Cleveland returned and defeated Golden State.
Clemson returned and defeated Alabama.
Can Northeastern find their way back to the Beanpot Final and top long-time rival Boston College?
As far as tournaments go, few are as dramatic as the Beanpot. The Beanpot Final is one of the most important games of the year for whomever is participating, but this year’s game can have a lasting impact.
For Boston College, every contest this season has become a statement game. No team that was one win away from perfection can go into the next season without feeling like they’ve slipped. Last week, they defeated Boston University 3-2 after trailing 2-1 entering the third period. The Eagles then clinched the Hockey East regular season title with a 4-4 tie with UConn on Friday. Boston College trailed 4-1 late in the second period and completed another emphatic comeback with the tying goal scored by Caitrin Lonergan (Lonergan, by the way, had the game-winning goal against BU on Tuesday).
Northeastern wants to remove themselves from the shadow of the Eagles, and this would be the biggest stage they could do it on. To put the Eagles’ undefeated streak over the Huskies into perspective, the current senior class were in their first collegiate season the last time Northeastern won this matchup. The same senior class that just celebrated their senior day with a 4-3 overtime win over Providence. The same senior class that defeated Harvard 4-1 to advance to their final Beanpot at Matthews Arena.
Brand Name Only
Northeastern’s McKenna Brand is playing some of the best hockey in the nation. The junior has 23 goals this season, and no other skater in Division I hockey has more than 19. Yes, Brand has appeared in 30 games, but considering the massive leap in scoring from her previous seasons and the timeliness of her goals, she has become one of the truly elite scorers in the NCAA.
Stuck in the Middle with (Six of) You
Northeastern’s second and third lines have been fueling the team’s recent run, giving support to their top-tier first line. Over the past four games for the Huskies, they have scored 19 goals — ten of them scored by forwards spending most of their time in the middle six. Senior Paige Savage, juniors Halle Silva and Shelby Herrington, sophomore Kasidy Anderson and freshman Matti Hartman have truly stepped up their game since the January 21 win at home over UConn.
With senior Denisa Krizova out of the country for some time to compete on the Czech National team for Olympic qualifiers, this middle six will need to continue their dominance if the Huskies are to have any chance at overpowering the Eagles.
Burt’s Back, Baby
If there were any doubts about Katie Burt’s status as the cream of the crop of the nation’s goaltenders, she erased them with one of the best months in the country. Burt was named the Hockey East Goaltender of the month for January when she paced all goalies in goals against average (1.21) save percentage (.944) and shutouts (2). Her first shutout of the month, the 1-0 win over Merrimack, set the career Hockey East shutout record with 19 blanks. Did I mention she still has a year left after this season?
Burt has been lights out against the Huskies over the past few years, and should she hold her own, the Eagles will be in a good place to win.
Streaks, Averages, Momentum, Dominance
Boston College clinched their fourth consecutive Hockey East regular-season title with their tie against UConn, and there’s been a number of contributors to this success. When you look at the body of work this entire team has compiled, it’s truly impressive.
The Eagles have not scored fewer than three goals since January 13, a 1-0 win over Merrimack. The last time they scored fewer than three goals and didn’t win was a 1-1 tie with BU. If you want to go back to the last time they lost a game, it was November 5 against BU; ironically enough, they lost 5-3, part of another long streak of three-plus goal games.
None of this is good enough for Katie Crowley or the Eagles. If they cannot win this matchup, their stretch of Hockey East dominance will start meaning less, and you just know the whispers will begin about their firm grasp on this conference.
Barbito’s Brutal Truth
This is the biggest game of the season for either of these teams. The hype, the drama, the importance, the implications, you name it, this is the game that both teams have been building up to since last year. Northeastern has had its heart broken over and over by Boston College, and the Beanpot Final at Matthews Arena is the perfect time and place to rewrite the script.
If past performance is any indicator of future results, then the Eagles are sixty minutes from winning their second consecutive Beanpot Championship. However, there may be no sport that lends itself to surprises and unexpected outcomes quite like hockey. Northeastern has as much right as BC to expect to win this game. If they pull off the victory, there will be many a celebration in Matthews Arena and all down Huntington Avenue.
The Beanpot Championship game will take place on Tuesday, February 7, as Northeastern and Boston College will meet for puck drop at 7:30p.m.