Over the past several years, the women's Beanpot hockey tournament has taken on a distinct pattern.
Boston College muzzles Boston University. Harvard grounds Boston College. And Northeastern leaves Harvard gasping for air.
Four teams, each on a level of its own.
It wasn't always that way. In fact, going into the 1980s, B.U. was one of the strongest teams in the East. Now, Northeastern is perhaps the top team in the nation, while B.U. has tumbled from grace.
Harvard was an also-ran until 1982, when then-netminder Cheryl Tate backstopped the Crimson to the first of two consecutive Beanpot titles.
But the present pattern of women's Beanpot play was first set in the 1984 tournament. Harvard and Northeastern shut out their opposition in the first round. In the consolation game, B.C. blanked B.U. In the final, the Huskies zipped the Crimson.
Four games, four shutouts.
In 1988, there should be more of the same. This year, the road to the Beanpot runs through Matthews Arena, where a pack of Huskies is ready to cop a fifth straight title.
But luckily Harvard doesn't have to play Northeastern--yet. Next Tuesday, the icewomen play B.C. (which lost to the Crimson, 7-0, last December) for the right to play the winner of the N.U.-B.U. contest.
"Northeastern has got the best team they've had," acknowledges Harvard Coach John Dooley.
The Huskies have already knocked off New Hampshire and Providence this year, the other two teams which usually challenge for the ECAC title every March.
Still, Harvard knows it has a pretty good shot at beating B.C. in the first round, so it will start freshman Gillian D'Souza in goal.
The Crimson will postpone making its statement on the state of collegiate women's hockey until a week later, when it likely will face Northeastern for the championship.
And junior goaltender Jennifer White will be at the podium.
"The only times we've won is when we've had unbelievable goaltending," Dooley says.
And if White plays as well as she has earlier in the season, Harvard has a shot at the 'Pot.
The Crimson also can do its thing at the other end of the rink. Former Ivy League rookies of the year Julie Sasner, Brita Lind and Char Joslin top the Harvard scoring list and should be red-hot come Beanpot time.
After all, the icewomen will have played four games before the Beanpot final.
Monday, Harvard travels to Providence to tussle with Brown, which took the Crimson into overtime last December. After Tuesday's probable walk-in-the-park with B.C., Harvard has a weekend date with Tigers--Princeton Friday and the Rochester Institute of Technology Saturday.
The icewomen won't be rusty from exam period. They'll have their game legs.
Which is something you need if you're going to mush with a bunch of Huskies.