BOSTON – It’s one of the great traditions of college hockey: The calendar turns to February, and we turn our attention to the Beanpot.
It is without a doubt the most unique in-season tournament in college hockey. The event serves as a collective two-week homecoming for alumni from the four schools and a launching pad for the final month of the regular season.
Love it or hate it, the Beanpot grips the sporting consciousness in Boston for two weeks.
The festivities officially got under way on Tuesday, when all four head coaches (Ted Donato of Harvard, Jim Madigan of Northeastern, David Quinn of Boston University and Jerry York of Boston College), their team captains, and members of the media gathered at TD Garden for the annual pre-tournament luncheon.
We took the opportunity to ask each coach the same set of questions, to compare how each views his team’s performance to date and what will be the keys to victory over the next two weeks:
USCHO: If you could describe your season to date in one word, what would it be and why?
Donato: Close. In our league, we’ve lost a lot of close games. We’re learning how to win. Eight out of 10 losses have been by one goal. We’re very close.
Madigan: Resilient. It’s a team that was faced with some obstacles early. From the preseason poll, people from outside didn’t believe we could win. When we got into the season, guys worked hard and showed a lot of resiliency in games. It’s been borne into their approach this season.
Quinn: Inconsistent. When we’re good, we can be pretty good, but when we’re bad, we can be pretty bad. I think a lot of it has to do with youth — nine freshmen in the lineup every night. Not only are we young in class, but their ages too: We don’t have a bunch of 20-year old freshmen.
York: Two words — more cohesive. I think we’re playing better as a team. We stress all the time that the team that plays best [each] night will win the game. Records don’t matter. That’s our mind-set.
USCHO: Give us an outlook of your team’s chances for the tournament. What’s the one thing that needs to go right for you to win?
Donato: When you play in this atmosphere and want to have success, goaltending is a key for any possible championship.
Madigan: Goaltending. It’s a short tournament. Any team I’ve been on that has won this tournament — it’s been three — we’ve had great goaltending. It can be a cliché, but you’re talking about two games. If you get great goaltending, you build momentum that way, and only need a couple of goals to win.
Quinn: We’re going to have to play simple hockey. We get into trouble when we try to play special hockey and make special plays. If we can manage to keep things simple for 60 minutes, we give ourselves a chance night-in, night-out.
York: Discipline. Not just in penalties, but defensive zone coverage, discipline to be in the right position for yourself, [line] changes … anything that involves doing the right thing at the right time.
USCHO: If there’s an X factor, or perhaps a story that we haven’t heard of yet that might emerge from your team in this tournament, what do you think it’ll be?
Donato: Offensively, we have another gear that we haven’t gotten to yet. We’re a skilled, fast team, and we’re close to being an explosive team offensively. Hopefully we’ll be able to have things clicking for this Beanpot.
Madigan: It’ll be some of the secondary scoring, which we’re just starting to get.
Quinn: I’m going to say Robbie Baillargeon. He was great on Friday (vs. Vermont). Maybe the Baillargeon-[Danny] O’Regan-[Evan] Rodrigues line. Hopefully if Rodrigues is healthy — he’s still not quite there yet — I’m anxious to see what that line can do.
York: I’d like to see more balanced scoring from our club. We’re getting a lot of goals from the same players. That could put us over the top. It might be a defenseman or a forward, but I’d like that to happen. They don’t necessarily have to put up big numbers, but winning their shifts on the ice is one of our goals.
USCHO: One last “one word” question: What one word would you use to describe the Beanpot, what it means to you or your club?