Amateur Hour: How Harvard could (but probably won’t) win the Beanpot

One of these years it’s going to happen. Either Harvard or Northeastern is going to win the Beanpot.

The last 24 Beanpots have gone to either Boston University or Boston College, the silver chalice not leaving Commonwealth Avenue since 1993, the last time Harvard took home the trophy. Northeastern hasn’t won since 1988.

We were guaranteed at least a 50 percent chance of the title returning to Harvard Square or Huntington Avenue, as Harvard and Northeastern faced off in the Beanpot semifinal on Monday night. The Crimson won, 4-3, and will represent the two historic have-nots of the tournament, which combine for just 14 of the 64 titles and carry a collective 53-year Beanpot drought. Harvard will play for the title for the first time since 2008 against BU, which has an event-high 30 titles but has won just once since 2009. The Terriers punched their ticket with a 3-1 win over BC in Monday’s nightcap.

While neither Harvard or Northeastern have won in generations, the two schools have been knocking on the door for years. One of the two schools have appeared in the final in six of the last nine years, with three of those title games going to overtime. Both schools have been fairly competitive over that span, in and out of the national rankings, winning conference championships, and making appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

This Harvard squad has the goods to bring the Beanpot across the Charles River to Cambridge for the 11th time in the tournament’s history. The Crimson run four solid forward lines, with two exceptional top trios of Ryan Donato-Alex Kerfoot-Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Luke Esposito-Sean Malone-Tyler Moy. On the back end, Adam Fox has been one of the top rookies in the nation, his 26 points fourth among defensemen in the country.

The Crimson play a strong north-south game, with a good deal of speed and skill up and down the lineup. They’re strong on possession, with a 54 percent even strength Corsi-for, according to collegehockeynews.com, with the fourth-best powerplay nationally, at 26.5 percent.

Of course, it’s no secret what Harvard is up against. BU is the most talented team in the country. The Terriers are also the youngest, at 20.5. That’s a full year younger than the Crimson, whose roster averages out at 21.5.

The BU roster is highlighted by four players selected in the first round of the NHL Draft in Kieffer Bellows, Dante Fabbro, Clayton Keller, and Charlie McAvoy. Netminder Jake Oettinger could be a fifth this June, a favorite to be among the first 31 names called in the upcoming draft in Chicago. Eleven players of whom are property of NHL teams dot the roster.

This Terriers team isn’t unlike any other of years past. The team plays an up-tempo style. Defensemen like to hop into the rush. Up front, there’s plenty of playmakers, led by Keller, an Arizona prospect that might be the team’s best player. Oettinger has been among the standard bearers of goaltending – a position BU has always taken seriously – with a .937 save percentage, 1.75 GAA, and four shutouts in his rookie campaign.

BU has an upper-hand in the season series with Harvard this season, with a 5-3 win on November 22nd. The Crimson haven’t beaten BU since November 2014, the Terriers winning the last three of the meetings, including a double-overtime win in the Beanpot semifinal two years ago.

Three of the last four meetings have been decided by one goal, two have gone to overtime. Given the Beanpot’s history of one-goal games and extra sessions, there’s a good chance we’ll see another one of these affairs between the two teams.

And we might even witness something that hasn’t been done in nearly a quarter-century.

Other tidbits..

*Lacrosse numbers are being put up in Erie. Alex DeBrincat has 23 points in a nine-game points streak, in which he’s scored eight goals and 18 points over his last five. He has points in 39 of 45 games. Dylan Strome has points in 16 of 17 games. He has 17 points in his last five games, and 41 overall in 17 contests.

*Charlottetown Islander Filip Chlapik scored his 200th QMJHL point with a five-point weekend, including a hat trick in a 13-2 smackdown of Moncton.

*10 goals in 13 games out of the holiday break for Flint Firebird Nicholas Caamano, with four two-goal games in that span.

*Third overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft Pierre-Luc Dubois had four points on Saturday and has 21 points in 12 games since being traded to Blainville-Boisbriand.

*Atte Tolvanen stopped all 75 shots he faced in Northern Michigan’s weekend sweep of Bowling Green, upping his shutout streak to three games. He’s gone 215:49 without allowing a goal.

*Trent Frederic has 23 points in 18 games for surging Wisconsin, which is up to 17th in this week’s USCHO.com poll. He’s second on the Badgers in scoring behind Luke Kunin (26 points).

