The puck drops on the 61st annual Beanpot on Monday, February 4th when the Northeastern Huskies and Boston University Terriers face off in the semifinal round of Boston's yearly battle for college hockey supremacy, but as always, there's more on the line in this tournament than just the right to hoist the coveted trophy.
When Boston College and Harvard take the ice in Monday's nightcap, it will complete an opening night featuring four teams that have seen the highest of highs and some brutally low lows during the past three months.
Northeastern opened their season with home wins over Merrimack and top-ranked BC, climbing as high as fourteenth in the national polls before losing 13 of their next 21 and dropping out of the Hockey East playoff picture. Harvard was equally guilty of peaking early, as Ted Donato's squad seemed set to meet their high preseason expectations early on, climbing the national rankings, but losses in 12 of their last 14 games have set the Crimson a long way away from where they thought they'd be.
BU beat then-top ranked BC at home in late November, only to fall the next night in humiliating fashion, after a parade to the penalty box allowed the Eagles to score four power play goals. The Terriers are yet to put together a streak of three straight wins this season, and have won just once in their past five games.
Boston College, meanwhile, had asserted itself atop the conference and the nation after a ten-game win streak followede the initial loss against Northeastern, but with star winger Johnny Gaudreau half a world away competing at the World Junior championships, the Eagles were waxed at Minnesota by an 8-1 mark in early January, before coming back to the East Coast and suffering a 2-1 setback at UNH followed by a 5-2 loss at UMass. But the worst of it was a weekend sweep at home by a dismal Maine squad. BC comes into the Beanpot losers of four of their last six.
In recent years, the Beanpot has belonged to BC, but the Eagles' three consecutive wins haven't been without their share of dramatics - each of BC's last three wins have been by one goal, and the past two have required overtime to get there. The tournament lends itself to high drama and unpredictability as is, but this year's inconsistency by all participants will surely make the next two Mondays that much more exciting.