January 29, 2010
NCAA Hockey 101 is a weekly feature on U.S. Division I college hockey. Stick around and you just might learn a thing or two.
For those of you who don't know what the Beanpot is, I guess the only thing I can say is "lucky you." Allow me to explain for the uninitiated: The Beanpot is a tournament played on the first two Mondays of February between Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern and Harvard.
And it is the single worst tournament in sports.
People make kind of a big deal about it in Boston because it dates back far enough that there aren't many that remember a time without a Beanpot (the tourney turns 58 this year) and it started when all three of the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins were pretty bad.
So what, exactly, is so awful about it? BU wins it half the time.
No joke, they've won 29 of the 57 Beanpots that have been contested. And if BU doesn't win, then BC probably does. They've won 14 of the remaining 28. Then Harvard has 10 titles. Northeastern has but four.
But the real reason this tournament is such a fait accompli every single year is that you can more or less set your watch to a BC/BU tournament final happening since the 1990s. Last year was the first time since 1998 that both BC and BU didn't win their first-round games. That is, of course, because their first-round game was against each other.
That's pretty much the only time the Beanpot is even vaguely interesting. With one of the two big guns sure to be eliminated in the first round, you're therefore guaranteed that it won't be another BC/BU final. Instead, it will just be either BC or BU winning in the final. That's the kind of shock factor we're dealing with here.
Either the Eagles or Terriers have won every Beanpot since 1993. There has never, in 57 years, been a final that had both BC and BU watching from home. That would make the tournament in some way interesting, and therefore that would be impossible.
And guess what? It would take a miracle for that to happen again this year.
The matchups are BC against Harvard and BU against Northeastern. The more likely upset is in the BC/Harvard game because while the Eagles are No. 14 right now, they're also 2-5-0 in their last seven and Harvard, though unranked, is undefeated in its last four.
BU/Northeastern, meanwhile, is going to be a bloodbath. Everyone knows BU has had a bad season, but Northeastern has been worse. And you're not going to believe this, but the last time BU lost to Northeastern in the Beanpot was 1988, before more than half of the Huskies' current roster was alive.
Hell, let's just give the Beanpot to BU right now since Jack Parker and the Terriers take it far more seriously than anything else in a given season. The last time they failed to win in the first round against either Harvard or Northeastern was 1983. People talk about how the Beanpot has this charm that other midseason tournaments lack. I don't see it. BU is 83-31 in the tournament all-time, a .723 win percentage, with a goal differential of plus-184. Where's the charm in one team scoring 4.7 goals per game?
It would be one thing if there was some amount of parity involved, but there isn't any. And no one outside of Boston cares anyway. So why play these first-round games? Just make it yet another one-off BC/BU game, or better yet, award the Beanpot to the winner of the BC/BU season series. It's not like it matters.
In which I ask a blogger five questions about the team they follow. This week, I emailed the good folks over at the Wisconsin blog Sixty Minutes, No Alibis, No Regrets and asked them all about their dear Badgers, who are surging up the national rankings.
1. How do you like the Badgers' chances to get to the Frozen Four this year as opposed to others? Is this team as good as the national title team a few years ago?
I've been telling everyone who will listen that this season is Frozen Four or bust for the Wisconsin program. The talent/experience level on this years team trumps every Badger team of the Eaves era with the exception of the ‘06 championship team. The "X" factor that separates the two teams is goaltending, and we all know the ‘06 team had Hobey finalist Brian Elliott(notes). The current Badgers will only go as far as goaltenders Brett Bennett and Scott Gudmandson will take them, and they have been pretty solid so far.
2. What's the feeling now that Duluth is breathing down everybody's necks?
It's really no surprise in my opinion. Everyone knew coming into the season that they would be able to put up points with Connolly, Connolly and Fontaine. It was really just a question how they could handle the loss of Stalock in net. This is one of the closest races in the history of the WCHA and there is no doubt that Duluth is going to be in it right to the end.
3. The Badgers have lost just once since the start of December. What's the key to keep them rolling like this?
There is no question about it: keep scoring goals. This isn't your usual Mike Eaves boring, trap-style hockey team. The Badgers are second in the nation in scoring this season. When Wisconsin scores three goals or more it's 14-1-2. When they score two or fewer they are 0-5-2. The top six forwards need to continue playing like the elite scoring forwards they are. If our bottom two lines can play even hockey plus/minus wise, we're going to have chance to beat any team in the nation on any night.
4. Is there any concern for next season given the reports about Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh potentially leaving school at the end of the year?
It's really the nature of the beast when recruiting players like McDonagh and Stepan that there are going to be rumors of them leaving. I think it's been a gift that we've had McDonagh in the program for three years and no one expects him back for another season so the recent rumors are no surprise. Stepan has been quoted on two radio shows, and in two different newspaper reports to be staying for next season so I would hope that issue is dead.
5. What has been the most pleasant surprise for the Badgers this year? What about biggest disappointment?
I think the most pleasant surprise would probably be a tie between the play of the goaltending tandem of Bennett and Gudmandson as well as the play of the two freshmen defensemen John Ramage and Justin Schultz. There is no question that the biggest disappointment has been senior forward John Mitchell(notes). Mitchell almost signed a free agent NHL deal in the summer is on pace for only 16 points after a 26 point season as a junior. The Badgers are going to need his scoring touch down the stretch if they want to make noise in the NCAA's.
• With last week's sweep of Minnesota-Duluth, Bemidji is now no longer the little program that could. It's a legitimate threat to any team in its way come tournament time. [CHN]
• In case you missed the big news, Michigan and Michigan State will play in Cold War II next winter, this time at the Big House. [The Blog that Yost Built]
• What does that mean for additional outdoor games? [BC Interruption]
• Prognosticating on some future Bracketology. [CHB]
• Big-time recruiting violations at Division III Buffalo State and SUNY Geneseo. Could the fallout reach Division I? [Gross Misconduct]
• Minnesota fans are quickly getting fed up with Don Lucia. [Goal Gophers]
• Go... CC Tigers has a report on the USHL all-star game earlier this week that featured more top-quality incoming freshmen than should be considered legal. [Go... CC Tigers]
• Jack Parker is not happy with BU's team leadership. Nor should he be, really. [Daily Free Press]
• SI has a long, and really good feature on the wonderful Lamoreux hockey family. [Sports Illustrated]