Beanpot Preview- Harvard University

It’s that time of year again. The college hockey world will descend upon Boston on the first two Mondays in February for the 68th annual Beanpot Tournament. Northeastern, the two-time defending champion for the first time since 1984-85, seeks the first threepeat in program history. The Huskies will open the tournament against Harvard at 5pm on February 3, while Boston University and Boston College will play afterwards.

There is still one game for each of the schools before the tournament- Northeastern hosts Providence, Boston College goes west to Amherst, Boston University travels north to play Vermont, and Harvard goes to upstate New York to play Union. 

Please note that this was typed prior to these final pre-Beanpot games. All statistics are as of the afternoon of Thursday Jan 30.

Harvard Crimson– Our friends from the other side of the river enter the tournament sitting 21st in the PairWise, with a 9-6-4 record, starting the season with six straight victories before coming back to Earth. Notable victories have included Quinnipiac and Arizona State, with notable losses coming against that same Quinnipiac team, Cornell, and Boston University.

As a team, they are shooting 12.3%, slightly higher than average but not out of the norm for Harvard. Their powerplay is once again lethal, operating at a 28.6% success rate, the top mark in the nation (in about 9 fewer games than everyone else though). Their penalty kill succeeds only 81.4% of the time, and they are winning 53% of faceoffs. Historically dominant in Corsi%, they only have a 47.4% Corsi rating overall, meaning they are in control of puck and play less than half the game. By comparison, Northeastern’s is 48.9%. 

They have three scorers with over 20 points in their 19 games: Casey Dornbach (10-15-25), Nick Abruzzese (8-15-23), and Jack Drury (nephew of former BU captain Chris Drury; 11-11-22). Harvard seemingly always has a dominant defensive corps to drive play, and that continues this year with Jack Rathbone (4-12-16, second on team with 51 SOG, team leading 118 shot attempts), Reilly Walsh (5-11-16, 51 SOG, 112 SHA), and Henry Thrun (2-10-12, 76 SHA). 

In goal, they have been less rock-solid than we’ve come to expect from the Crimson, with freshman Michael Gibson splitting time with senior Cam Gornet, and both playing solid-not-spectacular all year. Gibson appears to be the favorite to start on Monday, edging Gornet in games played 13-9. Gibson also leads the save percentage matchup (.929 to .913) and the goals-against-average one (2.31 to 2.78). They’ve largely been splitting weekends with two games, however Gibson has started three of the last four games, including two against top-eight PWR teams in Clarkson and Cornell. 

Having seen Harvard play in person two or three times this year, I can speak anecdotally to their style. Simply put, they play FAST, similar to the style that BC and BU have implemented this year. They love to use their defense in the attacking zone, pinching them up to maintain offensive zone pressure. They are incredibly crisp in the neutral zone, and have finishing skill around the net up and down the lineup. However, they have flaws. They can be a sloppy with the puck with how fast they play and how aggressive they can be with the defense, which affords their opponents odd-man rushes more frequently than average. In the games I’ve seen, I’ve only seen Gornet in goal, and while he is quick laterally to make up for his lack of size, his rebound control is suspect at best. If he gets the surprise nod from Coach Donato, expect the Huskies to score at least one greasy goal off a rebound, because they’ll be sitting there for the taking. 

We are going to save the extensive BU and BC previews for later in the season when we have the home-and-home series with each respective team. It cannot be understated how important the Beanpot is for these Boston schools, but this year it holds even more weight with only Boston College proving to be firmly in the NCAA Tournament conversation. One or two wins for each of the other schools, Northeastern included, would go a long way to get these teams either to approach “on-the-bubble” status or closer to feeling secure about their position. 

The Huskies will first have to contend with the Providence Friars, who we previewed yesterday here on the blog. Once the Friars are in the rear-view mirror, it’s full speed ahead for the greatest in-season tournament this sport has to offer. 

See everyone on Monday at the Garden. As always, go Huskies!