It’s that time of year again. For the 65th time, Harvard, Northeastern, Boston College, and Boston University converge at the TD Garden for the Beanpot Tournament. This year, Harvard and Northeastern will face off in the early game, while the Battle of Comm Ave takes place in the evening.
The Huskies’ struggles in this tournament are well documented- only four titles in over six decades’ worth of games, the last coming in 1988. It’s not for a lack of chances. Since that last title, Northeastern has made eight Beanpot finals, only to lose them all (thrice in overtime, including the most recent in 2015). They have been in closely contested defensive struggles, shootouts where goaltending seemed optional, and routed opponents in the first round only to be held in check with the trophy on the line. The teams may have changed, but the results have stayed the same.
This year, the Huskies will have a familiar uphill battle in the tournament. They enter play as the only team of the four not ranked within the USCHO Top Ten, nor in the top ten of the PairWise ranking. Harvard is sixth in the PWR, BU is third, and BC is eighth. Northeastern sits at twenty-four. Boston College rests atop Hockey East at the moment, and BU is right behind them in second. Harvard is second in the ECAC. Northeastern enters at ninth in Hockey East. The Eagles, Crimson, and Terriers all won their last games. The Huskies lost their most recent game.
Harvard has a 14-5-2 record overall, playing nearly all their games in-conference. They have a vaunted offensive attack, fourth in the nation at 3.86 goals per game. They are led in scoring by New Jersey Devils draft pick Alex Kerfoot (9-18-27), and led in goals by Sean Malone, who has thirteen. Two other players have double-digit goals – Ryan Donato and Tyler Moy each have eleven. Freshman defenseman Adam Fox leads all freshmen in the nation in scoring with twenty-five points, held up by his twenty-three assists. Consistency and health has been Harvard’s calling card this year; four defensemen have played in every game this year, and two have missed only one. In goal, Harvard is anchored by Merrick Madsen, a Philadelphia Flyers draft pick. Madsen has played in every game and has a 91.9 save percentage, coupled with a 2.18 goals-against-average.
Northeastern clearly has their work cut out for them. Harvard also has the eleventh best defense in the league, allowing 2.27 goals per game; they have a top five power play at 25.49%, while Northeastern has the second best at 26.8%; Harvard’s penalty kill may be their weakest point, sitting thirty-eighth in the nation at 81.7%, and they average over 12 penalty minutes a game, so chances on the special teams may decide this game.
Northeastern will need to play their best game of the season to have a chance to win. Inconsistency has plagued the Huskies, and with trophies at stake, that cannot be the norm. The Huskies must stay disciplined, convert their powerplay chances, and be responsible in the defensive zone. We know the level of goaltending to expect from Ryan Ruck at this point, so it will fall on his defensemen and forwards to support him and limit second-chance opportunities. Merrick Madsen has been playing well lately (two goals allowed the last four games), but he did have a stretch where he allowed ten goals in three games, and another where he allowed 12 goals in three games. This is not Carey Price in net- he is beatable, and with the skill in the Huskies offense, it can happen quickly.
Injury Notes – No word on the status of Grant Jozefek after his injury from the hit suffered against UMass on Tuesday. John Stevens is expected to play- Coach Madigan had said that there was a decent chance Stevens could play against UMass, but he was held out of the game as a precaution. Eyes will be fixed to see if Nolan Stevens returns as well. At the start of January, Madigan gave a timetable that push Stevens’ return right around the Beanpot, so we will watch to see is #21 returns to his top line spot.
Every year, we say it’s the year the streak ends. Last year, the Hockey East championship streak ended. Why can’t another end in 2017? With Tom Brady winning his fifth Super Bowl championship, maybe it’s appropriate that another Massachusetts team is gunning for it’s fifth the same year.
Davis (13-10-2): Harvard wins, 5-3
Downie (13-7-4): NU wins, 4-3
Fallon (15-8-2): NU wins, 5-4. Nolan Stevens returns, scores GWG