BC vs. BU in the Beanpot: Final Thoughts/Predictions

Graham Beck, The Heights

Boston's greatest hockey tradition gets back underway tonight. The Eagles need to get past BU if they are going to win their fifth straight Beanpot title.

A lot has happened since Boston College hockey lost to Holy Cross on the day after Thanksgiving. Andre Williams got his Heisman ceremony invitation. The football season came to a halt. The basketball season circled the drain. Champions were crowned in pro and college football. The NHL hosted something like 394 outdoor hockey games.

One thing that hasn't happened since that day is a Boston College hockey loss (men or women, for that matter). In the same time frame, BU has only managed two (2) wins, defeating Cornell at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 30, and splitting a weekend series with Vermont on January 24 and 25. The Terriers are 1-8-2 since that win against the Big Red, and are also down Matt Grylzyx due to injury and Sam Kurker due to defection to junior hockey.

Thus, it would be hard to come up with a better matchup for the old cliche about "two teams heading in opposite directions." But there's another cliche at play here: "throw out the records when these two get together." I'm sure you'll hear it 50,000 times on tonight's broadcast, so gird yourself.

In a turn of events that is truly unbelievable to anyone who has followed this program for a long time, the Eagles have not lost to BU in the Beanpot since their overtime loss in the 2007 final. Since Nate Gerbe's magical game winning OT goal in the 2008 semifinal, BC has been on fire against the Terriers in what's been known as the BU Invitational. 2010 saw BC edge BU in the title game on the back of Chris Kreider's dangle. In 2011, it was Tommy Cross's turn to be an overtime hero, dispatching BU in the semifinals. And in 2012, in perhaps the most intense of all of those games (though really, they've all been incredible), Billy Arnold notched an OT game winner just as the extra session was expiring to lift BC to their third straight Beanpot crown.

In 2009, BC and BU never crossed paths after BC was knocked out by Northeastern in the opening round. The same was true in reverse last year, when the Huskies booted the Terriers on the first Monday, while BC cruised past Harvard.

So there you have it. It's been SEVEN years since BU beat BC in the Beanpot.

That's enough to make you nervous, though, isn't it? That, and memories of BU romping past BC in the Hockey East semifinal the last time these two teams met on Garden ice. Plus, BU gave BC a tighter-than-necessary game at Conte a couple of weeks ago.

The bottom line is, despite the talent gap between these two teams, it's the Beanpot, so expect drama.

BC Roster Notes

Ian McCoshen is out with an undisclosed injury (reportedly a lower-body injury). Kevin Hayes was hurt on Friday night in Providence and is questionable for tonight. Best guess is that McCoshen's injury means Danny Linell will return to the lineup on the blue line. UPDATE: Hayes is in the lineup tonight.

The line projections are tough as BC will likely skate freshman Evan Richardson with Hayes out.

Projected Lines (as reported by The Boston College Hockey Blog)

Gaudreau-Arnold-Hayes
Fitzgerald-Brown-Cangelosi
Straight-Gilmour-Calnan
Smith-Sit-Silk

Matheson-Doherty
Santini-Macleod
Savage-Linell

Demko

Game Time: 8:00 PM, or 45 minutes after the first game ends (safe bet is to usually take the over)

TV: NESN
Radio: WEEI 850 AM and BCEagles.com

Record: BC: 19-4-3..... BU: 8-14-3
KRACH: BC: #2.... BU: #39

Goal Differentials:
BC:114 GF (1st in HEA), 58 GA (4th in HEA), +46 (1st in HEA)
BU: 62 GF (9th in HEA), 85 GA (T-10th in HEA), -23 (9th in HEA)

Last Time Out: Over the weekend, BC edged PC 2-0, while BU allowed a late extra-attacker goal to UMass to blow a late lead and tie the Minutemen 3-3.

Storylines: BC is looking for 5 straight Beanpot titles and a third straight win over archrival BU this season. Johnny Gaudreau is also carrying a 21-game point streak into this one but will likely have to do it without Kevin Hayes on his wing for the first time since the Holy Cross game.

Fun Fact: BC is 14-1 at TD Garden since the start of the 2009-2010 season.

Players to watch: For BU, very few. Defenseman Ahti Oksanen remains the team's point leader with 19. Robbie Baillargion, a freshman, is turning into a nice player for the Terriers, with a 6-12--18 line so far.

Lingering Questions

Can BC avoid the upset and keep the Beanpot streak against BU alive? Will Kevin Hayes will be in the lineup? Who will step up in his stead? How will Linell perform if he returns to the blue line?

Scoreboard Watching: Out-Of-Town Notes

All eyes will be on the 5 PM game between Northeastern and Harvard, to see if the Huskies can successfully get out of their own way in the Beanpot this year.

