Tonight is the first date of the annual Beanpot NCAA tournament featuring Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern, and Harvard. Boston College plays Harvard at 5:00et today, while Boston University faces Northeastern at 8:00. Next Monday both the consolation and championship games will be played, with the consolation game starting at 4:30et and the championship at 7:30et.
This is one of the most even tournaments in years from a variety of standpoints. Each of the past four tournaments was won by a different participant, with Northeastern winning last season. Furthermore, no team this season is in the NCAA top-ten, indicating that any team could have a chance at winning. Northeastern is the highest-ranked team at #13 with Harvard following close behind at #17, but Boston University has also been receiving votes to enter the top-20.
Accordingly, Northeastern, despite losing key players from last year's Beanpot championship, enters as the tournament favorite. In spite of not having a player in the top-50 of NCAA scoring, the Huskies have been carried to success by the phenomenal play of their goaltending. Cayden Primeau, with a 2.42 GAA and .921 save percentage through 21 games, has emerged as a top candidate for the Mike Richter trophy as the NCAA's top goaltender.
Nonetheless, they will have to face Boston University in their opening game, a tough test. The Terriers always seem to play their strongest hockey in tournaments, be it for the Beanpot, Hockey East's conference tournament, or the penultimate NCAA tournament. Not surprisingly, they have 30 Beanpot championships to their name, more than any other school. Consistency has been a major problem for the Terriers this season who, despite their strong recruiting class, have yet to feel like a complete team. Goaltender Jake Oettinger has been solid for the Terriers with a .920 save percentage, but his 2.72 GAA indicates that Boston University may have an issue suppressing shots. Despite defensive talent like Dante Fabbro on the blue line, teams have had little issue penetrating the slot. Nonetheless, when they can put it all together, Boston University can play as well as any team in this tournament. Sitting just outside the top-20, they will be a stiff test for the Huskies.
Harvard, the other favorite, has a much easier first round game against Boston College. The Crimson have the same stellar goaltending that Northeastern has, but perhaps has more balance on their blue line. Defensemen Adam Fox and Reilly Walsh are first and third for Harvard in overall scoring. This also points out Havard's weakness - a lack of star forward talent. Numerous Harvard games have ended 2-1 or 2-0, riding their staunch back end to victory.
This means that the first game could be an intense duel of goaltenders, as Boston College, like Northeastern, does not feature a player in the top-50 of scoring. Rather, in a tournament that will be defined by goaltending, Boston College will rely on Joseph Woll and his 2.32 GAA to make just enough saves to topple Harvard.
Sights and Sounds
All games will be shown live through NESN. Additionally, Northeastern will have a radio brodcast, Boston College will broadcast over WEEI 850 AM and BCEagles.TV, and Boston University will stream both TV and audio feeds on their website.