By Allan Muir
The 61st edition of college hockey's most storied tournament gets underway tonight in Boston. Here's a look at the match-ups:
Boston University (13-10-1) vs. Northeastern (7-13-3), 5 p.m. ET, NESN
The 11th ranked Terriers stumble into the tournament with a 3-5-1 record since Christmas, including a 5-1 loss to unranked UMass last Friday. The inconsistencies of freshmen goaltenders Sean McGuire (Penguins prospect) and Matt O'Connor (tonight's starter) are a big part of the problem. On any given night, they can be lights out...or lights off. BU has a clear advantage in scoring talent, though, with greater forward depth and high-end snipers like Wade Megan (Panthers) and Danny O'Regan (Sharks) to lead the charge. Matt Grzelcyk (Bruins) and Garrett Noonan (Predators) provide some pop from the back end.
Northeastern comes into the tourney having lost four straight (0-2-2) but the Huskies have beaten each of the other three Beanpot teams at least once this season, so they can surprise when they're clicking. Forwards Kevin Roy (Ducks) and Cody Ferriero (Sharks) are always dangerous, but BU will have to keep a tight leash on former teammate Vinny Saponari (Jets). Now team captain, the winger scored the clincher in Northeastern's last two wins against the Terriers. The Huntington Hounds will have their choice of seniors Chris Rawlings or Bryan Mountain between the pipes, giving them an edge in experience and stability, but it will be a shocker if they can hold off the Terriers. BU has rung up 15 straight victories against Northeastern at the Beanpot. No reason to think that streak ends tonight.
Boston College (15-7-2) vs. Harvard (5-14-1), 8 p.m. ET, NESN
Like the Terriers, the BC Eagles come into the tournament looking very beatable. The nation's fifth-ranked team is just 3-5-1 since it knocked off Alabama-Huntsville to secure a record-setting 925th career win for coach Jerry York, and was stunned by an 8-1 drubbing at the hands of No. 1 Minnesota last month.
But every BC game is worth watching, if only to see Johnny Hockey in action. Forward Johnny Gaudreau (Flames) leads the conference with 33 points, despite missing three games while skating with gold medal-winning Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Championship. If he's not the best player in college hockey, he's in the mix. The Eagles also boast a pair a NHL first-rounders: forward Kevin Hayes (Blackhawks, 2010) and defender Michael Matheson (Panthers, 2012). Both have battled inconsistency at times, but could step up to be impact players tonight.
There were high hopes for Harvard this season, but a cheating scandal cost the Crimson the services of goaltender Steve Michalek and three starting defenders. They've yet to adequately address those losses, and the most anemic offense in the ECAC (2.05 goals per game) does nothing to cover the blemishes. With seven straight losses on the ledger, they're in tough to beat a superior BC squad. Look for BC and BU to square off in next Monday's tournament final, with BC looking to claim its fourth straight title.