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UPDATED: February 3, 2015, at 3:13 a.m.
And if you drop a decade back, and I'm prepared to do,
You find in '93 that Harvard, strange, I know, but true,
Let B.U. slip a couple in, but scarcely any more,
Which worked out for the Crimson, as they neatly netted four.
The Beanpot inspires odd passions in Boston college hockey fans. They brave Super Bowl hangovers to scream their heads off. They hang a banner for a team that wins two regular season games from the rafters of a 17,000-seat arena. And they sing songs and write poems, like the one by NPR’s Bill Littlefield excerpted here.
It’s what you get when Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern meet at TD Garden over two Mondays (or, thanks to this week’s weather postponement, a Tuesday) in February.
As Littlefield writes, the idea of a Harvard men’s Beanpot champion has, indeed, become a strange one. When the No. 6/6 Crimson (12-5-2, 8-4-2 ECAC) opens the 63rd edition of the tournament today at 5 p.m. against No. 3/2 Boston University (16-4-4, 11-2-2 HE), Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 and his team will be playing against history. Their program has not won a Beanpot final since 1993, and has gotten past the first round only once (2008) in the last 16 years.
Yet this year’s Harvard team has proven to be a special one. With an eight-game winning streak in November and December that included road wins at then-No. 1 BU and then-No. 4 UMass-Lowell, Harvard vaulted itself into the national title discussion after beginning the season unranked.
The team’s play has impressed alumni like Lane MacDonald ’88-89, who earned Beanpot MVP honors in 1989 on his way to captaining Harvard to its only national championship.
“What I’ve been impressed with is just the overall talent level and also just the intensity,” said MacDonald, who was inducted into the Beanpot Hall of Fame in 2014. “They have talent that can score from multiple lines.”
Only recently have new doubts settled around the team’s elite pedigree. Harvard is contending with a series of injuries, none more serious than a leg injury to star defenseman Patrick McNally, who will miss at least the rest of the regular season.
Top sophomore centers Alex Kerfoot and Sean Malone have also been out since late November and mid-December, respectively, and the Crimson played without sophomore forward Luke Esposito, junior defenseman Brayden Jaw, and sophomore defenseman Kevin Guiltinan against Union on Friday.
In Kerfoot and Malone’s absence, Harvard has lost four out of its last six. The two NHL draft picks are back on the ice but skating non-contact, according to Assistant Director of Athletics Communications Brock Malone.
“We’re hopeful that [Kerfoot and Malone] are getting close,” Donato said on Friday.
With key skaters out, Harvard still has talent to spare, starting with junior left wing Jimmy Vesey, who extended his NCAA-best point streak to 19 games with a goal and two assists on Friday. Tuesday’s matchup carries Hobey Baker implications, as Vesey will line up against star freshman center Jack Eichel, the preseason favorite for the nation’s most valuable player award.
The Massachusetts natives enter the Beanpot tied for the national lead in points per game (1.74), while Vesey has the edge in goals per game (0.95). MacDonald, Harvard’s last player to win the Hobey Baker, sees something special in Vesey.
“He is just incredibly dynamic offensively,” MacDonald said. “He makes something happen every shift he’s on the ice in terms of creating opportunities. He has become one of the elite players in college hockey, and his statistics bear that out.”
With Harvard’s resurgence, commentators expect this year’s Beanpot to be one of the most competitive in recent memory. Eichel has led the Terriers to their best start since their 2009 national championship, and BC and Northeastern have hit their strides in recent weeks despite slow starts.
The fates are aligning for another Beanpot worthy of poem and song.
“For two days in February, college hockey really is on par with the Patriots, the Red Sox, and the Bruins,” MacDonald said. “Given the platform, given the visibility, there’s the pride of representing your school, the alums, and your fellow students.”
—Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at email@example.com.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: February 3, 2015
A previous version of this article did not provide the most recent rankings for the Harvard and Boston University men's hockey teams. The latest U.S. College Hockey Online and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls were released on February 2.
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