Monday, February 04, 2013

College Hockey Round-up: Beanpot time again

by Bob Herpen 
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Ordinarily, the Monday after the Super Bowl is a powering-down for a significant portion of the sporting public.

But for hard-core hockey fans and alumni/alumnae of the four Boston-area Division I universities, things are just heating up.

It's the traditional first Monday of the Beanpot, whose 61st annual edition kicks off later this evening at Boston's TD Garden with a pair of contests: Boston University pairs up with Northeastern in the early game, slated for 5 p.m. (et) and Boston College squares off with Harvard at 8 p.m.

Three schools (BC, BU and Northeastern) located within the boundaries of the City of Boston are the pride of Hockey East and Harvard (out of Cambridge) holds it down for ECAC Hockey.

Though the tournament, which has come to be called the "BU Invitiational" for the Terriers' stretch of dominance for the last two decades, it is BC which holds the crown as three-time defending champions and winners in four of the last five years.
Boston and Philadelphia have traditionally shared the stigma of being called "provincial" in its collective mindset. While Philadelphia has done quite a bit in recent years to reshape its image and shed that moniker, it is largely alive and well in the Hub, and its college hockey scene is one of the embodiments of that ethos.

The Beanpot is to Boston what the Big 5 was to Philadelphia -- a collection of individual schools competing against one another, but at the same time collectively raising the profile in the sport in the city while also providing a feeder system for the pros. The rivalries are intense, full of pride and passion, pain and prominence. In Philly as in Boston, there is an issue of class in which school you either attended or support.

You're just as likely to find friends who attended BC and BU cursing each other during the 'Pot then sharing a beer after the game as you are to find St. Joe's and Villanova alums doing the same after the Holy War. The colors and the loyalty run deep.

Think Eagles fans are a ribald bunch? How about the potential of 60,000 students ages 18-25 who have the rivalry tattooed on their chromosomes.

Still, college hockey has little significant foothold in Philadelphia, and though the Frozen Four is coming here in next April, we will be besieged with what equates to foreigners on friendly shores.

The invading hordes from every small Northern town from Orono to Colorado Springs will be upon us, so I'm trying to rope in some new initiates before then. Knowledge of the Beanpot is a great way to start.

Regarding the bona fides: Boston University has won the most, with 29 titles -- but only once in the last 5 years. Perennial rival BC is next with 17. Harvard has won 10 and Northeastern, the red-headed stepchild of the bunch, clocks in with just four crowns. The Eagles hadn't won three straight since taking three in a row from 1963-65, and can set a school record with a fourth consecutive title if they happen to win out. The Crimson haven't been triumphant since 1993 and the Huskies are still looking to regain the magic from the 80's, when they took their entire allotment ('80, 84-85, '88).

The winners of this Monday's contest will play for the Beanpot title at 7:30 p.m. next Monday in Boston. The losers compete in the consolation game which is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. that day.

If everything goes according to plan, there will be yet another clash between Jerry York-led Boston College and BU-driven Jack Parker in the finals.

But then again, some years things are turned on their heads and the least-likely suspects come to the forefront -- like the year Harvard rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 to beat eventual conference champion and national finalist BC in overtime during a first-round game. Or having BC and Northeastern combine for 13 goals two years ago that could have easily been 20.

Former Beanpot participants who have played/coached for the Flyers include: Harvey Bennett, Tony Amonte, Freddie Meyer, Kevin Stevens and Joe Mullen.

For a full work-up, visit the official site.

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