The first two Monday nights in February, each of Boston's college hockey heavyweights--Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern--slug it out in the cavernous Boston Garden for what amounts to the neighborhood championship.
The desire to earn neighborhood bragging rights by beating up the local bully is what the Beanpot tournament is all about.
And for the past several years that bully has invariably been the Eagles of Boston College.
Riding the crest of the first Hockey East championship, and a berth in the 1985 NCAA final four, B.C. has continued on its winning path right on into the 1985-86 season.
Its abundance of locally culled talent and its reputation as Boston's metropolitan college team has perennially cast B.C. as the tournament favorite.
The Beanpot is a notorious boon for underdogs, but this year, all four of the teams sport winning records and three of them--B.C., Harvard and Northeastern--are ranked in the top 10 in most national polls.
And this year, the nomination for knocking off the local tough guy falls upon the Crimson of Harvard. The Cantabs will have to out-bully a powerful Eagle squad in the late game (9 p.m., Boston Garden) tonight to earn its first final berth since 1981.
But that is a task easier spoken of than accomplished. The Eagles are currently ranked sixth nationally and have already played Harvard once this year. The squads battled to a 4-4 tie November 26 before a packed Bright Center.
Harvard can expect little comfort from playing in the Garden, where the Crimson is traditionally far from the fan favorite.
However, the nature of the Harvard-B.C. rivalry, which covers 82 games extending back to the 1918-1919 season, promises that any contest between the two teams will be an emotion-filled battle.
"It's always been a fun rivalry," Eagle Head Coach Len Ceglarski said. "We've had three close games the last couple of years. Anyone who attended the first game over at Harvard got their money's worth."
That game showcased perfectly the contrast in the two teams' styles. B.C., physically bigger than the Crimson, prefers to play a close checking, physical game while putting as many shots as possible on the opponents' net. The Eagles bombarded Harvard goalie Grant Blair, who made a season-high 45 saves in the contest.
Harvard, on the other hand, prefers to play a freewheeling style with emphasis on team speed instead of brute force. The Crimson likes to control the puck with short, crisp passes rather than trying to barrage the opposing goaltender.
So far, Crimson Coach Bill Cleary's designs have been devastating to ECAC rivals. Harvard leads the league with a 12-2 record, and stands at 12-4-1 overall. The Eagles, owners of a 17-9-2 overall record, are currently in a dog-fight with Northeastern's Huskies for first-place in the newly formed Hockey East league, now in its second year of existence.
Both Harvard and B.C. made a point of keeping their hockey rivalry intact despite the fact that they now play in different leagues. The two schools have made permanent reservations on each other's schedules in addition to the Beanpot.