By: Dan Shulman
In a rematch of last year’s thrilling tournament final, Boston College and Boston University will meet in the first round of the 2017 Beanpot.
The 2016 Beanpot Final had it all – big hits, great goaltending, physicality, and even a power outage. The only thing missing was goals. For 61:57, both teams cancelled each other out in a scoreless draw. But before two minutes could tick away in overtime, BC’s Alex Tuch fired a shot from the center point that beat a shielded Sean Maguire and sent the Eagles into delirium.
Since then, BU and BC have met two more times, completing their Hockey East season series in mid-January. The Terriers came away with a season sweep of the Eagles for the first time in 15 seasons. The most-impressive of the two victories came at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill where BU skated away with a 3-0 victory as the trio of tallies all came on the power play.
“They impressed the heck out me,” said BC Head Coach Jerry York. “Really strong defensively, we didn’t get a lot of grade-A chances. But on the positive side, we hung in the games. Both our clubs, I think we’re the one and two youngest teams in the country. So hopefully as the year progresses we can both move it up a notch.”
BU Head Coach David Quinn called the victory BU’s “most complete performance” of the season. Though the Terriers made up some valuable ground during the weekend set, BC remains in first place in the conference standings by three points with five league games left.
“We’re focusing on a big, big game on Monday night,” said Coach Quinn. “An exciting time of the year, it’s the first opportunity to start competing for championships. That’s what we want to do. We’ve had a good year so far but it doesn’t mean anything until you’ve had an opportunity to play for championships. And that starts on Monday night.”
This past Friday, both teams continued the home-stretch in league play with tough Hockey East battles. The Terriers took on Massachusetts at home, earning a gritty, 3-1 victory over the Minutemen. Meanwhile, Boston College took to the road for a bout with New Hampshire, winning 6-4 over the Wildcats.
“It means a lot,” said Coach Quinn about entering Monday after a win. “You want to feel good about yourself and winning always helps that. We know what’s in store for us. Anytime BU and BC get together it’s high-paced hockey, it’s competitive, it’s physical, there’s a lot of emotion in it. I know our guys are excited to play and I know they’re excited to play. It’s going to be an exciting night of hockey.
The theme for both teams this season has been youth. BC and BU, in order, are the two youngest teams in the nation. Altogether, the schools sent eleven players and one coach to the IIHF World Junior Championships in Canada last month.
The Eagles young stars are overshadowed overshadow the teams’ veteran presence. Seniors Matthew Gaudreau, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Austin Cangelosi have combined for 69 points this season and continue to be a strong leadership contingent for BC.
On the other side, BU has just three senior players this season. As far as experience goes, most of the juniors and sophomores have stepped up to help lead the group as well. Second-year players Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Bobo Carpenter have recorded 24 and 21 points respectively while Carpenter leads the team in shots on goal with 97 on the year.
“[Carpenter’s] got a quick release, he works so hard,” said Coach Quinn. “He’s determined and he’s someone you don’t want to play against. “
Special teams has been an area that has seen a good amount of minutes between two of the most penalized teams in hockey. The Boston College power play operates at 15.4%, a figure than has been deflated by the Eagles’ current 0-17 drought spanning their last five games. Boston University owns the nation’s sixth best penalty kill at 86.9%. The Terriers, however, have allowed power play goals in each of their last six contests, going 19-26 during that time.
The goaltenders will also capture the attention on Monday, as both were teammates on the U.S. Under-18 Team last year and roommates at the WJC in January. BC’s Joe Woll and BU’s Jake Oettinger are among the top freshmen goaltenders this season in a year where rookie goalies have been commonplace in college hockey.
Statistically, Oettinger is in the top five nationally with a 1.785 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. For the Eagles, Woll has been tasked with replacing Thatcher Demko, and has done a good job tackling high expectations. He has put up a respectable 2.47 GAA and .921 SV%.
Both the Terriers and the Eagles have played in big environments like TD Garden before, so it should be a fairly simple adjustment period to the building and the rink. The Terriers will be looking to snap a winless run against BC at the Beanpot, dating back ten years to the 2007 tournament final.
One major thing to keep an eye on during this second game of the first round will be penalties. Both BC and BU have been known to take lots of penalty minutes. In a game on such a big stage, it’s important for both sides to stay disciplined and play smart hockey in what will surely be a playoff-like environment on Monday night.
In what could be a precursor for another big game coming later in March, BC and BU will face-off at approximately 8:00 p.m. Monday with the game being broadcast on mixlr.com/wtbusports.