By: James Duffy
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
But no, there are no kids jingle belling and Santa’s sleigh is not making its routes.
Instead, it’s Beanpot Week. The four historic programs will do battle at Walter Brown Arena, and after the dust settles on February 9th, one will emerge as this year’s winner with a trophy and bragging rights until next February. The first round matchups have Boston College taking on Harvard in the afternoon game next Tuesday, followed by Boston University and Northeastern. Every one of these four teams is having a strong season, so this should be a fun tournament.
On to the games.
Boston College vs. Harvard
The Eagles come into this one as the undisputed top team in the land. They’ve rolled through every team they’ve played this season en route to a 26-0-0 record, and that includes Harvard, who they beat 2-0 just two weeks ago in Cambridge. Katie Burt is arguably the best goaltender in the nation, sporting a .950 save percentage to go along with a 1.08 goals allowed average, and the Eagles can score as well. Two of the top scorers in the nation hail from Chestnut Hill, as Alex Carpenter has tallied 61 points and Haley Skarupa has 51 of her own, 2nd and 4th respectively. As a whole, BC averages just over 5 goals per game, while letting up a little over one. For all intents and purposes, they’re the favorite in this game and the tournament as a whole.
Harvard on the other hand comes into this game having cooled off after a stellar start to the season. The Crimson have managed just one win in their last five contests, and consequently have dropped just outside of the top 10. They have their own brick wall in net in Emerance Maschmeyer, who in her senior campaign at Harvard is having one of her best years. Her .947 save percentage is third in the nation, and she has been the backbone for this Harvard team for four years now. If Harvard has any hope of repeating as Beanpot champions, it’ll be riding on Maschmeyer. Their offense, while not as overwhelming as their competitors, can put up points. When not facing Katie Burt, they’ve been shutout just twice this season.
This rematch of last years final should be just as interesting as the championship game. In the end, Katie Burt will make one more key save than Maschmeyer, and the Eagles will advance to their 4th straight Beanpot final.
Boston University vs. Northeastern
Its been somewhat of a down year for the Terriers, the perennial Hockey East powerhouse that seems to be struggling with consistency. BU is sitting in third place in Hockey East, with a strong but underwhelming 13-4-2 record in conference, and 16-9-2 on the season. They’re a solid team, but just beneath the cream of the crop this season. Their offense has been clicking this season, posting an average of 3.6 goals per game, and five separate Terriers have potted at least 10 goals. But goaltending has been their kryptonite. Erin O’Neil has been decidedly mediocre in her first season as the starter for the Terriers, and her play will decide the fate of BU. She’s shown flashes, like her 27 save shutout in Providence, but it can’t be overlooked that BC lit her up like a Christmas tree earlier in the year to the tune of 8 goals on 45 shots. She had a short look against Northeastern when she played the third period of a blowout, giving up a single goal on 9 shots.
The Huskies on the other hand have emerged from the middle of the road to be a dominant force in college hockey. Driven by a high-octane offense, these Huskies have climbed to #5 in the nation. Kendall Coyne leads the way with 35 goals, the most in the nation, and her line with Denisa Krizova and Hayley Scamurra has been a consistent source of production. But they’ve proven they can score with all four lines, and that depth could be the difference maker in this Beanpot. Northeastern has the edge in net as well, assuming freshman Brittany Bugalski gets the nod. Other than a few weeks where she sat out with an injury, she has been lights out. The reigning Hockey East defensive player of the week has allowed four goals in her last five appearances and seems to be back in top shape.
When these teams matched up earlier in the year, it was a blowout 8-1 Northeastern win. At this point the Huskies have given us no reason to assume this game will go any differently. I don’t see the score being so dramatic, but this should be a Huskies win, 4-1.