It is a New England event. No, make that a Boston area event. Four schools–Harvard, Boston University, Boston College and Northeastern University–located within a three-mile radius of each other. All with a passion for the sport of college hockey which shows up in pockets in the rest of the country.
And while the Beanpot Tournament may not be what it once was in terms of passion and excitement, it is still as much a part of February in Boston as Ground Hog Day is in Punxsutawney, Pa. each year.
Hockey in Boston is different. Although Boston is still very much a Red Sox town and after that a Patriots town, you can make the argument that the passion among hockey fans–Bruins–is as great as any sports team in Boston.
They have played hockey games at Fenway Park in the winter and sold the place out.
It is even more obvious at the college level, where BC, which traditionally has an indifferent student body for many football and basketball–even when both programs were winning–has a large vocal core of hockey fans.
Winning national championships, as the Eagles do on a regular basis, will increase that passion, of course.
All of which leads us to the Beanpot each February. The Beanpot has been held for the past 61 years, come hell, high water or blizzards, as was the case in 1978, in which the mother of all winter storms in Boston paid a visit to the Beanpot. The Beanpot became a sleep over event that year as a blizzard shut down the city.
Things were much more sedate on Monday night at the TD Garden as Northeastern, led by freshman Kevin Roy’s 3 goals beat BU, 3-2, for the second time in the second of their three regularly scheduled meetings in the opening semifinal game.
Northeastern will face BC (led by forward Quinn Smith’s two goals), which beat Harvard 4-1 on Monday’s second semifinal game, continuing a BC winning streak in the Beanpot which is now at 7 games.
Monday night’s game was typical of a Jerry York coached team–a steady and relentless attack which slowly just wore out an undermanned Harvard team (5-15-1) which has won only one game since November.
The Eagles (16-7-2) scored their first goal in the final 29 seconds of the first period and then added two more in the final two minutes of the second period to open a 3-0 lead which was more than secure enough to send the Eagles to their fourth straight Beanpot championship game.
BC has been the big dog in the Beanpot the past four seasons. The Eagles, of course, have been the top dog in college hockey the past several years as well, winning four national championships in this century, including last season. Coincidentally, in each of the Eagles’ national titles-2001, 2008, 2010 and 2012–they have won the Beanpot and the Hockey East title before finishing the trifecta by winning the NCAA tournament.
York, who is also the winningest coach in NCAA hockey history, has been part of the Beanpot almost as long as the tournament has been around, dating back almost 50 years to York’s days as BC hockey player.
But the Eagles do not have a monopoly on tradition. BU, coached by York’s long time rival Jackie Parker, has won the most Beanpots, with 29 overall titles. BC is second with 17 titles, Harvard has 10, but not won since 1993 and Northeastern has won 4, with a draught that dates back to 1988.
The loss created a painful footnote for Parker. No BU team since 1965 has gone four straight seasons without winning a Beanpot.
“It’s a bad frame of mind for us right now,” said Parker.
For Northeastern and coach Jim Madigan, the numbers were much better. It was the first time since February 1988 that Northeastern has beaten BU in the Beanpot, a string of 15 losing tournament games against the Terriers.
For Roy, who was not even born the last time Northeastern beat BU in a Beanpot, it was a game to file away for future reference.
“I like to play in the type of games when the pressure is the highest,” said Roy. I think I perform better with pressure.”
Considering that Northeastern (8-13-3) has already posted a win over BC this season, the pressure may be greater with a Beanpot title at stake, but the omens are definitely looking better for the Huskies.
Not that BC won’t be ready. After all, the Eagles also see some positive omens, such as using the Beanpot as a spring-board for great achievements.
And until someone proves differently, the Beanpot remains BC’s personal playground.
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