*As for the Badgers, they’ve won five in a row and are tied with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten, with 8-2 record in conference play. Wisconsin hasn’t lost in regulation since December 11th.

*In the Nolan-Nico sweepstakes: Nolan Patrick had four assists on Friday night and has points in six of eight games since returning to the ice. He has 23 points in 14 games overall for Brandon. Hischier had five points in a 7-2 Halifax win over Moncton on Sunday. He has point in eight consecutive games and has 14 goals and 28 points in 12 games since returning from World Juniors.

*Minnesota-Duluth retained the top spot in the USCHO.com men’s poll while Denver and BU were second and third, respectively, for the second straight week. Minnesota moved up two spots to No. 5 while Penn State dropped from six to 10. Air Force broke into the poll at No. 20.

*On the women’s side, Wisconsin is the top-ranked team once again, while Minnesota-Duluth follows at No. 2.

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Beanpot Post-Mortem: Various Observations, Parting Thoughts

Monday’s Beanpot final between BU and BC was an instant classic, a 1-0 overtime decision in which the first 81 shots on goal were for naught. And anything less would’ve been a disappointment.

That’s the standard that has been set by these two teams over the years, going back to the foundations of the rivalry, which kicked off 98 years and three days ago, in which BC routed the Terriers to the tune of a 3-1 final on Feb. 6, 1918. Monday was meeting No. 270, the 22nd time with the Pot of Beans on the line.

A back-and-forth affair that saw everything a hockey fan looks for (with the exception of scoring, of course), the game’s lone goal was scored 1:57 into the overtime period, when BC sophomore Alex Tuch eluded BU netminder Sean Maguire on a snipe through traffic from high in the zone.

Never had there been a 1-0 final in 64 years of Beanpot play. And it was the best case for the 1-0 hockey game made on TD Garden ice in nearly five years, when the Boston Bruins outlasted the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference final, 1-0, a game in which no penalties were called and the game’s only goal scored by Boston’s Nathan Horton in the third period.

Here’s some other takeaways from the game:

*How crazy was it that there had never been a 1-0 final in the 255 previous Beanpot games? In a tournament where two-goal games are akin to blowouts, and 11 of the last 14 title games had been one-goal decisions, ever had there been such an outcome. Unbelievable.

*There had been 84 one-goal games in the 255 prior Beanpot matches, so about one-third of Beanpot games have been decided by a goal. The most frequent score among those one-goal games? 5-4, with 25 such instances.

*Just nine of the 256 games have been 1-0 or 2-1 finals. And these tournaments have featured the likes of Sean Fields, John Curry, Cory Schneider, Jim Craig, and Rick DiPietro, among others. Goes to show goaltending isn’t about how you make the saves as much as it is when you make them.

*If you were a Minnesota Wild fan, there’s no way you didn’t leave the Garden with a smile on your face. Jordan Greenway, a BU freshman forward with 6-foot-5, 230-pound dimensions who was drafted by the Wild in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft, was making his presence known all over the ice on Monday. Don’t think he’ll be invited to any parties in Chestnut Hill anytime soon.

Tuch, who was Minnesota’s first round pick in 2014, scored the only goal of the game, an absolute beauty; a wrist shot through traffic from the top of the zone that beat Maguire blocker side. The sophomore has 11 goals and 23 points in 27 games, well on pace to eclipse his 14-14–28 totals from his freshman season at the Heights.

*BC freshman forward Miles Wood was lucky he wasn’t told to go hit the showers after he was penalized for a vicious hit on BU senior Ahti Oksanen at 15:44 of the first period. Wood was called for boarding, but replays showed Wood leading with his head and making contact with the head of Oksanen. According to Rule 45.1 of the NCAA Hockey rule book, contact to the head calls for major and a game misconduct. Should’ve been a slam dunk call for the officials. That outcome would’ve proven a tall test for BC’s fifth-ranked penalty kill, forced to stave off BU’s man-up unit that’s ranked 15th nationally for five minutes.

*Maguire, who made 41 saves on Monday before sweeping the Eberly and Beanpot MVP Awards, now has a .960 save percentage in his last seven games, allowing just nine goals. Stopping 65 of 67 shots, his .970 save percentage (the ultimate criteria of the Eberly Award) is the third-highest recorded since the award was first handed out in 1974. The two best performances? Also BU netminders, John Curry (.985, 2007) and Rick DiPietro (.981, 2000).

