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Hockey Banter, Week XIX: BEANPOT EDITION

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BEANPOT you guys!

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was written prior to the announced postponement of games until Tuesday. (My bad on predicting in this article that the games would not get postponed. Oops.) That said, enjoy some light Beanpot reading as you look to pass the time until tomorrow.

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Joseph Gravellese: It's here. It's time. The Beanpot has arrived. There was no risk of looking past Friday night's game because it was such a big, crucial test for BC, and they passed it with high marks with a solid win over Providence. But now with that in the rear view mirror, the focus shifts to TD Garden. Here We Go (TM).

Grant Salzano: LET'S GOOOO. And the outlook has changed a bit from the beginning of the season.

NU is no longer the laughingstock we thought they'd be. Harvard has become a really good team, pretty much out of nowhere. And the Eicherriers have cooled down just a bit from looking like the team to beat nationally.

The end result is all 4 teams come in playing, well, pretty damn good hockey.

JG: Things have changed a bit, but I think your analysis might be a couple weeks old.

Harvard obviously is a team to be reckoned with, but they come in to the Beanpot really slumping after suffering a series of injuries. And all BU's done since losing to BC is go on a god damn rampage, beating Lowell, sweeping UVM at UVM, then hanging 9 on poor UMass.

And of course there's BC.

On the first week of December you'd probably find a lot of BC fans who were ready to pencil this team in for 4th place at the Garden shindig. It could still happen, because the field is wide open. But BC's playing as well as anyone right now.

Records in January:

BC: 7-1-1
BU: 5-1-2
NU: 5-1-3
HU: 2-4-0

GS: Well, I think the only one I'm off on is Harvard. They are still a tournament team right now, which is still out of nowhere with regards to their season expectations.

But despite BU being on a hot streak like we are, I don't think they are this untouchable team that I think we both were really feeling sick about early on.

No doubt though, they are the favorite to win the Beanpot this time around.

If you could pick, who would you rather play in the first round right now, NU or Harvard? Early in the season it was a no brainer but now I'm not so sure.

JG: BU isn't untouchable. BU and Lowell have edged themselves ahead of the Hockey East pack, with BU a nose ahead given Lowell's little slump the past few weeks.

That's a great question. I think I'd rather play NU just because they are so often liable to play like goddamn disasters at the Beanpot.

But...not so much lately, honestly. They've actually been pretty good in the Beanpot over the past few years, just not as good as BC. NU has consistently handled Harvard and BU in recent years. They have been eliminated by BC four years in a row—three times in the final. And only the semifinal game back in 2012 was a laugher.

So...I don't know. Pass?

GS: To be fair, everyone has handled BU in recent years.

JG: I guess Harvard, just because they're dinged up right now.

Well, true. Everyone has, including Harvard. Back to back Beanpot consolation game champions.

GS: I'm not sure the answer either, honestly. I guess I would actually go with Northeastern, because I tend to agree with larger sample sizes.

JG: Reasonable. Neither is an easy out, for sure.

GS: It's probably a push anyway. Given how strong NU and Harvard are this year, it's pretty clear it'll be a BC/BU final again, because Beanpot.

JG: Yeah, since "This Is The Year for Harvard vs. Northeastern You Guys"

...nah.

Let's talk about that BU-Harvard matchup.

Couple things:

1) Obviously I want Harvard to win, because screw BU.
2) If BU does win, however, BC probably jumps ahead of Harvard in the PWR before the 8 PM game even starts, for what that's worth.
3) That 5 PM game always feels weird because of the atmosphere and I feel like almost always, one team shows up and the other doesn't. Am I making this up? Are those often blowouts?

GS: Well let's see:

2014: NU 6, Harvard 0
2013: NU 3, BU 2
2012: BU 3, Harvard 1
2011: NU 4, Harvard 0
2010: BU 2, NU 1
2009: BU 4, Harvard 3
2008: Harvard 3, NU 1

So...kinda?

JG: Alright, kinda. Though I think they often maybe feel a little bit less competitive than they are.

With that said, this is a game a lot of hockey fans have been circling for months. NESN's promo calls it a "possible Frozen Four preview." And, well, maybe.

It's also a chance to see one of the top non-Eichel Hobey contenders (Jimmy Vesey) go against Mr. Eichel himself.

GS: Kind of makes you wonder why the hell this game is at 5pm.

JG: Yeah, that's what people have said all year. The answer is two fold: 1) supposedly, the defending champion gets to pick their preferred time (with some advisement from NESN), and 2) BC is pretty much always the 8 PM game.

