By Joshua Kummins
College hockey takes over the TD Garden on the first two Mondays in Februaryevery year with bragging rights on the line for Boston’s four major colleges.
This year’s Beanpot starts Monday night and concludes a week later.
For the 59th time, the Beanpot Tournament will take center stage on Causeway Street with Harvard and Northeastern squaring off at 5 p.m., before Green Line archrivals Boston College and Boston University finish the night at 8 p.m.
Boston fans know that BU owns the tournament historically – winning a record 29 titles, including 12 of the last 16. The Terriers’ Commonwealth Avenue neighbor Boston College, which is ranked No.1 in the nation, checks in with 15, including two of the last three and last year’s title.
Harvard has won the title 11 times, but has not done so since derailing the Terriers back in 1993. Northeastern has raised the ‘Pot just four times, all during the 1980s.
Here’s a look at how this year’s participants shape up:
The Crimson are having one of the worst seasons in recent memory, as they sit at 4-17-0 overall (3-13-0 ECAC). Their offense is by far the worst in the conference at fewer than 2.00 goals per game, while the defense is ranked a dismal 41st in the country (averaging three goals allowed).
Harvard is in the midst of a grueling stretch of five games in 11 days and eight games in 20 days, while it has lost eight games by a single goal this year, including a heartbreaking 1-0 loss at No. 3 Yale Feb. 4.
Junior Alex Killorn and senior Michael Biega are the offensive stars to watch for the Crimson, as they have each scored 16 points so far this year. Killorn sports a team-high seven goals in 21 games, while Biega, one of triplets from Montreal, leads the team with 10 assists in 19 contests. Senior Kyle Richter will likely be the starter in goal, but he has struggled while allowing 32 goals in just 13 games.
The Huskies come into the Beanpot with a 4-1-1 record in a current six-game stretch, standing sixth in Hockey East with an 8-11-6 (7-8-5 HE) record. The Huskies are clicking at the right time, led by the ninth-best defense in the entire country, but suffered a 4-3 overtime defeat to Merrimack at home Feb. 4.
The Huskies sport a mediocre offense, which ranks eighth in Hockey East at just 2.4 goals per game. Senior alternate captain Wade MacLeod leads the offense with a team-high 13 goals and 13 assists in 25 games, while captain Tyler McNeely is second with 12 assists and 21 points. Sophomore Chris Rawlings pitched shutouts in the Huskies’ last three wins to earn Goaltender of the Month honors in January.
After being swept in the regular season series by a combined 17-9 score, BU will seek revenge against its archrival and this time history is on its side. The Terriers have a 15-4 record against the Eagles in the opening round of the Beanpot.
Kieran Millan is one of the strongest goaltenders in Hockey East, and he is among the conference’s leaders with 716 saves. After jumping out of the gate with a 6-0-4 mark through 10 games, BU has played just .500 hockey at 7-7-3 since its first loss on Nov. 19. The Terriers (13-7-7, 10-5-5) are unbeaten in their last four games, including a three-point weekend at Maine and 3-1 win over UMass-Lowell Feb. 4. Staying out of the penalty box will be key, as BU leads Hockey East with 18.2 minutes per game.
Sophomore Alex Chiasson, a Dallas Stars draft choice in 2009, is the team’s leading scorer with nine goals and 24 points in 24 games. Freshman Charlie Coyle, who was selected by San Jose in last June’s draft, leads all Hockey East rookies with 21 points in 25 games.
The Eagles enter the Beanpot with a 19-6-0 (15-5-0) record, which is good enough for a first-place tie in the Hockey East standings with New Hampshire. The Maroon and Gold, owners of the nation’s best penalty kill (90.0 percent) and second-ranked offense, are winners of four straight and 11 of its last 12 games.
Junior Cam Atkinson, a 2008 Columbus Blue Jackets draft selection, paces the Eagles offense. The Greenwich, Conn., native is third in the conference with 35 total points and also ranks second with 20 goals in 25 games. Braintree, Mass., native Brian Gibbons is a close second with 11 goals and 32 points, which sits fifth in the conference.
BC’s John Muse, a Falmouth, Mass., native is the conference leader with 1.98 goals-against average going into the Beanpot.
Most Bruins fans probably have their own rooting interests, but three players in this year’s Beanpot hope to don the Black and Gold following their college careers.
Boston University junior blue liner David Warsofsky has had a career season for the Scarlet and White. He is second among all Hockey East defensemen with seven goals and 19 points in all 27 games, including three against BC. The Marshfield, Mass., native was traded to the Bruins from St. Louis in exchange for Vladimir Sobotka last June 26.
Eagles junior defenseman Tommy Cross, who has scored three goals and four points this season, missed 11 games with a left knee injury. He has scored a pair of goals since his return Dec. 30. Cross, a Simsbury, Conn., native and was selected by the Bruins in the second round of the 2007 Draft.
Harvard sophomore Alex Fallstrom missed 10 games earlier in the season with a leg injury, but has scored two goals in the last five games since his return. The Sweden native was traded from Minnesota in the Chuck Kobasew deal in October 2009.
Monday, February 7, 2011 – Semifinals
Northeastern vs. Harvard (5 p.m.)
Boston College vs. Boston University (8 p.m.)
Monday, February 14, 2011 – Championship Round
Losers in Consolation Game (5 p.m.)
Winners in Championship Game (8 p.m.)
Log on to TheBruinsBlog.net after the games for complete coverage of the 2011 Beanpot.
Joshua Kummins is a sophomore at Malden High School and the Hockey East beat reporter for BostonSportsU18.com.