For some, it’s more awaited than the Super Bowl -- even in years where the New England Patriots make it. The 2011 Beanpot, a men’s college hockey tournament celebrating its 59th year, takes place the next two Monday nights at Boston's TD Garden. It's an event that has cemented its place within the sports traditions of Boston.
The invitational pits Harvard University, Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern University against each other. The first round order is determined by the team’s finish the previous year -- your top two teams from last year face each other in the primetime game, while your bottom two will face each other at a usually bare Garden in the early evening. The winner of each game advances to the championship game, which is the primetime game the following Monday, Feb. 14. (Essentially, your championship -- consolation matchups just repeat themselves in the next year’s first round.)
Boston University has won more titles than any other participant, with 29, with Boston College second at 15. The two teams will meet in the first round tonight at 8 p.m., which has drawn complaints, causing Monday’s second bill to suffer. BU-BC has been the premiere Beanpot matchup in the last decade, with the two teams alternating national championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The Beanpot also comes at a part of the season where the two teams have usually played each other already three times in Hockey East conference play, meaning that there are three games of build-up to this Beanpot game. They are the two best schools in the Beanpot this year. BC (19-6-0) is currently No. 1 in the nation in the USCHO National Poll, while they are second in Hockey East to the University of New Hampshire. BU (13-7-7, tied for 3rd in Hockey East) was ranked No. 1 in the young weeks of the season after surprising many in a series of out-of-conference games, but showed their youth in November and December in dropping several games and falling to No. 14 in the nation.
The Eagles have won all three games against the Terriers so far this season, sweeping the conference season series with a combined score of 17-9. Both teams won their Beanpot tune-ups on Friday evening against UMass branded teams. BC can be historically be tripped up with the game immediately before the Beanpot, but handily beat UMass Amherst, 5-0. BU defeated UMass Lowell, 3-1.
Looking to shine on the Garden stage will be BC’s Chris Krieder and Brian Dumoulin. Forward and Boxford, Mass., native Krieder had two goals and two assists in last year’s Beanpot, while Dumoulin, a defenseman, is having an amazing season, and looks to better his contributions from last year’s two-assist opening game. For BU, their goaltending routinely performs well at the Beanpot, and their starting goaltender Kieran Milan is on fire as of late. The Terriers’ hometown talent often picks up their game for the Beanpot, and so you can expect Marshfield, Mass., bred defenseman and Boston Bruins prospect David Warsofsky to be on point. A renewed focus on defense instead of masquerading as a forward has helped Warsofsky in the last month of play.
BC-BU’s precursor this evening will pit Northeastern University (8-11-6 overall, sixth in Hockey East) against Harvard University (4-17-0, 11th in Hockey East) at 5 p.m. It is a game the Huskies, who only have four Beanpot titles in their history, should win easily. The two teams played each other on Jan. 19 for the first time in a non-Beanpot game in several years, with Northeastern winning 3-0.
If Harvard surprises Northeastern, it will be because of a strong performance by Harvard senior goaltender Kyle Ritcher. Ritcher, the ECAC’s best goalie in 2008-09, has little defensive support but can keep the Crimson in games. Expect a big night from impressing freshmen Northeastern defenseman Anthony Bitetto, who has 12 assists so far this season and is one of the highest scoring defenseman regardless of class in Hockey East. Northeastern’s Wade McLeod, with 13 goals and 13 assists, should lead a scoring charge for the Huskies.