Scouting No. 19 Men's Hockey's Beanpot Rivals
“It’s really the talk of the campus,” co-captain Lewis Zerter-Gossage said. “Everybody’s asking when the Beanpot is or telling us that they’re coming…. We’re all going to be pretty fired up for it, it’s one of those games that you circle on your schedule.”
Last year the Crimson was relegated to the consolation game; though the team bested Boston College to take third place, the pain of its semifinal heartbreak lingered. In a thrilling double-overtime contest, Harvard lost to BU by a score of 3-2, only a season after trouncing the Terriers en route to the program’s first Beanpot title in 24 years. In 2018 it was Northeastern that emerged triumphant, as the Huskies won their first title since 1988. Each team has won once in the past four years, so there are no more droughts to break, but there’s no doubt that each side will bring its A-game.
“What we’re experiencing in the Beanpot this year is somewhat akin to what’s going on the country,” said Crimson head coach Ted Donato ’91. “I think there’s a lot of parity…. This year’s field in the Beanpot has a ton of talent and teams have a ton of potential. Some have gotten off to better starts than others.”
If it hopes to contend for the cup again, No. 19 Harvard must first defeat the Eagles in its Feb. 4 semifinal matchup. Here is a glance at all three of the Crimson’s Beanpot rivals ahead of the tournament:
Harvard’s first opponent is also the last team it played in a Beanpot matchup. Boston College (9-12-3, 9-4-3 Hockey East) is at second place in its conference, but hasn’t won a single game this season against an out-of-conference foe. The Eagles have not had an easy January either.
The team will be looking to put its 2-5-1 record from that month behind it. A promising turn in that direction began on Friday night, as BC put away conference foe UConn, becoming the only one of the Crimson’s Beanpot rivals to win its weekend game.
One of these pieces is junior net-minder Joseph Woll. In last year’s consolation game, head coach Jerry York elected to play backup goalie Ryan Edquist, so the Crimson has not faced Woll since a regular season game on Nov. 24, 2017, that ended in a 4-4 tie. Despite his team’s struggles, Woll has maintained solid numbers (8-11-3, 2.32 GAA, .921 SV%). Even if the Eagles’ team defense is underwhelming, the man in the mask could still thwart Harvard come Monday.
Much has been made of the Crimson’s NCAA-best power play (34.3%), but at the Beanpot the team will face some of the sharpest penalty-killing it has seen all season. BC is operating at an efficiency of 82.8 percent in that respect, to say nothing of Woll’s effectiveness at tending pucks.
“Just [being] kind of more versatile, and being able to play against different kinds of kills [is most important],” said freshman forward Casey Dornbach, who mans the wing on Harvard's first power play unit. “We’ve seen quite a few this year. It’s just about us winning our battles and making sure we’re all on the same page.”
The Eagles return some young offensive pieces from last year, familiar names for those who tuned in for the consolation game. Junior forward David Cotton (15–9—24) paces the squad in goals and points, while sophomore forward Logan Hutsko (4–12—16) leads in assists. Hutsko kept last year’s game within reach for BC with a hat trick; his effort was the first Beanpot three-spot by an Eagle in 18 years.
BC’s usual NHL-bound roster also includes freshman Oliver Wahlstrom, once a Harvard commit, who represented Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship this December of January. Though the team’s scoring is flagging, it certainly has the talent to pose a challenge.
Woll and his group will have to withstand the Crimson in the early game on Feb. 4 in order to return the Eagles to their winning ways. Since the beginning of the tournament, BC has never finished last three times straight; no doubt the Eagles will be fighting to stave off that possibility by playing in the championship game instead.
30-time champions BU are a familiar foe to Harvard — because the two teams skated to a 2-2 tie less than a month ago. The Terriers are also helmed by a familiar face in former Crimson assistant coach Albie O’Connell. Like BC, BU (10-11-3, 8-6-2) is also sitting on an average overall record; unlike the Eagles, the Terriers have enjoyed a comfortable 4-2-1 run in January.
“They could create chances out of nothing,” said Zerter-Gossage, recalling the teams’ recent matchup. “They have a lot of skill and speed up front, and a really mobile and skilled back end as well. I would say they’re similar to what you see from BU...each year, having highly skilled talent. So I don’t think our encounter with them this year told us anything different than what we expected.”
The Terriers’ offense is led by rookie Joel Farabee (9–14—23) and junior defenseman Dante Fabbro (5–17—22). Close behind are captain Bobo Carpenter (10–8—18) and junior forward Patrick Curry (9–8—17). Farabee, the 14th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, also represented Team USA at World Juniors, and scored against the Crimson in the teams’ January meeting.
Of course, BU owes a share of its recent success to junior goaltender Jake Oettinger. The Dallas Stars prospect has started all but one of the Terriers’ contests. If Oettinger is suffering from fatigue, his numbers (2.72 GAA, .920 SV%) don’t suggest it. Harvard had no problem solving Oettinger in the 2017 championship game, but whether or not the team can manage a repeat performance remains to be seen.
“I don’t think guys are particularly thinking about who’s in net,” said senior goaltender Michael Lackey. “We’re trying to play to our strengths. It doesn’t matter who’s in net — if we’re focused on executing our offense, then we’re going to get good outcomes.”
Last but far from least, the No. 12 Huskies are probably favorites this year again, though the tournament is often closely fought. Northeastern (15-8-1, 9-6-1) is fresh off a triumph at TD last season, having picked up its first Beanpot win in 30 years, and is also the highest-ranked participant at the Beanpot this year. Currently in fourth place in their conference, the Huskies also boast a solid goals per game of 3.13, and are the Beanpot opponent that comes closest to the Crimson’s shot volume.
But despite those numbers, Northeastern will come into the tournament with a middling January record (3-4), having been outscored 11-17 last month. That’s good for a goals per game mark of just 1.57. Two of those losses were shutouts, and the team is currently sitting on a three-game losing skid. Perhaps some of the team’s offensive dry streak can be attributed to Northeastern’s potent competition, like UMass Amherst and No. 17 UMass Lowell. The squad also has an underwhelming power play rate for the season, at just 16.8 percent.
If the Huskies hope to improve their numbers come February, they must rely on key contributors like senior forward Brandon Hawkins (7–14—21) and sophomore forward Zach Solow (11–6—17). Top-five scorers like rookie Tyler Madden (8–12—20) and junior defenseman Jeremy Davies (5–14—19) can be expected to chip in as well.
“With any good goalie you just need to get traffic to the net,” Zerter-Gossage said. “That always makes their job a lot harder…. I think we’ve seen throughout this season that when we get more traffic to the net, we can break down goalies that are really good at tracking that first puck. That’s something we really need to be focused on.”
The Huskies have won only five Beanpot titles since the tournament’s founding, but they will certainly try to narrow the gap between themselves and 11-time winner the Crimson. The last time the tournament had a repeat winner was in the years 2010 to 2014, when the Eagles took home the trophy five times in a row. Northeastern achieved the feat twice in a row all the way back in 1984-5. Having broken one drought last year, the Huskies will have their sights set on the next one.
“Especially in college hockey, anyone can beat anyone,” Dornbach said. “You’ve got to respect your opponent every night. That’s something Coach stresses a lot…. We keep doing what we’re doing, keep producing, I think we’ll be just fine.”
—Staff writer Stuti Telidevara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @StutiTelidevara.
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