BOSTON -- “It’s the best college hockey tournament in the country.”
Those were the words of Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan at Tuesday’s Beanpot Tournament media luncheon at the TD Garden when describing the annual Boston battle which will commence Monday night for the 62nd time.
The records indicate a clear favorite, but the head coach of said team knows that no record means anything heading into the opening-round games.
“I think we stress all the time that the team that plays the best that night is going to win the game,” Boston College’s Jerry York said. “Maybe it’s not the best team, but whoever is best that night. That’s kind of our mindset.”
The No. 2 Eagles (19-4-3, 12-1-1 Hockey East) have taken the title back to Chestnut Hill four consecutive years and five times in six years, but will see their chief rival standing in their way in the form of the 29-time champion Boston University Terriers (8-14-3, 3-8-2).
BC, which earned a 2-0 shutout win at Providence on Friday, is in the midst of an 12-game unbeaten streak and defeated BU in both conference meetings this season. In their last Beanpot meeting, current senior Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.) silenced the Terriers’ tournament hopes with an overtime winner on Feb. 13, 2012.
During a briefing with a handful of reporters, York indicated freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko will have the starting job for the foreseeable future, including the two upcoming games.
“We’ve talked to both (goalies) and to the team that the hot goalie will now play,” York said. “We had a strict rotating basis through most of the season, but right now Thatcher is the hot goalie and he’ll play.”
The Terriers have lost six of their last seven ‘Pot contests and have not won the title since 2009, despite emerging victorious in 29 of the first 61 tournaments.
BU’s most recent senior class, which was headed by Wade Megan, was the first since 1965 to graduate without winning a Beanpot trophy. Senior captain Garrett Noonan (Norfolk, Mass.) is out to stop that from occurring in consecutive years and is confident it can be done, despite the records.
“This is why I came to BU. I want to win a Beanpot,” Noonan said on his 23rd birthday. “We haven’t won one in a while. We’re excited to play BC. … You don’t have to worry about (records), Hockey East standings, or anything, you just go out and play.”
Madigan’s Huskies (15-8-3, 8-5-1) enter this year’s rendition, which they will open with a 5 p.m. date against ECAC foe Harvard (6-11-3, 3-9-3), ranked tenth in the nation and second to the Eagles in the Hockey East league race.
Of course, the biggest statistic related to the Beanpot is the Huskies’ quarter-century drought since their last title in 1988, when Madigan was an assistant coach under the legendary Fern Flaman.
“We have a lot of players who have played in two Beanpot finals and haven’t had a chance to win it,” Madigan said. “They are hungry to have a chance to win this tournament. … We understand the significance of it. It’s a city championship.”
Interestingly enough, NU is the lone team in the tournament that will have the weekend off as it returns from a weekend split at Notre Dame. The Huskies have not had a stretch as long as eight days off before starting Beanpot play since 1987.
“It just have us a little bit different week of preparation,” Madigan commented about the layoff. “It allowed us to take (Monday) off and just gradually get back into our week of preparation. This time of year, everybody’s got some bumps and bruises, so it’s allowed us to heal a little bit and give certain guys some time off.”
Now-sophomore Kevin Roy, who has 14 goals and a team-best 31 points in 26 games this year, put forth an impressive performance in his first Beanpot last year, scoring five goals, including a hat trick in a semifinal win over BU. He became the first Most Valuable Player from a second-place team since BU goaltender Sean Fields in 2004.
The Crimson is on a bit of a Beanpot skid of its own and has not won since 1989, which also happens to be the last time a school not located on Commonwealth Avenue took the trophy home.
Led by head coach Ted Donato, who was a sophomore on Harvard’s Beanpot and NCAA title-winning team in 1989, the Crimson has used the annual tournament as a springboard to a strong finish over the past several seasons and sees this year no different.
“Every year as coaches and as players, you circle it on your calendar. (But) it’s been a while since we’ve had any measurable success,” Donato said of the Beanpot. “It’s two one-game showdowns.”
Entering a Friday home game with longtime Ivy foe Princeton, Harvard is on a five-game winless streak but played a solid road game in a 4-3 defeat at No. 3 Union on Friday.
“I do see our team improving from game-to-game and I think we’re capable of elevating our game another level to get us in the win column,” commented Donato.