The dirty little secret of the men’s Beanpot is that for the past 21 years, the four-team tournament has only revolved around two clubs: Boston University (29 Beanpot titles) and Boston College (19 Beanpot titles). The last time Harvard (10 Beanpot titles) won it was in 1993 while Northeastern’s (four Beanpot titles) most recent title was way back in 1988, before any of its current players were even alive. The good news for fans of competition is that this year the field is much more balanced than in any other in the past decade-plus. Weather-permitting, Monday night pits No. 2 BU vs. No. 4 Harvard (5 p.m., NESN) followed by No. 14 BC vs. Northeastern (8 p.m., NESN).
The headliner of the tournament this year is undoubtedly Terriers star freshman center Jack Eichel (15 goals, 25 assists), who could be the No. 2 pick in the NHL Draft this summer if the Chelmsford native decides to leave Comm. Ave. early. In head coach Dave Quinn’s second year in charge, BU (16-4-4) has been ranked No. 1 for a good portion of the season. The Terriers come in on a four-game win streak, including a 9-5 demolition of UMass on Friday. Senior forward Evan Rodrigues has 34 points (nine goals, 25 assists) and Needham native Danny O’Regan leads the Terriers with 17 goals.
In their only other meeting in 2014-15, the Crimson (12-5-2) took down top-ranked BU 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 25 at Agganis Arena. Junior forward Kyle Criscuolo had the game-winner in that memorable victory for Harvard, a team considered the biggest surprise in college hockey so far this season. Injuries have mounted and Harvard has lost four of its past six games, including a 5-4 defeat vs. Union on Friday, but that will all be forgotten if the Crimson can beat BU again. Junior forward Jimmy Vesey leads Harvard with 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists), including five power-play goals.
After a rocky first half, BC (16-8-2) has recovered to win its last three games, including a 3-2 victory vs. Providence College on Friday. It helps to have the all-time winningest head coach in NCAA history (Jerry York) on their side. Sophomore goaltender Thatcher Demko (14-7-2, 2.08 goals against average, .928 save percentage) was the starter for the U.S. at the World Juniors Championship and he’s one of the best in college hockey. The Eagles tied Northeastern, 1-1, at Matthews Arena on Jan. 9 and won 4-2 the next night on their home ice. The Huskies (10-11-4) are clearly the underdogs of these four squads but they return much of the same team that made the final last year (losing 4-1 to BC). Also in their favor, Northeastern should be well-rested after being off last weekend following their sweep of Notre Dame the previous weekend.