Previewing BC Men’s Hockey: What to Expect in the First Round of the Beanpot

Junior forward Matthew Gaudreau skates with the puck in a game last month at BU.

When going on a Boston College tour, the guide always gloats about how fun it is to pack the T so Boston University students cannot get to TD Garden for a BC-BU Beanpot battle. Unfortunately, last year, the Eagles fell short in the semifinals, and students were denied the joy of depriving BU students of a T ride. This year, however, the Eagles and students alike hope for a different outcome in order to keep the tradition alive. But before students can hop on the B Line, BC must face a challenging opponent in the semifinals.

On Monday night, the Eagles (17-4-4, 10-1-4 Hockey East) will head down to TD Garden for a 5 p.m. matchup against the Crimson (12-4-3, 8-3-3 ECAC), as Harvard tries to avenge last year’s 3-2 overtime consolation-game loss. In the poll, the Eagles sit in the No. 5 spot, while the Crimson are close behind at No. 7. In the PairWise, however, the teams’ roles reverse, with Harvard at No. 5 and BC at No. 7. With two power teams going head-to-head, this semifinal matchup is guaranteed to be a thriller.

Coming off an impressive 4-0 win against Notre Dame in South Bend, the Eagles need to stay on top of their game. With a healthy lineup, BC has every opportunity to come out of the gate hot and challenge a talented Crimson team. Along with motivation from last year’s tournament woes, this BC squad has the determination to bring the Beanpot back to its home in Chestnut Hill. Because #JY1K, injuries, and the Notre Dame rivalry are behind them, the Eagles can put their sole focus on defeating a competitive Harvard squad.

Last Time They Played: The last time BC took on Harvard was in last year’s Beanpot consolation game. The Eagles needed the win to maintain their dignity, but they were not fully invested in the game because no trophy awaited them after the final buzzer. With penalties plaguing the team the entire game, the Eagles had to rely on their defense and Demko to keep the game close. Harvard had the 2-1 edge heading into the final period, but Matty Gaudreau slid the equalizer past Steve Michalek to knot the game at two apiece. In overtime, BC continued to batter Michalek with shots while the Crimson struggled to get off offensively. The constant bombardment of shots put pressure on the Harvard goalie, allowing Ryan Fitzgerald to tip in the game-winning goal, giving BC a 3-2 victory.

Keys to the Game:

  1. Limit Penalties: Throughout the season, BC has struggled to keep its game clean. Having an aggressive team is good when it comes to fighting to edge out an opponent for a necessary win. The Eagles, however, tend to take it one step further, giving the other team valuable power play opportunities. With an average of 5.9 penalties per game, BC must be wary of its aggression while still maintaining a high-energy game in order to limit the Crimson’s man-advantage opportunities. This is extremely important because Harvard has scored 22 power-play goals this season on 69 attempts, giving it a 31.9 power play percentage compared to BC’s 19.6 power-play percentage. The defense will have to stand tall and support Demko, especially when it is a man down due to the Crimson’s dangerous power play lines.
  2. Look Out for Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo: Seniors Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo are the two biggest threats to a BC victory. With 16 and 14 goals, respectively, Vesey and Criscuolo dominate the Harvard offense. Along with fellow first liner Alexander Kerfoot, this trio has sparked plenty of offensive action and has been the key factor in close games. In order to come out with a victory, the Eagles must heavily defend these two players and deny them open access to the net. Both players average about one goal per game. If the Eagles can shut them down, it will give them a big advantage in securing a W.
  3. Demko vs. Madsen: Demko tends to be BC’s saving grace in many close games, and his superhuman saves will definitely be important in securing a victory. But sophomore Merrick Madsen has proven to be quite the star this season for the Crimson. Demko is ranked No. 3 in save percentage, and Madsen is right at his heels in the eighth-place spot. Demko has had eight shutouts this season compared to Madsen’s four, but both goalies have high-.93 save percentages. Although Demko has faced more shots, Madsen is clearly a high-caliber player as well. Both goalies allow fewer than two goals per game, with Demko allowing an average of 1.64 goals to Madsen’s 1.85. In order to move on to the final round, both teams will have to figure out how to get past these top goalies.
  4. Don’t Wait for the Perfect Shot: Although the Crimson are ranked similarly to BC, the Eagles are more aggressive on the offensive end when it comes to taking shots on goal. In spite of that, the pressure of making it to the Beanpot final may cause the Eagles to start off a bit shaky. Neither team can wait for the perfect opportunity to take a shot, especially when on a power play. With two top goalies, both teams are going to have to get scrappy by taking every shot possible and will have to wait for one to sneak past the goal line.

Other Opponents:

No. 9 Boston University (14-7-4, 8-4-3 Hockey East) is coming into the Beanpot off a three-game win streak. The Terriers average 3.6 goals per game behind scoring leaders Ahti Oksanen and Matt Lane, who have each scored 14 goals this season. BU is a solid third-period team, scoring 44 of its 90 goals in the final frame this season. Because of this, and their ability to thrive in the Beanpot atmosphere, you can never count the Terriers out of the game. Sean Maguire has been strong this season in goal, making 581 saves for a .922 save percentage. BU has defeated Northeastern twice this season (5-4 on Nov. 6 and 4-1 Nov. 7) and Harvard once in their sole matchup (6-5 on Jan. 7). BC is the only Beanpot opponent that BU has yet to defeat this season after suffering a loss and then tying the Eagles in January.
Northeastern University (9-12-4, 4-8-3 Hockey East) is ranked No. 28 in the PairWise rankings and is looking to continue its six-game win streak Monday night. Sophomore Nolan Stevens leads the Huskies with 10 goals this season, two of which were against BC when the teams tied at three apiece Dec. 5. Stevens works well under pressure and will be the biggest threat to NU’s opponents during the tournament. The Huskies average 2.8 goals per game, while allowing about 2.4. Freshman Ryan Ruck has been manning the goal this season and does not falter under pressure. With a save percentage of .906, Ruck will be key in keeping the Huskies competitive in this wide-open Beanpot tournament. NU couldn’t defeat BU and BC this season in regular season play and has not faced the Crimson since the 2013-14 season.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor