It’s that time of year again in Boston. The first two Monday’s in February mean only one thing in hockey to Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, and Northeastern University: Beanpot.
The first Beanpot was played in December 1952. There was no game played in 1953, and the next two (1954 and 1955) were played in January. Since 1956 the games have been played the first and second Monday in February, with the exception of 1978. The Blizzard of 1978, which actually struck during the first Monday of February—in which the teams played not realizing just how much snow was coming—delayed the consolation and championship games until March 1, which was a Wednesday.
During the 1980 Winter Olympics, those men on the Gold Medal-winning U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey team who were from Boston had a little distraction from the stress of trying to beat the Russians when they discovered that Northeastern University had won the Beanpot. Of course, their fellow teammates from Minnesota and elsewhere had no idea what the big deal was. However, Northeastern University has only won the Beanpot four times in the 61-year history of the tournament, and the 1980 win was their first ever.
Last year’s winner, the Boston College Eagles, will play against the Boston University Terriers in the second semi-final game, and the rivalry between these two teams is legendary. It is often referred to as the Battle of Comm Ave, as the two schools are separated by less than five miles. They also have the distinction of being the third most played college hockey rivalry series after the Michigan-Michigan State Rivalry and the Battle for the Gold Pan (which is the Colorado College Tigers and the University of Denver Pioneers).
Usually these two teams are closer in rankings than they are this year. Boston University is certainly having some difficulties this season, currently ranked tenth in the HockeyEast Conference. One of their best players, defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, is out for the remainder of the season, having sustained a shoulder injury in early January. They also have a new coach this season in David Quinn, who was chosen to replace the retiring Jack Parker at the end of last season. However, they certainly shouldn’t be counted out. Emotion in a game can take a struggling team quite far.
The first of the semi-final games will pit the Northeastern University Huskies against the Harvard University Crimson. The Huskies have had quite a good run this season with the infusion of a number of impressive freshmen over the summer. Northeastern is currently ranked second in HockeyEast and tenth in the nation, a feat many are calling a Cinderella Story. Huskie’s head coach, Jim Madigan, disagrees with this, saying that his team has earned their position through hard work. Three of the freshmen Michael Szmatula, John Stevens and Matt Benning come from the 2013 USHL Clark Cup-winning Dubuque Fighting Saints.
Their competition, the Crimson, the only Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference member in the Beanpot, will certainly bring some stiff play to the Huskies.. Among the Crimson’s players can be found Jimmy Vesey who represented the United States in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championships in 2013, and as a sophomore currently has 11 goals and 6 assists for 17 points in 20 games.
For those in the Boston area, the Beanpot is always an exciting time. Not only for the players, who get the opportunity to play on the big stage, when they will take the ice at TD Garden (the home of the NHL Boston Bruins) but also for alumni of these four schools, many of whom still live and work locally.