The Women's Beanpot, now in its 36th season (an eternity in women's hockey) has its own history that mirrors the men's version in the landscape of Boston women's hockey.
And "mirrors" is probably the right word -- the relative success between the four schools is exactly the opposite as it is in men's hockey: Northeastern claims the most Women's Beanpot titles with 16, followed by Harvard with 13, BC with 4, and BU with 1 (haha).
But it's not just the trophy that the teams are playing for. For the last several years -- much more so than in men's hockey -- the Women's Beanpot has huge pairwise implications given that all four schools are strong. This year, all 4 are "Teams Under Consideration" in the women's Pairwise, with Harvard 3rd, BC 7th, BU t8th, and Northeastern 16th.
No. 8 Boston University Terriers (18-8-1, 11-5-0 HEA)
vs. No. 7 Boston College Eagles (19-4-3, 14-1-1 HEA)
The Terriers' only title came in 1981 (remarkably, when they were the only Beanpot school competing as a club team), which seems completely impossible given that they've been in the last four NCAA tournaments, advancing to the finals in two of them.
BU's season has been entertaining in that all along it was a bubble that was so clearly ready to burst. After advancing the the NCAA finals last year for the privilege of getting steamrolled by the Gophers, the Terriers lost a ton of talent to graduation and sent one of their best players, Marie-Philip Poulin, to Sochi to compete for Hockey Canada.
BU went from being ranked 2nd at the end of last season to not ranked early this year, with the expectation being that they had just lost too much talent to compete with the top teams. But then a steady streak in which the Terriers went 13-2-0, with the two losses in the middle coming to #2 Wisconsin and #3 Harvard, brought BU all the way up to 5th in the Pairwise.
Finally, at long last, the bubble burst in early January with a dominating BC victory in the Terriers' home rink which sent BU's season spiraling out of control. 5 games later, BU was 1 for their last 6, and it took two games against deadful UConn last weekend to pull out of the tailspin. BU is, as of now, completely out of the NCAA tournament picture, behind by quite a bit in the RPI tiebreaker with North Dakota in the Pairwise, and looks like it will need a Hockey East tournament title to keep its streak of 4 straight NCAA tournament appearences alive.
BC's season, on the other hand, has been the complete opposite. Despite losing Alex Carpenter to Sochi (who, by the way, is about 2 weeks away from becoming American Hero Alex Carpenter), the Eagles returned much of their talent up front, and looked to have one of their best chances yet at securing that elusive national title, opening up the year in 2nd place in the USCHO poll and even vulturing a first place vote from Minnesota, their first ever.
But early frustrations came with alarming frequency -- a terrible loss to New Hampshire on October 16th... another to Syracuse on October 25th... A loss to streaking Quinnipiac November 15th... a tie to Princeton the very next night... Where did the team with NCAA championship aspirations head off to?
It was almost as though they just needed to play some good teams to get kick-started. Starting with a win over then-#2 Cornell, BC went on to tie new-#2 Harvard the next weekend and rattle off a still-going 10 game unbeaten streak, climbing out from tournament irrelevance all the way into a solid hold on 7th, with a likely soon comparison flip of Robert Morris away from 6th.
Given the trajectories of the two teams, it's difficult to see BC coming out of this game without a win. We'll call it 4-1 BC, the same score by which BC throttled BU back in early January to send the Terriers crashing back to earth.
No. 16 Northeastern Huskies (12-12-2, 8-6-2 HEA)
vs. No. 3 Harvard Crimson (17-2-3, 13-2-2 ECAC)
Northeastern has managed to win back-to-back Beanpots despite never advancing to the NCAA tournament since its inception in 2001. Historically, the Huskies were one of the first great women's hockey teams, running a stretch of 13 straight winning seasons starting in 1982.
Northeastern is trending upward, now riding a 5 game winning streak including a win over the terriers on January 19th, climbing to .500 and playing their best hockey of the season. They are playing with a bit of a short bench, which has hurt them late in games, but you can't argue with the results.
Harvard has been strong all season, riding incredible defense and goaltending to one of the best records in the country. The Crimson have posted just a couple of questionable losses this season to RPI and Yale, and is holding strong at 3rd in the Pairwise rankings. They are undefeated against Teams Under Consideraton -- though they do have a tie each to BC, Quinnipiac, and Cornell scattered throughout their schedule.
Harvard is on a 5-0-1 streak, with the tie coming this weekend against Quinnipiac, so they are playing about as strong as the Huskies are. They have a similarly short bench, so that should give neither team an advantage.
The Crimson are a better hockey team than the Huskies, and while Northeastern winning and staying at "TUC" status in the Pairwise helps BC, I don't expect the Huskies to get that far. Harvard will win, 2-0, to advance to the final.
The games are this afternoon at Conte Forum, the BC vs. BU the nightcap at 8pm. As always, we'll have full coverage. Go Eagles!