Not Your Average Game

If you were a good boyfriend or husband, you were taking your girlfriend or wife to dinner for Valentine’s Day. If you’re a Boston University or Northeastern fan, you were at the bar making sure you were feeling just “perfect” when the puck was dropped on the Beanpot championship game.

But for two teams inside the FleetCenter at five o’clock on Monday night — No. 2 Boston College and No. 9 Harvard — there was no doubt that the Beanpot consolation game meant a heck of a lot more deciding who finished in third place in the 53rd annual tournament.

Monday’s game between the Eagles and the Crimson, in fact, will most likely have more impact come the end of March than it will in the Beanpot annals.

Looking at the PairWise Rankings entering Monday’s game, both BC and Harvard are in position to grab a spot in this year’s NCAA tournament. BC entered the game third in the PairWise. Harvard wasn’t far behind, all alone in ninth.

And looking at the NCAA criteria, Harvard and BC facing one another directly impacts every single one.

Record against teams under consideration? Check. Common opponents? Well, not directly, but each teams have some of the same opposition and some of those opponents (namely BU and Maine) are around the top of the PairWise. Head to head? Well, duh, particularly seeing as though Harvard already beat BC once.

The final criterion — Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI — now, there’s likely the most important.

The ability for RPIs to be affected — remember that RPI is based on winning percentage — is obvious. Throw in the fact that the NCAA’s “quality win” bonus will likely be satisfied by the nonconference matchup (both teams have to be in the top 15 of the RPI come season’s end), and the game’s winner gets an automatic boost to its RPI to boot.

As much as one would like to think that Monday’s consolation game is the forgotten game, for the teams involved, that couldn’t be less true.

“There is an element where the environment of the building makes it tough to compete,” said Harvard coach Ted Donato of the sparse crowd that greeted the two clubs at the 5 p.m. start.

BC coach Jerry York joked that the only people who saw the first period were Donatos and Yorks.

York, though, was also quick to say that the empty stands didn’t matter.

“Clearly, if you follow our sport, the RPI is so important for us,” said York. “This game is significant because Harvard is a team under consideration and a top 15 team. Quality wins outside of your conference are so important and you’re [playing the game] in pursuit of trying to get a higher seed in the nationals.

“I’ve been in third-place games before that had no real implications and they’re very difficult. This game is hard because both of us want to be in the championship game, but when you look at it and break down the ramifications, it’s very important for our goals to compete for a national title.”

BC senior Ned Havern, who in his four years has now had to play twice in the Beanpot consolation game, echoed York’s sentiments.

“You start out, all four teams envisioning playing in the late game on the second Monday,” said Havern, who helped fuel BC’s 4-1 win by scoring the opening goal. “We spoke as a team and we set out to win a lot of championships this year and there are others we’d like to win.

“There were a great deal of ramifications to this game. For our team to do well tonight, we knew we had to refocus and realize what was at stake.”

While BC gained all of the positives from Monday’s win, the consolation game brought a tough loss as well. Starting goaltender Cory Schneider had to leave early in the third period with a sprained MCL, an injury that will sideline the goaltender for up to four weeks, according to York.

The fact of the matter is that when Schneider is once again healthy, the Eagles could be well into their playoff run, which for the Eagles’ faithful should be considered somewhat worrisome.

Still, the result on Monday was an Eagles win. When the game was over, the impact could indeed be felt. BC had picked up two head-to-head comparison wins and catapulted over Colorado College into second in the PairWise.

Harvard, on the other hand, lost a head-to-head comparison win against New Hampshire and, though it remained ninth, instead of being alone the Crimson stood in a four-way tie. Math majors will tell you that accounts for spots nine, 10, 11 and 12. Accounting for the possibility of upsets in the six conference championships, only the top ten come season’s end are guaranteed a spot in the tournament.

The thought, though, that Harvard could miss the tournament doesn’t even cross York’s mind.

“We’ll see Harvard somewhere later. I’m sure we will see them in a regional in the nationals,” said York.

If and when these clubs do once again meet, a few more people will take notice.