By James Garrison
After being canceled last year due to the pandemic, the Beanpot, one of the most famous in-season college hockey tournaments, is finally back for the first time in two years and is set to start on Monday.
The Boston University men’s hockey team (14-10-3, 10-6-3 HE) is set to face the Harvard Crimson (12-7-2, 9-5-2 ECAC) in the semifinal round on Monday at TD Garden with puck drop set for 5:00 p.m.
The last time the Terriers played in the Beanpot they lost a thriller in a double-overtime championship game to Northeastern University, who are now hoping to win their fourth consecutive Beanpot.
“I just feel the energy from our group,” Terriers’ Head Coach Albie O’Connell said in his media availability this Sunday. “I know everyone’s excited that the Beanpot’s going off and we’re back at it.”
After starting Friday night and obtaining his first shutout of the season against the University of Maine in a 4-0 victory, it seems likely that Terriers’ sophomore goaltender Vinny Duplessis will be getting the nod to start.
“I think all things will point to Vinnie playing,” O’Connell said when asked about the Terriers’ goaltending situation. “A shutout. He played versus Brown so he’s let in one goal in his last two games.”
The loss of players to the Olympics will be felt by all four teams. Harvard will be without their team leader in points, junior forward Nick Abruzzese, as well as sophomore forward Sean Farrell, who is fourth on the team with 19 points in 17 games. Both Abruzzese and Farrell have been nominated for the Hobey Baker Award.
Even without Abruzzese and Farrell, the Crimson still possess a good amount of firepower. Harvard will be led up front by sophomore forward Alex Laferriere, a Los Angeles Kings prospect who is scoring at a point-per-game rate so far this season.
Alongside Laferriere will be the thirteenth overall pick in last year’s NHL draft, freshman forward Matthew Coronato. Junior defenseman Henry Thrun is leading the Crimson on the back-end, another point-per-game player.
Despite a strong 8-3-1 start to the season, the Crimson have fallen out of the national rankings after losses to opponents like Brown and UNH and losing three out of four games during a stretch in January.
The Crimson have won four games in a row since then though, and are starting to return to form despite losing some of their top players to the Olympics.
The Terriers are playing their best hockey of the season and have rebounded from their 3-7 start. BU only has one loss in regulation after Nov. 6, coming against Cornell at Red Hot Hockey. In that stretch, the Terriers have secured 11 wins and five OT losses/ties and have won four in a row.
“We’ve been a lot more consistent in our details,” O’Connell said. “Our defensive competitiveness, our back-checking, our shot-blocking has really improved (…) Offensively, guys gained some confidence and I think our goalie started to gain some confidence.”
The last time these two teams saw each other was on December 3rd, 2019 at Agganis Arena, with the Terriers taking the contest 5-2.
“They’re fast, like they could skate. We’re gonna have to really be ready to skate,” O’Connell said.
With the exception of Commesso, the Terriers should be back to full-strength for the first time this season, as sophomore forward Dylan Peterson is expected to be available for Monday after being unavailable since Jan. 21.
The Terriers have gotten hot at the right time as they re-entered the national polls last Monday, coming in at No.v 19 in the weekly USCHO poll. The Beanpot will serve as a test for the Terriers, as they hope to continue to climb the national ranks with the hope of receiving an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a great opportunity to obviously play for a championship and play in some pressure situations that can help you win games as you move forward,” O’Connell said when asked about the Beanpot’s impact on a team heading into the final month of the season.
If the Terriers win, they will take on the winner of the BC-Northeastern contest set to take place right after their game is over. If they lose, the Terriers will face the loser of the BC-Northeastern game next Monday.
“There’s some giddiness to it, but just trying to get guys in the right mindset of just focusing on just playing, competing, and executing our game plan,” said O’Connell.
The puck will drop at 5:00pm tomorrow afternoon at TD Garden. We’ll have full coverage of the game and tournament so make sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.