I think actually BU/NU was the late game in 2010. But other than that BC's been the late game for many years in a row now. Partly for NESN and probably partly because, let's be honest, if the game was at 5 most BC students would probably arrive during the third period.

GS: Defending champion makes a lot of sense.

Well let's talk about BC for a little bit.

JG: We done talking BU/Harvard? Don't you want to at least make a prediction?

GS: Eichel gets dysentery.

Is that sufficiently ridiculous that people won't get all up in arms about it?

JG: I don't know, probably not.

I'm taking "the obvious choice" in a BU game this year: BU falls behind, then scores 150 goals in the third period to win.

GS: I am pretty sure BU will win that game.

Whatever. YOBO.

JG: Me too, which sucks. Up until a few weeks ago I sort of thought Harvard would win and make the rest of the Beanpot stress-free right away. Because honestly I don't really mind at all if Harvard or Northeastern win.

Can't be greedy, the consecutive Beanpot title streak will be snapped eventually. Just hopefully not by the ratdogs.

GS: Of course. Although if we're going to end the streak I would really it rather it not be this year with how big every game is for the Pairwise.

I bought tickets for the finals only, not caring if we were in the championship or not basically because even if we're in the 5pm game it's going to be a huge one.

JG: Well, yes, things are razor tight. And BC is pretty close to putting themselves into...not a comfortable position, but one with some semblance of confidence, in terms of making the tournament.

And yes, that's an excellent point about the consolation game. It's going to be huge for the Pairwise...well, for 3 out of the 4 possible contestants. So sleepwalking will not be acceptable.

GS: I don't think we have to worry about this team sleepwalking. It's kind of the opposite as with the women's team. The women know they can sleepwalk through games and are doing so.

The men know damn well that they need to bring it every shift...and are doing so.

It's pretty impressive what they're doing.

JG: Absolutely. The competitiveness of the league, and fact that they had to really bring it to grind out some wins against the UNHes and Dartmouths of the world has paid dividends in BC's ability to win tight games against BU, Merrimack, and Providence.

So let's talk about the matchup.

We just saw these two teams play one another not too long ago. It was fiercely competitive, but BC did look like a slightly better team.

GS: The tie was incredibly frustrating—it felt like a miracle that we pulled it out late. Certainly the home game went better. We've been playing great at Conte.

JG: It did. That just felt like an old fashioned Matthews loss. It wasn't a great performance by BC. But it was moreso NU playing well.

I think it's reasonable to expect BC to have a bit of a possession and shots edge. They were rarely outshooting teams for a while, but against Merrimack, UConn and Providence, BC had a lot of territorial control.

GS: Providence especially. That was really something.

JG: That doesn't necessarily mean anything against NU of course. There's the intriguing question of whether NU would consider rolling the recently-hot Derrick Roy out there between the pipes, but I'd expect to see Witt.

GS: Oh, definitely. Witt's the guy. Has he cooled off from his last season numbers yet?

JG: Ha. A little. But good goaltending, from him and from Roy, has fueled NU's resurgence.

It hasn't been crazy like last year but even in NU's hot stretch, from the day after Thanksgiving until now, they're averaging being outshot. But only by about 1 shot per game.

GS: Well hopefully that trend continues.

So let's wrap things up here on this snowy day. Do you think BC wins? Will they postpone the game?

I'm guessing since we haven't heard anything yet, it's still on.

JG: Last year, NU was playing well going into the Beanpot, but I was extremely confident in victory, because I figured if BC could put up 35-40 shots—as was the norm for NU opponents—it wouldn't matter what Clay Witt did, there's no way BC's big offensive guns would score fewer than about 4 goals.

This year, I don't feel the same confidence. I think it's entirely possible for BC to dominate the game put up 35+ shots, and be stymied in a 1-1, 2-2 overtime sort of situation.

But they're playing so well right now. And they have been so good defensively. And Demko has been Demko. I can't pick against them. Give me 3-2 BC.

As for the potential for postponement...well, yeah, I haven't heard anything. But it would be a real shame to not have the Beanpot on the first two Mondays in February. That would be worse than when Boston moved the 4th of July to July 3.

GS: I would be completely stunned if they moved the game, to be totally honest. Especially given that we haven't heard anything yet.

It's not easy to book the Garden. Plus, all four teams are in the city. Put me down with a 90% prediction that they'll play as scheduled.

JG: Agreed. A foot of snow isn't really reason to postpone anything.

GS: I also like BC. I like the way they're clicking and I think this is a breakout game.

I like 4-0. Take it to the bank.

JG: Alright.

GS: Well, let's get to it. Hopefully the train keeps rolling. Go BC.