2018 Beanpot preview

The most exciting tournament in Boston is less than a week away.

It’s Boston, and it’s February, and that can only mean one thing.

It’s time for the Beanpot.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the inaugural women’s Beanpot, and it gets started this Tuesday, Feb. 6, with Northeastern and Boston College, followed by Boston University and Harvard.

Let’s take a look at this year’s tournament.

Boston University vs Harvard — 5 p.m.

Our first round game features the Terriers and the Crimson, two teams that are struggling in tough conferences this season. BU has been up and down, getting off to a really rocky start back in September before taking part in D1 in DC. Around that time, Victoria Bach emerged as one of the top players in the country, and she has been a key factor in the resurgence of BU. The Terriers are now 10-14-6 overall with a 6-11-5 record in Hockey East play.

Harvard started off the season just fine, ending December with a 7-4-1 mark. The wheels came off the wagon once January began, and the Crimson went 2-7 in the new year. They currently sit 7th in the ECAC standings after a tie with Cornell, but they need to right the ship if they want a shot going forward.

As everyone should know by now, Bach has been the impetus for BU nearly every game since November. Rebecca Leslie has been helping her out along the way, but beyond those two, points are a bit harder to come by. Abby Cook is having a very solid offensive season from the blue line, and will be a key part of this team going forward. In net, Corinne Schroeder got off to an electric start to the year before cooling off a bit, but has a .917 save percentage for the Terriers on the year.

Harvard has one 20-point scorer, freshman Becca Gilmore, and one 10-goal scorer, Kat Hughes, which could explain why they failed to score more than 2 goals from Dec. 6 to Jan. 26. Their 6-1 victory over Brown may look impressive, but the Bears are also dead last in the ECAC. Between the pipes, Beth Larcom has gotten the lion’s share of games and has a .900 save percentage on the season.

PREDICTION: BU wins this one by a multigoal margin. Harvard just cannot put it together in 2018, and Bach alone will probably net two goals. The Crimson are going to need to do some soul searching this summer, otherwise the 2019 Beanpot might be out of their grasp too.

Boston College vs Northeastern — 8 p.m.

This might be the best rivalry in Hockey East right now. Let’s get this straight: BC is the better team, and BC, according to science, should win this game. But twice in 2017 Northeastern went to Conte Forum and upset the Eagles. Can they make it three times in 365 days?

Well, maybe.

Northeastern looked poised for another top-two finish this season. Tori Sullivan transferred in from BC, Brittany Bugalski had another positive year under her belt, McKenna Brand and Denisa Křížová was poised for breakout season, and the recruiting class looked stellar. Then, bit by bit, things went sideways. With a loss to Connecticut on Friday, NU is now 13-13-3 overall and 9-10-2 in Hockey East. Brand leads the team in scoring with 27 points, and right behind her is freshman stud Veronika Pettey, who is tied for the team lead with 15 assists. If Aerin Frankel gets the nod in net — which she should — she will get the chance to improve on her 4-5-2 record and .926 save percentage.

Then, there’s the Eagles. What is there to say about them that I personally have yet to say? Daryl Watts is possibly the best player in the nation. Caitrin Lonergan is right behind her. Toni Ann Miano is now the No. 1 defenseman on this team, and she’s 7th in the conference in scoring. Katie Burt is the new all-time NCAA saves leader. The Eagles clinched the Hockey East regular season title, for the fifth straight year, a month before the season ended.

When I first started covering college hockey, I was told “Don’t pick against BC.” This was in reference, originally, to Jerry York’s crew, the men’s ice hockey team that also occupies Conte Forum. But I have since learned this rings even more true for women’s hockey head coach Katie Crowley. As much as I want to believe Northeastern can pull off this upset, all signs indicate the Eagles will skate their way to another Beanpot championship game.

PREDICTION: The Eagles will win this game. It will be a low-scoring contest. One-goal margin of victory? Maybe. It’s a flip of the coin when these two teams play. Sometimes BC comes out and blows the doors off the rink, sometimes it goes to OT, and — very rarely — NU comes away with the win. But I’m a fan of math, and the percentages say the Eagles will play the night game next week.

It will be an exciting tournament at Conte Forum over the next two weeks. We get to see some heavy hitters in Hockey East and the potential for some big upsets. Stay tuned for more Beanpot coverage, and get ready for game one on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 5 p.m.