The 65th installment of the Beanpot Tournament will feature the Boston Terriers against the Harvard Crimson in the championship game.
These two hockey programs have a storied past in terms of the Beanpot Tournament. Meeting up for the 18th time in the championship game, you can surely expect a great deal of passion from each side.
— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) February 7, 2017
The Harvard Crimson are returning to the championship game of the Beanpot for the first time since 2008 (6-5 OT loss to Boston College). Although they have 10 titles to their name, the Crimson are looking to end a drought of 24 seasons without a win in the final Beanpot game.
The Boston Terriers are entering the Beanpot final looking to add their 31st title in program history. Coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss in last year’s title game to the Boston College Eagles, the Terriers got their revenge in the semifinal game this year against that same Eagles squad.
To add another level of intensity to the contest, in the most recent NCAA men’s ice hockey rankings, both of these teams found themselves in the top five. BU holds the third rank in the nation, while the Harvard has obtained the fourth rank. There is more than a Beanpot title on the line when these two teams take the ice on Monday night; this matchup has Frozen Four implications surrounding it. The winner of this matchup could very well solidify themselves a place in playoff hockey while the loser could find themselves on the outside looking in.
— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) February 6, 2017
The Crimson’s Path
Coming into the Beanpot final, the Harvard Crimson have won their last four games. Their most recent win in the semifinal round was a thrilling 4-3 final over the Northeastern Huskies, where the Crimson scored goals at even-strength, on the power play, and on the penalty kill.
— HarvardMHockey (@HarvardMHockey) February 7, 2017
The Crimson will look to lean primarily on their workhorse junior goaltender, Merrick Madsen (2013 6th round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers), who at 6-foot-5 has started all 23 games of the season so far, posting a 16-5-2 record with a 2.23 goals-against average. Madsen has been the heart and soul of the Crimson all season long, as he ranks in the top 20 in all goaltender statistics in the NCAA.
On offense, the Crimson rely heavily on dependable seniors to shoulder the scoring load. Senior captain Alexander Kerfoot (29 points) and senior forward Sean Malone (27 points) are putting up more than a point per game to lead the Crimson offense. Other contributors include sophomore forward Ryan Donato (a 2014 second-round pick of the Boston Bruins) and freshman defensemen Adam Fox (a 2016 third-round pick of the Calgary Flames). As the son of the coach, Donato has some big shoes to fill as a member of the Crimson hockey team. He has been the quarterback of the team’s power play, leading in shots with 105, while having similar success on the penalty kill (two shorthanded goals). Likewise, Fox has emerged as the team’s top blueliner. With a team-leading 23 assists, he has become a valuable asset on the power play as well.
The Terriers’ Path
Entering the Beanpot final, the Boston Terriers are one of the hottest teams in the NCAA. Having been winners in 11 of their last 13 contests, the Terriers have climbed all the way up to be the third-ranked team in the nation.
The Terriers have been riding the scorching hot play of underclassmen all season long. They have received great contributions from freshmen Clayton Keller and Patrick Harper, who both have over 25 points on the season, and from freshamn goaltender Jake Oettinger, who at 18 has emerged as a top goaltending prospect in this upcoming NHL draft. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Bobo Carpenter, and Charlie McAvoy lead the charge as second-year Terriers.
The play of Oettinger has set the tone for the Terriers this season. In his 24 starts, he has posted a record of 16-6-2, with two of those wins coming in shutout fashion. He is among the top NCAA goaltenders with his save percentage (.937) and goals-against average (1.75). Forward Clayton Keller (a 2016 first-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes) is leading the team in goals (14) and overall points (30) while staying among the top of the list in freshmen scoring among NCAA skaters.
A pair of Boston Bruins draft picks are emerging as “top dogs” on the Terrier power play. JForsbacka-Karlsson (a 2015 second-round pick) and McAvoy (a 2016 first0round pick) have been dominant when BU has had the man-advantage. The two of them have made the Terriers an offensive force to be reckoned with. In addition, the team is averaging over three goals per game (3.11) and is sitting in the sixth spot for overall goal differential.
When these two teams meet to play for the Beanpot championship, you can expect fireworks. The two teams played earlier this season at the Agganis Arena, Boston University’s home rink, and the Terriers edged the Crimson 5-3. That game was one of BU backup goaltender Connor LaCouvee’s two starts of the season. The Beanpot final will likely see Oettinger in net.
In that previous matchup, both teams were ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA. The Terriers entered the matchup as the No. 7 seed and the Crimson came in as the No. 9. In the game, the Terriers went two-for-four on the power play. The Crimson had a tally shorthanded. The game featured 63 shots combined (31 for the Terriers and 32 for the Crimson). BU erased multiple deficits in the first period, fighting back from down 1-0 and 2-1.
In this Beanpot final, there is a Boston University squad that can skate with any team in the nation set to clash with a Harvard team that is heavily experienced and built from the goal out. These teams have opposite strengths, and neither team holds a historic advantage in the all-time series (Boston University leads the series 79-68-6), so when they meet for the 154th time it sure should be a treat.
Boston University 4, Harvard 1
When it is all said and done, the Boston Terriers will be taking the Beanpot trophy home to Commonwealth Ave. The young guns of the Terriers will prove to be too much for the Crimson. After Boston University played their backup goalie and still came out on top in the first meeting, you can expect a lot of confidence early from the Terrier bench. If the Crimson get into penalty trouble early, they can dig themselves into a real hole. The deciding factor in this game will be the play by the two goaltenders. Expect Oettinger and Madsen to be at the top of their games on Monday.
Look for the Terriers to get the puck on net early and scrape together some momentum. The crowd will have a tremendous impact on the game as well; both of these schools put together and incredible fan section that usually swarms the top deck of the Boston Garden. Expect the atmosphere and play to look and feel like Frozen Four playoff hockey.
Journalism student at Boston University. Deep passion for the game of hockey. Very active on Twitter, join the debate!