The Frozen Four starts tomorrow. Great!
Boston College is not in it. Not great.
That said, the Frozen Four is annually one of the great underappreciated events on the sports calendar, regularly churning out instant classics, such as the 2015 national championship game:
As such, it’s always worth watching. And over the next two days, Laura, Grant, Arthur and myself will make the case as to why “team X” is worthy of your bandwagon support this weekend.
I drew the easiest assignment, because I have the right answer: Harvard. Why should you be rooting for Harvard?
The good-for-local-hockey angle
The most obvious reason to root for Harvard is that whenever a local team succeeds, it boosts hockey in the area, which has spillover benefits for Boston College. A nationally relevant Harvard makes the Beanpot more interesting for TV audiences and ticket buyers, and adds Harvard to the list of BC games worth circling on the calendar each season.
Though hockey continues to spread and develop nationally, it’s a good thing for BC if Boston remains the hub of American hockey (sorry, Minnesota).
Harvard is inoffensive; it’s not a hate-filled rivalry
Of course, all the “good for local hockey” arguments still apply if we’re talking about BU instead of Harvard. But while a hockey rivalry exists between BC and Harvard, it’s not a hate-filled rivalry like BC-BU.
Watching BU succeed comes with the side effect of their fans getting to experience happiness. Naturally, we don’t want that.
To the extent that Harvard fans exist, they are not licking their chops over holding hockey bragging rights over BC for the next year+. They already have bragging rights, because they’re Harvard.
In addition to the lack of bitterness between the fanbases, there’s also not much of a recent history of nastiness or animosity on the ice. (About 7-8 years ago, when Harvard was in the toilet, there were some incidents during blowout games, but that’s about it.)
The Harvard roster most resembles what a BC championship roster should look like in this era
College hockey has changed a lot even in the last 5-10 years, and as such, all schools are adjusting to the new reality: well-coached programs with 24-25 year old four-year players on one end of the spectrum, and unprecedentedly talented one-and-dones like Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin on the other.
A roster like Minnesota-Duluth’s (or Union’s from 2014, or Quinnipiac’s runner-up roster last year) is not really something BC is going to emulate in building its next championship team. The way the programs are built are just different.
But Harvard’s roster is a good blueprint for what BC can build toward for its next championship team.
The Crimson have a few veterans, with four players born in 1993 in the 23-24 age range. Seniors like Luke Esposito and Devin Tringale had an extra year of seasoning and came in undrafted, but developed in to stars by the time they reached senior year.
Harvard also has elite 22-year-old seniors - NHL-ready prospects that have stayed and developed at Harvard for four years, in Alexander Kerfoot, Sean Malone, and Tyler Moy.
This roster laden with veterans is supplemented by highly talented, drafted underclassmen, like Ryan Donato, Adam Fox, and John Marino. While there is no first round pick on the roster, there’s plenty of future NHL talent. Some of the talent may leave early, but most of the roster consists of 3- to 4-year guys.
Not to mention, Harvard obviously deals with academic constraints in constructing their roster.
This is the blueprint to succeed in this era of college hockey: a mix of mid-level drafted talent that stays for 3-4 years, four year diamonds in the rough developed over time, and a dash of high-end freshman and sophomore talent. As BU demonstrated this year, it’s not enough to just stockpile a bunch of first round picks, no matter how talented they are. And it’s not necessary to have one of the oldest teams in the country to succeed, either.
They’re the best story
I know - it’s always a little weird when, in sports, Ivies are portrayed as the Plucky Underdog.
Harvard is no underdog, but they are a very cool story. This program was so down in the dumps a few years ago that I was personally stunned that Ted Donato survived without being fired. Frankly, if he were at any non-Ivy program, he probably would have been fired, but the Ivies are historically reluctant to fire coaches strictly for performance reasons.
After making the NCAAs in Donato's first two seasons (2005, 2006), they missed the tournament in each of the next eight seasons. In 2009 and 2010, Harvard won 9 games each year. They finished with no more than 13 wins over the next four seasons after that. Finally, in 2015 - Jimmy Vesey’s junior year - the Crimson turned a corner, winning 21 games and making the tournament. But they were one-and-done each of the last two years.
This year, it seemed like Harvard’s window to win major hardware had closed with the graduation of Jimmy Vesey. But instead, they are even better - dominating the ECAC en route to the conference title, and becoming the first team to break the BC/BU duopoly of the Beanpot since 1993.
Harvard is, simply put, the coolest story remaining in the field. Duluth won a national title in 2011. Denver is one of the winningest programs in history, though they are on quite a drought by their standards (12 years). There can never be anything feel-good about Notre Dame.
So there’s your answer. Go Harvard.