By: Dave Souza
The time has finally arrived. The Boston University men’s ice hockey team will begin their quest for their 31st Beanpot Championship Monday night at TD Garden when they take on the Harvard Crimson in the night game of the doubleheader evening. And by all accounts, the Terriers (14-11-2, 10-7-2 Hockey East) are finally clicking after a slow start to the season.
Since the team returned from its Christmas break hiatus, the scarlet and white have gone 6-1-1 and are undefeated in their last seven games dating back to January 6. In that time period, BU has recorded back-to-back weekend sweeps, a tie to the then-No. 11 team in the nation, a hard fought road win at New Hampshire and their most recent win at the University of Massachusetts. Heading into the opening round matchup, the Terriers are looking to extend that hot streak and play in their fourth consecutive championship game next Monday.
“We all like rubbing it in each other’s faces when we win it,” laughed Terrier Coach Dave Quinn at last week’s annual Beanpot luncheon. “I’m sure my guys haven’t heard the end of it from the Harvard players.”
In last year’s championship tilt, a stout Crimson squad roared to a 6-3 win and their first Beanpot title since 1993. However this season, Harvard (10-8-4, 9-5-3 ECAC) has stumbled after falling in last year’s Frozen Four. The Crimson currently stand in fourth in the ECAC and, similarly to the Terriers, fell out of the national rankings due to early losses after being ranked high in the preseason polls.
Despite a terrible opening month where they won once, Harvard has responded in a similar fashion to BU, playing their best since the flip of the calendar. Since 2018 began, the Crimson have earned points in eight of ten games, with five wins and a trio of ties – including a 6-6 draw at No. 2 Clarkson. Their most recent fixture was on the road against the Dartmouth Big Green where the Crimson utilized goals in all three periods to propel them to a 4-1 win.
“Last year our seniors ran the show,” said Harvard Coach Ted Donato.
“This is a young team still learning how to win, but it’s a fun group […] everyone’s looking forward to Monday night.”
Ryan Donato, son of head coach Ted, has been the most prolific scorer for Harvard this season. A junior and a Boston Bruins prospect, Donato has tallied a team-high 30 points in 22 games played. However his most impressive stat is his goal count, which stands at 21 – three times more than the next best goal scorer on the Crimson. Donato, like Terrier forward Jordan Greenway, will play Monday night before leaving to go to South Korea to play for Team USA.
Perhaps the most dynamic player on the ice in Monday night’s contest will be wearing a Harvard sweater. Sophomore defenseman Adam Fox has been a standout on the blue line this year, directing the Harvard offense through his position on the point. Fox was selected in the third round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames and has amassed 12 assists this season, the most among Crimson defensemen and second highest on the entire team. Fox has yet to net his first goal of the year.
“Definitely looking for a bit of redemption here,” said BU captain Brandon Hickey. “It definitely adds a little bit more motivation for this game.
“The expectations are a little bit elevated, but that just adds to the fun and the whole experience.”
Hickey, an offensive minded defensemen like most of the blue liners on Dave Quinn’s team, has found his shot in the last two contests. Against UMass on Friday, Hockey opened the scoring with a late-period strike; he also potted the first goal in the Terriers’ 4-3 win over Arizona State in Tempe, Ari.
“Getting hot at the right time is really important,” Hickey said. “It’s all about getting better everyday, and that’s something we’ve been focusing on the last couple of months here, and that’s finally starting to show in our game. Pretty exciting dressing room to be around right now.”
Plenty of other Terrier forwards have also settled into offensive grooves, finding the back of the net often in BU’s mid-season turn around. Bobo Carpenter has again caught fire, tallying his second hat trick of the season against Arizona State. Carpenter currently leads all Terrier scorers with 16 goals and 27 points while his 11 assists rank sixth.
Shane Bowers has accrued three goals in his last three games and has been held without a point just twice since the New Year. His frequent tallies have brought him to second on the stat sheet with 13 goals. Bowers’ 22 points are tied for third most on BU, with classmate Brady Tkachuk standing alongside him; Tkachuk also has points in six of his last eight games with his two-goal performance against ASU standing out the most.
The Terriers will look for vengeance in their opening round matchup, looking to mirror last year’s firs contest where they dispatched a ranked Boston College squad that edged them out for the Beanpot title the year before. Due to a coin flip last week, the Crimson will be the home team for the contest, which gets underway at 8 p.m. on WTBU Sports.