Hockey, rivalry, bragging rights and beans. It doesn’t get much more Boston than that combination.
The Beanpot is one of hockey’s most exclusive tournaments, as its four participants -- Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern -- have been the same for 60 years. While it's a pure Boston spectacle that means a lot within city limits, this year's results can have much further-reaching implications.
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Boston College is currently ranked fourth, having dispatched Northeastern 7-1 on Monday shortly after BU skated past Harvard, 3-1, setting up the teams' 21st meeting in the title match, a Beanpot record. A win could vault either team up the rankings, with position getting more and more precarious with just weeks left in the NCAA's regular season. The Eagles, winners of the last two tournaments, look to gain ground on the nation's No. 2 team, as well as being catching up to the Terriers' tournament-record 29 championships.
In the middle of it all will be 52 players, all gunning to have their names inscribed among local legends who have starred in the tournament -- players such as Stanfield, Bruce Racine
, Walter Brown, Joe Mullen
, David Poile, Jack O’Callahan, Chris Drury
, Tom Poti
, Rick DiPietro
, Corey Schneider, Brian Boyle
, Nathan Gerbe
, Matt Gilroy
, and Colin Wilson
, among others.
For many of the participants who grew up in Boston and the surrounding areas, the Beanpot is bigger than a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, or a national title.
"Beanpot Monday is what everyone looks forward to all year round, ever since you were a little kid living in the Boston area," Eagles senior Edwin Shea
said. "You want to play in the Beanpot, you dream about it. Waking up on Beanpot Monday, it feels like like Christmas."
For those who aren't so familiar with the tournament's hold on the city, it doesn't take long to get acquainted -- just ask Wilson, a former Terrier who won the Beanpot en route to a National Title as a BU sophomore in 2009 before joining the Nashville Predators
"I didn't know anything about it until I got to Boston," he told NESN. "All of a sudden, everybody started talking about this 'Beanpot' thing. I had no idea what it was, and everyone was getting really jacked up for it. I didn't understand until I actually got there."
The fact that BC and BU get another stage to display their rivalry in a season in which both are legitimate national championship contenders makes this year's version even more important.
"When you have a BU-BC matchup its something that you just have to get up for," second-year Terrier defenseman Patrick MacGregor said. "It's the easiest game probably to be ready to play."
NHL Prospects at the Beanpot
Tommy Cross, SR, D - Boston
Brian Dumoulin, JR, D Carolina
Isaac MacLeod, SO, D - San Jose
Patrick Wey, JR, D - Washington
Bill Arnold, SO, F - Calgary
Paul Carey, SR, F - Colorado
John Gaudreau, FR, F - Calgary
Kevin Hayes, SO, F - Chicago
Chris Kreider, JR, F - NY Rangers
Adam Clendening, SO, D - Chicago
Max Nicastro, JR, D - Detroit
Garrett Noonan, SO, D - Nashville
Alex Chiasson, JR, F - Dallas
Yasin Cisse, FR, F - Winnipeg
Justin Courtnall, JR, F - Tampa Bay
Wade Megan, JR, F - Florida
Matt Nieto, SO, F - San Jose
Kieran Millan, SR, G - Colorado
Grant Rollheiser, SR, G - Toronto
While it's easy to be ready to play, the level of difficulty rises once the puck is dropped. On one side of the ice, you have the Eagles' slew of amateur talent that includes NHL prospects Chris Kreider
, Bill Arnold
, Kevin Hayes
, Tommy Cross
, and Brian Dumoulin
on their roster. The Terriers, on the other hand, have Adam Clendening
, Matt Nieto, Alex Chiasson
and goalie Kieran Millan
, whose 15-9-1 record, 2.42 GAA, a .925 save percentage, and three shutouts rank among college hockey's best this season, at their disposal.
"Kieran has really stepped up his game," junior Justin Courtnall
said of Terriers' goalie. "He's a big part of our team. It's been really key for him to be playing the way he's playing."
Millan is aided by defensive anchor Clendening, who has chipped in 24 points in 26 games in his second season, as well as Chiasson and Nieto, who have tied for the team lead with 29 points. Meanwhile, Wade Megan
, a junior who has a career-high and team-leading 14 goals on the season, is riding a recent surge that included two big goals against Harvard in the Beanpot's opening game.
"He's played all three lines for us this year, and any time he makes his line go," BU head coach Jack Parker said of Megan, a 2009 draft pick of the Florida Panthers
. "He's a real finisher, always has been."
Parker, a 2010 Lester Patrick
Award recipient along with his BC counterpart Jerry York, has won the tournament 20 times since taking over the Terriers since 1974-75, while York has taken the title five times since helming his alma mater in 1994-95. Parker has the numeric edge, but York has recent history on his side, garnering the last two tournament titles. For the two college coaching legends, there’s some good old fashioned fun playing against one another in the Beanpot.
"That's our rival, BU, and when you play them on a big stage, that's pretty special," York said.
The Eagles' coach has plenty of players on his roster that can handle the spotlight: Kreider, a junior, is among national leaders with 18 goals and 33 points, while his WJC teammate Arnold is turning in a fine sophomore season with 12 goals and 23 points. Cross, a senior, and junior Dumoulin anchor one of college hockey's best set of blueliners -- which has helped junior goalie Parker Milner
solidify himself in a starting role after four-year starter John Muse
graduated last season.
All in all, the game will feature 19 NHL prospects from 15 teams, and can set the tone for a late-season roll. With both teams fighting for nation's best ranking, there's a lot at stake -- including a full 365 days of bragging rights in the streets of Boston.
"It's a great thing to have, for the team to have some confidence," Courtnall said. "But there's also some pressure. The rivalry we have is something we really take pride in."
Follow Michael Blinn on Twitter: @NHLBlinn