrick Harper have traded turns as the spearhead of the offense. Shane Bowers has pitched in help from the center spot and wingers Brady Tkachuk and Drew Melanson have teamed to form a dangerous top line with Greenway.
The blue line corps is no less stout. Brandon Hickey, Dante Fabbro, and John MacLeod all provide strong shots, good positioning, and skill that few corps can match. In fact, almost every defenseman in the rotation has been drafted by an NHL team.
The major concern for BU is Jake Oettinger. Last season, Oettinger was voted the best goalie in the Beanpot and recorded a .927 save percentage and a 2.11 goals allowed average. This season he has a .908 save percentage and a 2.61 save percentage. He’s facing more shots on net this year, but he has not been as sharp this year as he was last. If he performs up to his potential, BU will pull off the win. BU will have to adjust for the second game when Jordan Greenway leaves for the Olympics, but he is will be on the ice for the first Monday.
In fact, that can be said about every spot of this game. BU has more depth than Harvard. Ryan Donato is the best player on the ice in the game, but Harvard has to prove they can win with someone other than Donato leading the way. So far this season, they’ve not done that. BU has won behind great performances by many different players. I think Harvard will keep it close, but BU has more depth and talent. BU will win the matchup and end Harvard’s run.