Tuesday was the annual Beanpot Luncheon, officially kicking off the 56th Annual Beanpot Hockey Tournament, which will begin play next Monday, February 4. This yearly “kick-off” event brings together representatives from each of the tournament’s four schools – Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern.
The luncheon has become a bit of a schmooze-fest, though long-time tournament director Steve Nazro continues in his attempt to improve the event. This year’s luncheon featured a trio of inductees into the Beanpot Hall of Fame – former BU goaltender Dan Brady, who led the Terriers to consecutive Beanpots in 1971 and ’72; former Northeastern defenseman Jim Averill, an instrumental part of NU’s back-to-back ‘Pot winners in 1984 and ’85; and the late Bill Flynn, former athletic director at BC.
The event’s keynote address was delivered by Nashville Predators General Manager Dave Poile, who urged players to conisider careers in professional hockey, not necessarily as players, but as front office personnel. Poile had a quintet of Predators staff with him, all of whom had roots to college hockey in the Boston area, including former Boston University Terrier Jeff Kealty, the team’s newly appointed chief amateur scout.
Missing from this year’s affair, though, was legendary BU bench boss Jack Parker, who was home battling the flu. Said assistant coach Mike Bavis, who addressed those gathered in Parker’s absence: “For those in the media who are embellishing Coach Parker’s early demise, rest assured he’ll be back in the training room with Mike Boyle tomorrow at practice.”
A Well-Timed Affair
Two of the coaches who will lead their teams into the Beanpot – BC’s Jerry York and Northeastern’s Greg Cronin – both noted that the Beanpot comes at a good time in the schedule. Both, though, had different reasons.
“It’s like a ladder that you have to keep climbing,” said York of the college hockey season. He noted that his team can use the Beanpot to begin preparing for the high-pressure regular season and post-season games that lie ahead.
The Eagles enter the Beanpot as possibly the hottest team. BC has suffered just a single loss in its last 12 games, going 9-1-2 over that span.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Northeastern Huskies, which put together an impressive 11-game winning streak earlier in the season but hit a major road bump in January, going 1-4-1 in its last six.
Cronin is hoping that the Beanpot can turn the season back around for the Huskies, a team that hasn’t won this tournament in 20 years.
“It comes at a good time for us,” said Cronin. “You never want to use the Beanpot to turn around things, but this is a case where it just may.”
Now in his third year behind the bench for the Terriers, Cronin said that his club is approaching this year’s tournament in a different way.
“No one has talked about it,” said Cronin, noting that the fact that this year’s team doesn’t need to use the Beanpot as the defining moment for the season.
Banged Up Eagles
Though BC enters the tournament as the favorite, the club could be nursing some significant injuries come Monday. With Brock Bradford out for the season after re-fracturing his humeris, captain Mike Brennan took a big hit last weekend in the opening period of Saturday night’s game at Maine.
According to York, Brennan is suffering from headaches, even though baseline testing didn’t indicate that he has suffered a concussion. His availability for this weekend’s game against Providence and Monday’s Beanpot semifinal against Boston University remain unclear.
Asked if there was a forward who could move back to play defense, York said it’s likely the team would skate with just five defenseman if the inury is short-term. Should there be a need to find a more permanent replacement, senior Matt Greene would be the likely candidate.
– Favorite or not, history says that Boston College is the underdog in Monday’s second semifinal game against Boston University. The Eagles have not defeated the Terriers in an opening round game since 1981 (0-8 since). In fact, BC has won just three of the 18 semifinal games against the Terriers, and of those three wins, the Eagles went on to win the title just once (1963).
– This year’s field of Beanpot goaltenders do not exactly ooze with experience. Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen leads the dufflebags with two Beanpot games played, both coming last season. Harvard’s Kyle Richter has one game, last year’s semifinal loss to BC. BC sports a freshman goaltender in John Muse and neither Karson Gillespie or Brett Bennett at BU have made a Beanpot start in their careers.
– Each of this Monday’s opening round games will be broadcast on New England Sports Network (NESN). Tom Caron, Andy Brickley, Bob Beers, Tim Sweeney and Kathryn Tappen will comprise the broadcast team. NESN will also carry the Beanpot championship game on February 11.