Twenty years ago, Harvard captain Ted Drury ’93 accepted a 26-pound, 14-inch trophy at center ice of the old Boston Garden after a 4-2 triumph over Boston University. Few players on that 1992-93 Crimson squad may have guessed back then just how unusual such an accomplishment would become for the Harvard men’s hockey team.
The Crimson has not collected the two wins needed for a Beanpot title since 1993. In 2013, Harvard (5-14-1, 3-12 ECAC) will be lucky to escape with one. As the puck drops on the 61st Annual Beanpot today, the Crimson will attempt to halt a seven-game losing skid against defending NCAA champion Boston College (15-7-2, 9-4-1 HE).
The Harvard men’s hockey team has lost 11 of its last 12 and has not won in regulation since Nov. 16. The Crimson’s last victory came early last month in a come-from-behind, overtime thriller against No. 9/11 Boston University, which will face Northeastern in the Beanpot’s other first-round match-up.
Tonight will be Harvard’s first meeting with No. 5 Boston College since the first round of the 2010 Beanpot, in which the Eagles defeated the Crimson, 6-0. Boston College has won three straight Beanpots and four of the last five.
“They’ve got a lot of speed, a good offensive attack and a good goalie,” senior forward Luke Greiner said of Boston College.
That pretty good goalie is senior Parker Milner. Last season, Milner picked up NCAA tournament MVP honors as the backstop during a 19-game winning streak for the Eagles that spanned from the 2012 Beanpot to the NCAA final.
“He’s really calm in the net and steady back there,” senior forward Connor Morrison said of Milner. “He’s got a lot of experience.”
Boston College will also arrive at TD Garden today with plenty of firepower on the other end of the rink. Sophomore forward Johnny Gaudreau leads the Hockey East in scoring with 33 points in 21 games. Senior forwards Pat Mullane and Steven Whitney also ranking among the top-20 Division I scorers.
“[Mullane] is going to make smart decisions with the puck; he’s a great playmaker, good scorer, too, so he’s a dangerous guy,” Morrison said. “Gaudreau is a smaller guy, but he’s quick. He’s really good on his edges.”
Harvard enters Monday last in the ECAC, four points shy of second-worst Cornell. The Crimson’s record has not been much better against Hockey East teams. Before Harvard won at Boston University last month, Northeastern and UMass-Lowell had dealt the Crimson blowout losses.
Harvard will have to elevate its play on special teams tonight as the Crimson confronts some statistical mismatches. Boston College enters Monday ranked 15th and 10th in Division I on the power play and penalty kill, respectively. Harvard currently ranks 58th and 52nd in those departments. Only Maine has had less success with the man advantage.
“The good thing about [Monday] is that it’s just one game,” Morrison said. “Numbers tell a lot, but you never know how things are going to go.
“Obviously, they have a good power play; they’ve got some dangerous guys out there, and we’re going to have to pressure them. We can’t give those guys a whole lot of time. And as far as the power play, we’re going to have to simplify things and get pucks to the net and see if we can’t bang home a few lucky ones,” Morrison added.
Despite Harvard’s recent struggles, Greiner remains optimistic as he prepares to suit up for his fourth and final Beanpot. After all, it’s just two games.
“We’re excited going into it,” Greiner said. “We believe we have a shot to win it all.”
The Crimson last advanced to the Beanpot final in 2008, where Harvard faced the Eagles. Boston College led, 5-3, with ten minutes left in regulation before goals from Jon Pelle ‘08 and Mike Taylor ‘08 forced overtime. But a game-winner from Nick Petreck in the extra fram gave the Eagles the final edge.
Now, with an entirely new generation of players at the helm, the Crimson will have to push hard to compete for the gilded bean pot. Just one game stands between Harvard and the grandest stage in New England intercollegiate hockey.
“I think we need to lay it all on the line,” Greiner said. “I don’t think it’s about one key thing or technical aspect. I think it’s just about playing for the guys to the right and left of you and going out there and using what we’ve got.”
—Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mdledecky.