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Fans at the historic Matthews Arena witnessed an instant classic the last time the Harvard women's ice hockey team (7-14-3, 6-10-3 ECAC) squared off against Boston College (16-12-1, 14-10-0 HEA) in the Beanpot. A game-winner by Becca Gilmore ’22 in the waning minutes of the third period secured a 5-4 victory over the Eagles in the championship game. The Beanpot title was the 15th in program history and the first for the Crimson since 2015.
One year later, Harvard hopes to recapture the magic as it faces Boston College in the first round of the 2023 Beanpot.
However, Beanpot history suggests otherwise for the Crimson. In 2015, Harvard captured the title by beating the undefeated, No. 1 team in the nation — Boston College. Subsequently, the 2016 Beanpot opened up with a rematch between the two schools, and the Eagles came away with the win following an 8-0 drubbing of the Crimson.
Additionally, Boston College's home, Conte Forum, will play host to the Beanpot's 44th iteration. Tournament hosts have historically been successful in the opening round with a win rate of 70%.
As Harvard seeks to become the first back-to-back winner since Boston College rattled off three in a row from 2016-18, it will have to defend its title with a vastly different squad from the 2021-22 team. All in all, the Crimson will be without the services of 10 players who suited up last year, including Gilmore, who tallied five points en route to winning the Beanpot MVP, and Becky Dutton ’22, who saved 47 shots during the tournament.
The early season matchup between both squads in Chestnut Hill that resulted in a 5-1 win by the Eagles will no doubt serve as the blueprint for each team's game plan. Harvard's chief concern in the rematch will be to shore up its defense. Boston College fired nearly 50 shots toward the net in the first match. The Crimson will seek to clog the shooting lanes so that another 43-save performance from sophomore goalie Alex Pellicci is not needed.
One factor that will help the defense is the insertion of senior defender and captain Kyra Willoughby, who missed the earlier contest. In addition to the defense, Harvard will try to kick its offense into gear. Senior forward and captain Anne Bloomer, who also missed the first matchup, should provide more firepower to the lineup.
For the Eagles, winning at the faceoff dot will be a point of emphasis. This will be easier said than done, as senior forward and captain Kristin Della Rovere is currently the NCAA leader in faceoff wins with 405. Boston College will also seek to correct its power play and stay disciplined. In the last meeting with the Crimson, the Eagles went 0-2 on the power play and committed six minor penalties.
Last year, Harvard entered the Beanpot as one of the hottest teams in the country. It was on a six-game winning streak and ranked within the top 10. The Crimson dominated its opponents during the six-game streak, outscoring them 26-6. This year Harvard enters as the underdog. Currently, it sits at eighth place in the ECAC and is riding a two-game losing streak.
Compared to preseason expectations, the Crimson's season has been underwhelming. After starting the season ranked No. 11 in the USCHO poll, Harvard has failed to find any sustained success. The Crimson has not yet been able to muster up back-to-back wins. However, Harvard has shown flashes of its potential throughout the season. It fully displayed its offensive and defensive prowess in its season sweep of No. 13/12 Cornell (12-11-2, 9-8-1 ECAC). In the first matchup, the Crimson shut out the Big Red behind 30 saves from Pellicci, while five different Harvard skaters scored in the second game of the series, including a hat trick from Bloomer.
Similarly, Boston College's season has been full of ups and downs. In November and January, the Eagles fought through four-game losing streaks. On the other hand, Boston College went on a seven-game winning streak earlier in the season and enters the Beanpot on the heels of a win over No. 12/11 Providence (18-9-4, 13-7-4 HEA).
Although the odds are stacked against the Crimson, the storied Beanpot is a different beast. If there's any place where underdog stories are standard — it's the Beanpot.
– Staff writer Christopher D. Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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