February brings the start of Trohpy hunting season in College Hockey. Specifically, the first two Mondays of February provide Boston University, Boston College, Harvard, and Northeastern the chance to duel for Boston bragging rights in the Beanpot. This tournament has often yielded a Frozen Four team or National Champion, along with some memorable Hobey Baker moments in recent memory. Let’s take a look at the 2019 edition of the Tournament.
Harvard Crimson(10-6-3) vs Boston College Eagles (8-12-3)
Chris Lynch: This year’s Boston College vintage is the weakest in many years and there’s no clear reason why. Logan Hutsko is an offensively potent player and won last season’s Hockey East Rookie of the Year, but has not replicated last year’s success. David Cotton is tied for the conference’s highest goal total and is the highest goal scorer in this year’s tournament. Yet the Eagles are a bottom-ten offensive unit. Joseph Woll has been very good in net this year, as expected. But the Eagles have won neither a non-conference game nor a Beanpot game since 2016. There’s plenty for BC to prove.
Harvard has reversed course from a rather poor start to the year. Michael Lackey in particular has improved greatly. The senior goalie began his first year as a starter below a .900 save percentage for the first full month and change of the season. However, he’s improved to boast the highest save percentage of any goaltender in this tournament at .927. The Crimson offense has never lacked potency. Adam Fox is the highest scoring player in the tournament at 27 points in 19 games and the power play is best in the country at 34.3%, a full four points higher than 2nd places UMass Amherst and almost doubling up the next Beanpot team, BC, at 18.6%. Harvard has the higher level of explosion and BC has not proven they can win these non-conference or Beanpot games.
Harvard wins 5-3
Jason Scales: Boston College is 2-6-1 since coming back from the break. Two solid wins over Providence were cancelled out by an abysmal loss to Maine (7-2 at Conte Forum). The Eagles haven’t been flying as high the last few seasons under Jerry York. This team is talented, with players like Oliver Wahlstrom, David Cotten, Casey Fitzgerald and Joseph Woll so that’s not their issue. Has York lost his touch? Despite the inconsistency the Eagles are only three points behind Massachusetts for first in Hockey East. A solid showing here could change the tone of this season. Can the Fitzgerald led defense do enough to stop Harvard?
Harvard comes into the Beanpot playing its best hockey of the season so far. The Crimson are 5-2-1 since returning from the break. Harvard has improved its game in all three zones. Over this stretch they have beaten two Top 20 teams in Quinnipiac and Clarkson. The Freshmen contingent has been gradually stepping up to take on big roles for an already young Crimson. This has led the offense to turn the dial to 11. Harvard is tenth in Goals Per Game averaging 3.20 and leads the nation in Power Play Percentage at 34.3%. Goaltender Michael Lackey is the key to Harvard’s success this season. He struggled early but has been playing well as of late. Coach Ted Donato has said “Its really hard to win with good goaltending, you really need great goaltending.” Can Lackey provide that is the question. For this game good gets it done.
Harvard wins 4-2
Northeastern Huskies (15-7-1) vs Boston University Terriers (10-10-1)
Chris Lynch: This might be the most intriguing matchup in this rivalry’s recent history. Northeastern has had the better total season and is likely the best team in this tournament. Yet BU stole a 5-5 tie at Matthews and rode a 37 save Jake Oettinger performance to a win the next night at Agganis. These teams may well be the biggest rivals going in the tournament. Oettinger and Cayden Primeau actually hold the third and fourth best save percentages of the Beanpot Starters. Yet both are big game performers. Oettinger has gotten BU to a Hockey East Title and some enormous NCAA Tournament wins while Primeau won last year’s Eberley Award for best Beanpot goaltender.
Northeastern’s Power Play has underperformed without the top line of Dylan Sikura, Nolan Stevens, and Adam Gaudette, but there’s no lack of offensive punch. Jeremy Davies is a wicked blue line anchor and Tyler Madden has taken the open scoring mantle from the past stars.
BU has improved in recent weeks with Joel Farabee proving his first round pick talent. Ryan Cloonan has emerged from a legendary scoring drought to lift the offense while Patrick Curry and Logan Cockerill have provided quality pop on the wings.
As close as this matchup is, no team is more motivated to defend a title like Northeastern is to defend their Beanpot win, particularly against their biggest rival.
Northeastern wins 3-2
Jason Scales: Like their Commonwealth Avenue rivals, Boston University has struggled this season. However BU is starting to gel, like they always do in January, and have been building for a late season push. 4-3-1 in 2019 has given the Terriers some bite to go with their bark. With a loaded roster like BU’s it is only a matter of time before they put it all together. Death by a thousand paper cuts when your line-up consists of Joel Farrabee, Patrick Curry, David Farrance and Shane Bowers. All of whom have been hot as of late. First year coach Albie O’Connell knows what this tournament is all about having won it four times as a player with the Terriers. The BU Invitational is usually when this team rights itself. It will be interesting to see if O’Connell is ready to join the ranks of coaches who have won as both player and coach. One player to watch out for is Ty Amonte. He just seems to step up at the Garden. Something to ponder… this BU senior class has not won a Beanpot.
Northeastern are the reigning Champs for the first time since 1989. That year they lost to BU 5-4 in OT on the First Monday of February. The Huskies have also lost a lot of last year’s firepower. Luckily for them they still have Cayden Primeau, who helped secure the Beanpot title last year. NU is 5-4 since the break, losing their last two to Providence. This year’s incarnation of Huskies is more balanced than previous years. The reliance on one line isn’t there this season. That bodes well for the Huskies. The play of forwards Zach Solow, Grant Jozefek, Tyler Madden, Brandon Hawkins, and Liam Pecararo has been solid all year. Junior Jeremy Davies gets lost in the talk of top defenseman this year. Even with Harvard’s Adam Fox and BU’s Dante Fabbro in this Beanpot, don’t sleep on Davies.