Todd: Well, Jim, another Beanpot is in the books, and it’s Boston College, not perennial favorite Boston University, that left TD Garden with this year’s title. I think a lot of people thought that a Beanpot championship may have been a way for BU to start to salvage its season, but the Terriers will have to find some other way to jump start a late-season run. I’d like to get to the Terriers in a second, but first thoughts on what the Beanpot title might do for the Eagles the rest of the way?
Jim: Well, winning the Beanpot has typically been a springboard for Jerry York’s teams. In 2001 and 2008, BC’s Beanpot win lead to a national title (BC’s 2004 title was followed by a Frozen Four appearance). But I’m not ready to call BC a Frozen Four team yet. The Eagles are doing a lot of things very well right now. Goal scoring is through the roof, averaging 5.5 goals per game over the last four contests while allowing just six goals total over that same span. BC got itself back in the Hockey East race last week with a win over Massachusetts while New Hampshire fell twice to Maine. Right now, BC and Maine are just three points out of first place and the final series of the weekend between the Eagles and Wildcats is circled on the calendars of many.
Todd: For my money, I’ll take a team with consistently strong defense over a team with good offensive numbers, at least in a one-off game, because it seems like offense is more fleeting than defense. Who knows how long BC’s offensive surge is going to last. It may be here to stay; it may be gone in a week. I guess I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Eagles make it, but I’m with you. What do you think Boston University’s outlook is from here? I’m no expert at predicting the movements of the PairWise, but with a maximum of 13 games left for the Terriers before the tournament is selected, I’m guessing they’ll need the Hockey East playoff title to be in position to defend their NCAA championship.
Jim: Like you, I don’t have the advanced doctorate in math to say it definitively, but I’d think BU’s only bet with be a Hockey East championship and the automatic qualifier associated with it. After Monday night, the Terriers have fallen out of the PairWise and would need to pretty much go on a major run (win all remaining league and playoff games and lose in the title game, maybe) to earn the at-large qualifier. Speaking of the PairWise, another Hockey East team that many wrote off just recently and has quickly moved to the upper echelon is Maine. The Black Bears swept New Hampshire at home last weekend, coming from two goals down on back-to-back nights. Maine currently sits tied for seventh in the PWR and could be close to locking up an NCAA bid after a two-year hiatus.
Todd: For those who missed it, Dave Hendrickson went through the Black Bears’ resurgence in last week’s Hockey East column, and I think the brightest sign for Maine is that it wasn’t one thing that put everything back together. A lot of things happened right, and because of that, you could argue that it would also take a lot to unravel things. For the sake of coach Tim Whitehead, with whom I’ve had nothing but positive interactions, it’s good that things are looking up.
Jim: I agree wholeheartedly about Whitehead. He’s a great guy so it’s nice to see things turn around for him. On the opposite end of that spectrum, though, is Harvard coach Ted Donato. He’s yet another great guy but his team continues to struggle. Donato took his team to the NCAA tournament in his first two seasons with the program but now will miss the tournament for the fourth straight year if not for a miracle run in the ECAC tournament. Things looked like they were turning around for the Crimson heading into the Beanpot but the team was outscored, 10-1, in the two Beanpot games. I don’t mean to kick a dog when he’s down, but is this a case where a coach’s job could be in jeopardy?
Todd: I’m guessing that situation might come down to what’s on his contract. Depending on how many years he has left, it might not be financially responsible for Harvard to make a move. But the Beanpot is rare national exposure for the Crimson, and to score just one goal in two games had to be embarrassing. Before we go this week, I want to touch on the situation at Miami, where the program is mourning the loss of student assistant Brendan Burke, who died Friday in a car accident. It has to be an overwhelmingly emotional time for the RedHawks. You hope a group that’s as close as Miami hockey is can use that tightness to get through things.
Jim: Obviously, it’s been a very emotional few days for the Miami program. As one who served as a student manager for four years, I know that there is an inherent bond between the manager and the players and coaches that is special. Some may not understand that association but for that program, Brendan Burke’s death has the same impact as if a player or coach passed away. I’ve read a lot about Brendan since Friday and it sounds like for a kid who was on the earth only 21 years, he had a major impact, in particular as an openly gay athlete who wanted to tell his story to help other athletes of the same sexual orientation cope in the world of sports. The story remembers that of Richard Britt, who was the equipment manager at Maine in 1999 when he was tragically killed in the final weeks of the regular season. Some, of course, may remember that the team rallied around this tragedy and, of course, went on to win the national championship. I’m not an ounce surprised if something similar happens this season at Miami, particularly given the talent of that team.
Todd: The RedHawks can clinch the CCHA title with a regulation or shootout victory at Bowling Green on Friday. There are a couple interesting series in the WCHA this weekend — St. Cloud State, tied for first place, hosts North Dakota and Denver hosts Minnesota. What’s at the top of the list out east?
Jim: In the ECAC, Yale and Cornell will square off Saturday in New Haven in a key standings matchup. In Hockey East, Maine is headed to BU, a series that once upon a time packed more punch than any other. Given the way these two teams are playing of late, though, I see a couple of incredible games in store. Until next week …