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The 2018 Women’s Beanpot: Semifinals Preview

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The Eagles are looking for their third straight title

John Quackenbos, BC Athletics

For those of you who care about these things (everyone, probably), BC Interruption will be on the call for the Women’s Beanpot semifinals. I’ll be providing color commentary with BC Women’s Hockey play-by-play announcer Luis Sanchez for both the HU/BU and BC/NU games at 5pm and 8pm on ESPN3. Be sure to tune in!

Beanpot Monday is in the books, but Beanpot Tuesday is still to come!

The puck drops on the Women’s Beanpot tonight at 5pm and 8pm. The Women’s Beanpot features the same semifinal matchups as the men, but the tournament is rotated around the four campus sites. This year it’s BC’s turn to host, so the games are at Conte Forum. The Eagles will get the late game as the host team.

For women’s hockey in particular, the Beanpot always seems to carry with it massive Pairwise implications. In 2007 when the Eagles won their second title, a triple-overtime win over #6 Harvard in the semifinals vaulted the Eagles, then 10th in the USCHO poll, into NCAA tournament consideration. The Eagles won the Beanpot and qualified for their first NCAA tournament appearance just a few weeks later before advancing to the program’s first Frozen Four.

It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that BC’s current run as a national powerhouse can be traced directly back to that triple overtime game against Harvard in 2007. Without that win, the Eagles don’t make the NCAA tournament, and their rise to prominence is at best delayed and at worst nipped in the bud before it even happens.

Drama!

Semifinal #1
No. 21 Boston University Terriers (10-14-6, 6-11-5 WHEA)
vs. No. 20 Harvard Crimson (9-12-2, 7-9-2 ECAC)

February 6th, 2018, 5:00pm
How To Watch: ESPN3

All that “Pairwise Implications” talk basically goes out the window for BU and Harvard. They are both not very good, not in the NCAA tournament hunt, and well below .500.

Despite the fact that both teams are duking it out in the rankings to determine which squad can be the most mediocre, there’s a clear winner for who the Eagles would rather face, and that’s the Harvard Crimson. That’s true for a few reasons.

(1) BU losing is always a good and pleasant result.
(2) Playing Harvard will help BC’s Pairwise Ranking a bit more than playing BU — not because of their position one spot higher than the Terriers, but because of how RPI is calculated: Harvard’s opponent’s winning percentage is markedly higher than BU’s. #MATH
(3) BU’s top-end talent is much, much, much scarier than Harvard’s and they are capable of taking over a game.

Point three is really the most important thing to know for this semifinal. Terrier seniors Victoria Bach and Rebecca Leslie are basically the only players keeping BU afloat, and they are super high-end talent. Bach leads the nation in goals per game, and is in the shadow of BC’s Caitrin Lonergan and Daryl Watts in scoring.

The Bach-Leslie combination is more than enough to handle Harvard, although teams have found a way to slow them down a bit of late. Big players make big plays in big games, and I would be surprised to see BU lose for that reason only. We’ll call it a 4-2 BU win in the first semifinal.

Semifinal #2
No. 3 Boston College Eagles (24-2-3, 17-1-3 WHEA)
vs. No. 11 Northeastern Huskies (13-13-3, 9-10-2 ECAC)

February 6th, 2018, 8:00pm
How To Watch: ESPN3

This is where the Pairwise implications of this year’s tournament kick in. You don’t want to look ahead and say this game is the real Beanpot Championship game, but the Eagles and the Huskies are the clear cream of the crop of the 2018 Women’s Beanpot.

Don’t let Northeastern’s .500 record fool you — they have played a brutal schedule, boasting the nation’s toughest strength of schedule by RPI and 3rd toughest by KRACH. They’ve also made the most of their opportunities, knocking off #1 (at the time) Wisconsin earlier in the season before handing the #2 ranked (at the time) Eagles their last loss just a few weeks ago. They also earned a 1-1 draw in their season opener against #1 Clarkson and took the Eagles to overtime in another game. Needless to say, they bring it against top teams.

But if there’s anything that can make BC feel a little better going into this matchup, it’s that the Huskies have really started to struggle of late. Since NU toppled the Eagles last month, the Huskies are 1-4-1 including three losses to league bottom-dwellers UConn and Vermont. Which Northeastern team is BC going to get?

The Eagles, on the other hand, are the only team in the country with fewer than three losses, and boast three of the nation’s most prolific scorers — four if you want to include the nation’s top scoring defenseman. Their offense has “slowed down” over the last couple weeks, which still means they’ve averaged 3.25 goals per game over their last 4. But the positive spin to that is that they’ve finally started to tighten up their defense. The Eagles have allowed more than two goals per game this season, but over their last four, they’ve allowed 1.25 goals per game, just over half their season average.

When you combine that with the fact that BC’s NCAA-best power play has sputtered over that time frame and the penalty kill has not been as good as it needs to be, that gives the Eagles some room to grow. There’s a lot to like about the team heading into Trophy Season, and it starts tonight.

Northeastern has the talent to beat BC again, but I don’t think they are playing good enough hockey right now to do it tonight. I like BC to win 4-1, and if the Eagles can stay out of the box, maybe they’ll post another one of those elusive shutouts.

The 2018 Women’s Beanpot is on ESPN3 tonight, with HU/BU at 5pm and BC/NU at 8pm. Head over to WatchESPN.com to get your Tuesday evening fix of hockey!