The Pre-Game Watering Hole

There's only one place to go before or after a TD Garden event and that's The Four's, Boston's best sports bar, by far. Order pretty much anything on the menu because it's all delicious, but for BC rooting purposes let's say we'll put in an order for a Doug Flutie, the Fours' buffalo chicken sandwich.

Predictions

Check out the Beanpot Roundtable post from earlier with everyone else's thoughts on the upcoming tournament. Here's my take:

Northeastern 4, Harvard 2:

As much as I would like to predict a Harvard win n this one for the lulz, I just don't see it happening. Northeastern is probably overperforming and will likely slide down a bit from their current spot in the top 10 nationally, but there's no doubt they are a much, much better team than Harvard, and clearly have the horses to contend for their first Beanpot crown since 1988. Mustering up an upset against the Huskies would require Harvard to play with pride, something we haven't seen much semblance of in a meaningful game under Ted Donato, not since maybe the 2008 Beanpot final.

BC 5, BU 3

Much like the game at Conte Forum, this game will probably be made uncomfortably close by a few fluky bounces, a disallowed goal, and some special teams oddities. But BC should dominate. The bigger stage of the Garden should only exacerbate the speed and talent difference between these two teams. Expect BC to pepper the BU net to the tune of 40+ shots. As long as Demko performs mostly like he did at Providence on Friday, the Eagles should prevail.

Consolation Game: BU 2, Harvard 1

In a battle of ineptitude, I'll take BU over Harvard here in a game to see who can cement their spot in the Top 40 in RPI.

Championship Game: BC 4, Northeastern 3

While I still think his national-best .943 save percentage is unsustainable -- because it HAS to be, right? -- there's no denying that Clay Witt is an outstanding goaltender at this point. He's been doing it consistently since October. And nobody ever doubted the Huskies' offensive talent; the defense and goaltending was the big question all along.

That said, Northeastern gives up a crazy amount of shots. They average 35.31 shots allowed per game, 10th in Hockey East in that category, and they're one of two teams in the league with a negative shot differential, along with BU. (UMass is barely in the positive column, thanks largely to that crazy AIC game last month.) There's an old saying about playing with fire; regardless of how good Witt is, he's going to be facing a BC team leading the league in shooting percentage at about a 13.5% clip.

Something's gotta give, and I think it'll be Witt; BC will probably get 40+ shots in this game, too, and given the way BC's playing this year, it would be a coup to hold them under 4 putting up that kind of shot total. On the other end, I trust the resurgent defense and newly-crowned #1 Thatcher Demko to keep the opposing team at 3 or below. So, I'm predicting another Beanpot title for the Eagles.

MVP: It looks like the trendy pick was Kevin Hayes before his injury, as I was thinking Hayes as well; I'm going to switch it up and say Billy Arnold gets it done.

Eberly: It's hard not to pick Clay Witt. I wouldn't be shocked if Maguire is in contention, assuming he plays both games -- he's likely to get barraged. But I'll stick with Witt.

BCI Prediction Standings

5 points for a correct prediction, minus one point for how far off you were from the victory margin. i.e., predicting a 4-goal win and it ends up being a 2-goal win = 3 points. Also, 1 bonus point for getting a team's score correct. Enter this week's contest by leaving your predictions in the comments.

AS A BONUS, this week's Beanpot prediction game is asking you to pick the winners of all four Beanpot games, PLUS the MVP (5 bonus points) and the Eberly Trophy winner for goalie with the best SV% (5 bonus points).

Last week:

BC 2, PC 0

With predictions of 3-1 BC and 4-2 BC, respectively, AJ Black and Brian Favat split the honors with 5 points last week. Nicely done.

Leaderboard:

Grant - 3.5 wins (Week 5, Week 9, Week 11, Week 12 (tie))
Brian - 3 wins (Week 3 tie, Week 4, Week 6 1/2, Week 14 (tie))
Joe - 2 wins (Week 1, Week 7)

ACal6888: 1 win (Week 10)
giantsfan428: 1 win (Week 8)
Conrad - 1 win (Week 2)
Humble Genius - 1 win (Week 13)The Eagles look to continue their strong 2014 as they travel to Providence to take on the Friars
BCJacket5 - 1 win (Week 6)
AJ - 1 win (Week 3 (tie), Week 14 (tie))
JCNG - 0.5 win (Week 12 (tie))

Leave your thoughts on the game below and see if you can climb up the BCI leaderboard, to win all sorts of fabulous invisible prizes. Actually, you know what, I'm making up a prize, right now. The winner of the BCI prediction game for the season gets a 15 minute interview done by New Guy on BCInterruption Radio at the end of the season. Yes, New Guy, I'm committing your time and your studio technology without your permission. Go Eagles!

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