Welcome back to another edition of Tuesday Morning Quarterback: East. It’s an exciting time out on the right coast with the Beanpot in the books for less than 24 hours, and two of the three eastern conferences less than two weeks from the end of the regular season.
So let’s jump right to it:
I like the Boston University Terriers. Really, I do.
But after the Scarlet and White won their 28th Beanpot, including the third straight and 10th in 12 attempts, with a 2-1 overtime victory on Monday night, I was left shaking my head wondering if maybe this tournament is losing a bit of its lure with one team having such a dominant presence.
When Brian McGuirk’s wrist shot deflected off a skate and sailed off the crossbar and into the BC net just 5:06 into the overtime, I was amazed at how many people made a mass exodus.
There was no sticking around to watch the trophy presentation. No one seemed to care who won the Eberly Award or the MVP (John Curry deservedly got both).
If you weren’t donning a BU home or road jersey, you were on Causeway Street before the Bull Gang even had a chance to roll the red carpet onto the ice.
I was speaking with longtime Boston Globe writer Jim McCabe, who doubles as a college hockey reporter while spending the majority of his time as one of the more respected writers on the PGA Tour. He relayed the thoughts of his fellow PGA reporters when he told them about the Beanpot.
He said that the other golf reporters chuckle that a college hockey tournament in which the same four teams play every year, on most years the same two clubs end up in the championship game and generally the same club ends up the victor gets any media attention whatsoever.
Maybe it’s because at this point, everyone heads to the Beanpot to see BU lose. If that’s the case, though, there are a lot of disappointed fans.
Truth be told, BU’s mystique in the Beanpot is unexplainable. Head coach Jack Parker says most of it is due to good goaltending. On Monday, that was certainly the case as Curry put on a show, an “I couldn’t pay for a clinic like this” goaltending clinic.
He finished with 64 of 65 saves in the two games to set an all-time mark for save percentage (.985). At times he looked unbeatable, and had Nathan Gerbe not been left completely open for a couple of seconds in the third period, Curry might have pitched a zero-for-the-tournament double shutout.
Maybe that’s why the faithful still flock to the TD Banknorth Garden for the first two Mondays in February — anticipating the fact that somehow a goaltender could once again steal a championship for the Terriers.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how badly we want to whine that BU is the unbeatable champ or that BC and BU play in the championship game every year (that will change next year when they face off in the opening round), people still want to be there, in the seats, watching the Beanpot each year.
Monday afternoon, stubhub.com listed about eight singles seats in either the Lodge or Club sections going for an average of about $200 each. There was one pair of club seats available for $575 each.
Who knows if these seats ever sold? The fact that people felt they could command such prices, though, proves that no matter how much we complain, there’s still something about the Beanpot that makes the college hockey fan in Boston want to say, “I was there.”
If you were there, congratulations. You saw one of the best college hockey games this year. You also saw the Terriers skate lap number 28 around the Gah-den ice holding the holy grail of Boston hockey.
Well, unless you were one of the many who headed for the door as soon as the winning goal was scored.
As RIT is about to make history in Atlantic Hockey, just two wins from clinching the league championship in its first season in the league, another team is climbing the standings and currently playing some of its best hockey of the season.
The Connecticut Huskies have risen from the bottom, to middle of the pack, all the way to fourth place in the 10-team league. After starting the year with just one win in its first seven games, UConn is 7-3-1 since the start of 2007.
The Huskies are riding a four-game winning streak after back-to-back sweeps of Sacred Heart and Bentley and with two more wins would clinch home ice for the first time since 1999-2000, when UConn went on to capture the then-MAAC Hockey League championship.
The turnaround can be linked to improved play by the defense, which eight times allowed five or more goals before the holiday break but hasn’t surrendered more than four in 2007.
Rookie goaltender Beau Erickson is a big part of the defensive stability. While he’s posted an 8-5-1 record this season, he’s allowed just 10 goals in his last six starts, mustering a 4-1-1 record in that time.
Though offense continues to be a bit of a struggle for the Huskies, the solidifying of the D certainly has this team moving in the right direction.
Two Horses in ECACHL?
Recent struggles by one-time conference leader Quinnipiac have seemingly made the ECACHL a two-horse race heading into the final two weeks. Losses to Dartmouth and Brown in the last two league games have put Quinnipiac five points behind league leader St. Lawrence and three points behind second-place Clarkson with each team having four games remaining.
If Quinnipiac can sweep this weekend’s series at Cornell and Colgate and St. Lawrence drops one of its two games this weekend to either Rensselaer or Union, the Bobcats will have a chance to catapult to first in the final weekend of the series when they face both the Saints and the Golden Knights.
Right now, though, St. Lawrence and Clarkson seem likely to battle to the wire, with the first-place Saints controlling their destiny.
The same two clubs battled to the end in 2000-01, with Clarkson taking the league title that year and St. Lawrence finishing three points back. Now, though, the Saints are in the driver’s seat looking for their first league title since the 1999-2000 season, the last time St. Lawrence reached the Frozen Four.
• Notably missing from this year’s Beanpot was longtime Boston Globe college hockey writer Bob Monahan. Having never previously missed a game in the tournament’s 54-year history, Monahan is currently at Massachusetts General Hospital battling pneumonia after having heart bypass surgery. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
• While the ECACHL and Atlantic Hockey are just two weekends from wrapping up their regular season, Hockey East still has three weeks of play remaining. That said, a random scheduling anomaly will pit every two consecutive teams in the current standings (1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4, 5 vs. 6, 7 vs. 8 and 9 vs. 10) against one another in two-game sets.
Many eyes will be on the top series between first-place New Hampshire and second-place BU. Should the Wildcats sweep, they’ll be in the pole position for the regular-season title. A Terriers sweep, though, could bring them back within a game of the Wildcats with four games remaining.