By: Dan Shulman
The 2017 Beanpot Final will feature opponents with very different histories in the tournament. Boston University has hoisted the coveted trophy 30 times and has been in the last two title games. Meanwhile, Harvard has only been victorious ten times – none since 1993 – and has not made a Finals appearance since 2008.
The two teams will face-off in the title game on Monay night at TD Garden.
Harvard captain Alexander Kerfoot and the rest of the Crimson are determined to make this the year when the Beanpot returns to Cambridge.
“We sit down at the beginning of every year and write down some goals, and this was one,” said Kerfoot. “We’re looking forward to it. The Beanpot’s huge, playing against three great hockey schools. I think that coming away with it our senior year after these past three years would mean an incredible amount to Harvard hockey.”
In the Crimson’s way stands perennial tournament Champions BU. The Terriers and Crimson first met in a Beanpot back in 1952 during the tournament’s first iteration. Harvard skated to a 7-4 victory over the Terriers in the championship to capture the inaugural Beanpot trophy.
The last time the teams met on TD Garden ice was two years ago in one of the most memorable first round games of all time. Harvard held a 3-1 lead on BU midway through the second, but two quick goals by the Terriers sent the game to overtime after a scoreless third. The first overtime period featured a barrage of chances but no goals. But early in the second overtime, BU’s Danny O’Regan capitalized on a defensive zone turnover by Harvard to deposit the game-winner on the Terriers’ 67th shot of the game.
In this year’s tournament, Harvard advanced to the final by beating Northeastern, 4-3. The Crimson held a three-goal lead and staved off a late Northeastern surge to get the win. BU toppled archrival Boston College in the nightcap, 3-1. An early goal and a pair of special teams’ tallies led the Terriers to their third straight Beanpot Championship game.
This season, Harvard and BU come into the contest both ranked inside the top five nationally and bound for NCAA Tournament berths. They’ve already met once this season back in November, with BU gutting out a 5-3 comeback victory at Agganis Arena in Boston.
Bothe teams played in huge league games on Friday night. Boston University dropped a tough one at UMass-Lowell, falling via a late power play goal, 3-2. In an ECAC clash, Harvard thoroughly impressed in a dominating 6-2 victory at home against over Union.
Statistically, Harvard is an incredibly balanced squad, featuring the third-best scoring offense in the country averaging 3.93 goals per game. Sophomore Ryan Donato has been a big factor to the Crimson’s success. This past Friday, Donato scored four of his team leading 15 tallies. He is one of nine Harvard players with double-digit point totals this season.
The Terriers, are led by a mixture of underclassmen, with freshman and first-round draft choice Clayton Keller headlining the group. Keller, whose 15-game point streak was snapped on Friday, continues to lead BU with 14 goals and 30 points.
The goaltending matchup is the most intriguing. Junior Merrick Madsen injured himself in Harvard’s first round victory over Northeastern after making an awkward save in the final seconds. Despite not practicing Wednesday, Madsen played on Friday, making 32 saves.
For the Terriers, freshman Jake Oettinger continues to put up Richter Award-worthy numbers, with a .935 save percentage and a 1.80 goals against average. Oettinger has led the Terriers to a nations’ fifth-best scoring defense as BU only allows 2.02 goals per game.
The special teams’ battle will also be interesting, as Harvard’s top-five power play goes up against BU’s top-ten penalty kill. The Crimson power play, operating at 25.5%, has struggled recently, converting just once in their last three games. The Terriers’ fifth-ranked penalty kill in the country broke out of a recent funk against Boston College, shutting down the Eagles on the man-advantage and continuing at a rate of 87.1% and have killed 14 of their last 16 penalties.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:40 p.m. Monday and can be heard live on mixlr.com/wtbusports.