Billing itself, somewhat hyperbolically, as the “social event of the winter season,” Boston’s annual Beanpot tournament begins tonight at the TD Garden. The men are first out of the gate, with the BU hockey Terriers shooting for their 30th title when they take on the Northeastern Huskies in the first round. Begun in 1952, the men’s Beanpot tournament is one of Boston’s most storied sporting events, as Harvard, Northeastern, Boston College, and BU battle for the right to call themselves the city’s best hockey team.
Last February, the Terriers downed Harvard in the first round, but went on to fall to archrival Boston College 3-2 in overtime. Bill Arnold scored the game-winner for the Eagles with just 6.4 seconds left in OT, wresting the Beanpot title from the Terriers for the third straight year. It was also the third straight title for the Eagles, and the first time since 1985 that BU has gone three years without a Beanpot championship.
During the tournament’s first 13 years, the Terriers took the ’pot only once. But since then, they’ve won 28 of 47.
This year, BU (13-9-1 overall, 10-6-1 Hockey East) will look to one of two freshman goalies to backstop the Terriers to victory. Matt O’Connor (SMG’16) will get the start in net tonight. BU head coach Jack Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97) has rotated netminder duties between O’Connor and Sean Maguire (CGS’14) throughout the season. The last time the Terriers went into the Beanpot with two freshman goalies (in 2009), they not only won the tournament, but went on to nab the National Championship.
“It’ll be interesting to see how the freshmen react on the Garden ice with the big crowd in an important game like this,” Parker says. “Sometimes freshmen get stage fright, sometimes they don’t get rattled at all, so we’ll see how they get going against Northeastern.”
Among those freshmen being closely watched by the crowd is forward Danny O’Regan (SMG’16). The Needham, Mass., native was named Hockey East Rookie of the Month last week, posting 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in January.
The stakes in this year’s tournament are particularly high for the team’s seniors: this is their last shot at capturing a Beanpot title, an honor that’s eluded them thus far. They are determined not go home-empty handed again.
“It’s huge,” says Ryan Santana (CAS’13). “All we’ve been talking about since our freshman year is winning a Beanpot. The fact that we haven’t won one is a big deal to us, and it just makes it that much more important.”
Team captain Wade Megan (MET’13) echoes Santana’s resolve. “Growing up in northern New York, I was able to watch the Beanpot on TV, and it was one of the contributing factors that led me to come to BU,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to play in this tournament four years now, and I can’t wait to get started on Monday.”
Despite the incredible success they’ve had during their first seven years as a Division I program, the BU women’s hockey team has yet to score a Beanpot title. Tomorrow night, the Terriers (17-3-3 overall, 12-2-1 Hockey East) will attempt to move a step closer to that goal when they take on the Northeastern Huskies in the first round of the 35th annual women’s Beanpot tournament. The four teams will play at Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena, with BC facing off against Harvard at 5 p.m. and BU taking on Northeastern in a rematch of last year’s title game, beginning at 8 p.m.
Last year, the Terriers’ dream of winning their first Beanpot title was crushed midway through overtime with a Casey Pickett goal that clinched the title for Northeastern at BU’s Walter Brown Arena. Tomorrow night, BU will attempt to knock the Huskies out of the tournament on their home ice.
“I think the excitement is there every year,” says BU head coach Brian Durocher (SED’78). “We’ve been a varsity program for seven years and haven’t come up with a title yet, so I think there’s an extra edge in the players’ thoughts and their steps of carrying the Beanpot for the first time.”
Leading the way for the Terriers going into this year’s tournament are cocaptains Marie-Philip Poulin (SED’14) and Jill Cardella (COM’13). Poulin, an Olympic gold medal winner in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, has been one of the top forwards in the nation this year, averaging more than 1.5 points a game, while Cardella has been a puck distributor, with nearly all this season’s points coming from assists. Like Megan and the other men’s hockey seniors, Cardella knows this year is her last shot at a championship.
“The Beanpot is something we’ve wanted to get all four years I’ve been here and even before that,” she says. “I know especially the Boston kids have really looked forward to winning one their whole life, so it’s obviously something that we want to achieve this year.”
Also leading BU on the front lines are Sarah Lefort (CGS’14) and Jenelle Kohanchuk (SAR’13), who with Poulin make up the rest of the “Nine-Line” (so dubbed by Durocher because of their numbers: 9, 19, and 29). Minding net for the Terriers will be Kerrin Sperry (CAS’14), who has posted a stellar 14-2-3 record through January. The North Reading, Mass., native has been instrumental in BU’s 13-game unbeaten streak, which dates back to November 16.
The women’s tournament is expected to be especially competitive this year, with three of the nation’s four top teams competing (BU is ranked fourth, BC second, and Harvard third, according to the latest U.S. College Hockey Online poll) and the fourth, Northeastern, being the reigning champion.
“It’s fantastic for local hockey, it’s fantastic for the tournament,” Durocher says. “For all the fans in the area thinking about a night of women’s college hockey, this is certainly one they should think about strongly.”
The BU men’s hockey team takes on the Northeastern Huskies in the first round of the 61st annual Beanpot tournament tonight, Monday, February 4, at 5 p.m. at the TD Garden, Boston. Harvard University and Boston College play at 8 p.m. Ticket price information can be found here. The games will be televised on NESN.
The BU women’s ice hockey team will face Northeastern tomorrow, Tuesday, February 5, at 8 p.m. at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena in the first round of the 35th annual Beanpot tournament. Harvard and Boston College will play the other semifinal game at 5 p.m. Tickets and information can be found here.
Paul Ryan can be reached at email@example.com.