*Zach Sanford seemed to constantly be around the net for the Eagles, and picked up his team-leading 20th assist of the season on Tuch’s goal. Like Tuch, Sanford is a big-body, playmaking forward. The Manchester, N.H. native was a second-round pick by the Washington Capitals in 2013. He may not be at BC much longer, diddo Tuch.

*Final thought: Not much love lost between these two teams. But you already knew that.

*Second final thought: Northeastern will win the Beanpot in 2017.

Beanpot Final Preview: It Could Be Another Game of Goalie

The 64th installment of the Beanpot concludes Monday night, and the vaunted silver chalice is guaranteed to be relegated to Commonwealth Avenue for a 23rd consecutive year. The only decision left to be settled is which end of Comm. Ave will it rest for the next 52 weeks.

Boston College and Boston University, who combine for 84 top-two finishes in the four-team tournament (Harvard and Northeastern – the other two participants – combine for just 42), take the Garden ice on Monday night. BU will look to win its 31st Beanpot and repeat for the first time since winning three straight from 2005-07. BC will look to take the title for the sixth time in seven years.

Both teams enter the game having played good hockey of late, with the Eagles 6-0-3 since dropping their first two games coming out of the holiday break. The Terriers are 8-1-1 in their last 10. The only games BU failed to win came against BC, a 5-3 loss followed by a 1-1 tie in a January 15-16 home-and-home.

Monday marks the 22nd time the two teams face each other with the Beanpot on the line, with BU holding a slight 12-9 edge.

Three Storylines

A Game of Goalie: Legendary BU coach Jack Parker once quipped that hockey should be called ‘goalie’, because of the profound impact the goaltender position has on the outcome of a hockey game. One of the constants of both BC and BU programs is they build their teams from the net-out, the strength of the team coming between the pipes.

This year is no different. BC netminder Thatcher Demko is the consensus best goalie in college hockey. Both his 1.71 GAA and .937 save percentage rank fourth in the country, and leads the nation with eight shutouts. Meanwhile, BU’s Sean Maguire is finding his groove after missing the entire 2014-15 season with a concussion, allowing just eight goals in his last six games, sporting a .956 save percentage over that stretch.

Freshman Show: While there’s no potential top-five picks in the NHL Draft, like when Jack Eichel (BU) and Noah Hanifin (BC) starred in 2014-15, both teams sport deep, talented freshman classes. Colin White, who was taken 21st overall by Ottawa is June’s draft, leads the Eagles in scoring with 16 goals and 35 points. Miles Wood, who was drafted in the fourth round by New Jersey, is fourth on the team with 26. However, both players are game-time decisions with wrist and lower-body injuries, respectively, though both are expected to play according to a report from the blog BC Interruption.

BU’s freshman class is led by defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who was given an A-rating from the NHL Central Scouting Agency (an A-rating means a potential first round pick). He has 14 points in 25 games as a freshman, and has improved as the season has gone on, helped especially by the return of ace blueliner Matt Grzelcyk, who battled injuries for much of the season’s first half. Forward and Bruins prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson is a 200-foot specimen, whom Grzelcyk deemed ‘Patrice Bergeron 2.0’ on NESN’s Bruins broadcast on Saturday night. Jordan Greenway, a second round pick in 2015 and a big, strong power forward, has seven points in his last five games. He scored two goals in BU’s 6-3 win over UMass on Friday night. Bobo Carpenter has five goals in his last 11 games.

Like Father, Like Son: There’s an old saying about an apple and a tree. It might apply to BU senior Danny O’Regan, the Terriers’ leading scorer with 32 points, whose father, Tom, starred at the school from 1979-83. The two became the first father-son duo to score 50 goals with the same school when Danny netted his 50th career tally in a 5-2 loss at UConn on October 27.

If O’Regan won the Beanpot MVP award, it will mark another shared father-son acolade, as Tom O’Regan won it in 1982.

Other Tidbits

*Each of the last six BC-BU Beanpot finals have been one-goal decisions. Three have been decided in overtime, including the most recent installment, a 3-2 BC win in 2012. The last multi-goal defeat came in 2001, 5-3 BC victory.

*A goaltender hasn’t been named the Beanpot MVP since 2010, when John Muse won it for BC.

*Sean Maguire, who entered the final round of the Beanpot leading the stakes for the Eberly Award (for the goaltender with the highest save percentage), would become the first BU goalie to win the award since 2012, when Kieran Millan did so, and just the third Terrier since Sean Fields went back-to-back in 2003-04.

*Prediction: BC, 2-1.