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In an age full of in-season tournaments and self proclaimed “classics,” there has always been one tournament that stands apart from the rest. That tournament is the Beanpot, and on Monday it will commence for the 61st time at TD Garden.
The Beanpot is the annual meeting of four Boston area teams: Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University and Northeastern. Every year these four teams take a break from the heart of their conference schedules to crown the best team in Beantown, over the first two Mondays of February.
The tournament has created some magical moments over its lengthy history. Last year, BC’s Bill Arnold got to realize the dream of every kid who grows up playing hockey in New England when he scored in overtime to win it for the Eagles over BU, 3-2. The year before that it was another local kid, Jimmy Hayes from Dorchester, with the overtime winner for BC in their 7-6 win over Northeastern. The 2009 championship game saw No. 1 Boston University take on No. 2 Northeastern in one of the most hyped Beanpot games of all times, with a 5-2 BU win. And that’s just the last five years.
The ’90s marked the height of BU’s dominance as they won seven titles in 10 years. The 1980s saw Wayne Turner’s “Shot Heard Round the Beanpot.” The 1978 Beanpot occurred during the Blizzard of ’78 and some fans were actually snowed in at the Boston Garden.
BU has won the championship game a ridiculous 29 times. The three other teams have combined for 31 titles. BC has dominated lately, winning four of the last five. The Eagles have 17 Beanpot titles. Harvard has 10 titles, but none since 1993. And then there is Northeastern.
The Huskies have just four titles, all from the 1980s. They have the least finals appearances and the most last place finishes. They have the worst Beanpot record at 34-86, including a losing record against each of the three other teams. It’s been 25 years since Northeastern won a Beanpot.
Recent history for the Huskies has ranged from this close (OT losses in the championship in ’05 and ’11) to rage-inducing losses (last year’s first round 7-1 loss to BC, giving up three shorthanded goals to BU in the aforementioned ’09 championship). But through it all the Beanpot has always been exciting. There was Rob Dongara’s highlight reel goal against BC in ’11 that ended up as a “Sportscenter” Top Play. There was the epic 6-1 win over BC in the opening game of the ’09 Beanpot. And of course there was former coach Greg Cronin throwing all the extra sticks onto the ice after a controversial no-call led to a BU goal … in the 2008 consolation game.
The championship game has been BC vs. BU for six of the last ten years. Those two teams have certainly had the upper hand, but that has not stopped Northeastern fans from turning out in great numbers to support the team. This year should be no different. As bad as Northeastern has been, both this season and in the Beanpot, there is always a chance. After all, the Beanpot is always only two wins away.
Northeastern will play BU in the opening round. The Huskies haven’t beaten BU in the Beanpot since 1988. In the opening round, the Huskies are just 2-17 against the rival Terriers. History may be stacked against them, but a two-game winning streak against the Terriers suggests that the Huskies may just have a chance. Senior captain Vinny Saponari, a BU transfer, has scored the game-winning goal for Northeastern in the last two meetings. Saponari is also the only Northeastern player to have won a Beanpot. He was a freshman on that 2009 BU team that beat Northeastern in the finals.
Saponari is actually the only non-BC player in this year’s tournament to have won a Beanpot. Harvard’s seniors have never even made the finals. Their Beanpot careers have been filled with 5 p.m. starts, except for a 6-0 opening round loss to BC during their freshman year. BU’s seniors may have most pressure on them, though. They are at risk of becoming the first BU class to graduate without a Beanpot since 1965. They have made the finals twice in three years, but came up one goal short both times. The last class to even leave it until their final year was the class of 1986. That year had the same first round matchups that we have this year. The Terriers were able to save the streak with a 4-1 win over BC in the championship.
This year’s Northeastern seniors have had a typical Northeastern Beanpot history. They have one finals appearance, which has been pretty much the norm for NU classes since the late ’90s. They were sophomores on the 2010-2011 team that became the third Northeastern team to lose a Beanpot final in overtime. And now they are facing their fourth and final chance to finally bring the Beanpot back to Huntington Avenue. Failure to do that would make them the 22nd consecutive class to graduate without winning a Beanpot.
The stats are depressing and in all likelihood this is not the year Northeastern wins the Beanpot. But they have beaten all three fellow Beanpot schools this season. BU is beatable, Harvard is having a down year and BC is struggling as of late. The Huskies, on the other hand, are due for a win. Or two.
- Drew Stukas can be reached at info@HuskyHockeyNews.com