No matter who wins the 2015 Beanpot Tournament trophy on Monday night at TD Garden, whether it is Boston University or Northeastern, a new champion is guaranteed for the first time since 2009.
Boston College, which will play in the consolation game against Harvard, took home the crown for five straight years from 2010-14.
BU and NU square off in the championship for the first time since Feb. 9, 2009, when the Terriers prevailed over the Huskies, 5-2. NU will be seeking its first title since 1988.
For senior forward Torin Snydeman of Groton, who was born a little less than two years after the Huskies last raised the ’Pot, it would mean a lot for them to end the protracted drought. They got a step closer by beating the Eagles, 3-2, on Feb. 3 in the semifinals and followed that with a win at UMass and a convincing sweep of UConn before splitting a pair of games at Maine over the weekend.
After a brutal start (0-8-1),the Huskies are 15-4-3 in the last 22 contests and have just one loss in the last 10 (8-1-1).
“It’s huge,” said Snydeman of the opportunity for the Huskies. “Mentally for our team, the way we started the season was really hard. We’ve been progressing and we’ve rattled off a few wins. It speaks volumes for the character we have in the room that we are able to beat a team like BC.”
Even when the Huskies were going through the tough times early, Snydeman said they never felt like a bad team.
“Nobody on the team thought that way,” said Snydeman, who has seven goals and seven assists in 29 games. “It’s great to see how guys responded. It was obviously really frustrating and there were times when we couldn’t really understand why we were put in the position we were in. I thought we were playing really good hockey. It was just a few bad bounces here and there. But the whole time, we knew we were going to come out of it. It was just a matter of when.”
That has made the current streak of success all the more gratifying.
“The run that we are on is satisfying considering the start,” said Snydeman. “It’s something we needed because of how poorly we started and how many games we kind of let slip away. We needed, because of the pairwise rankings, to have the [winning] performances now. I like where we are headed.”
Like BU, which is prolific in the third period with 56 of its 109 goals generated in that frame, NU coach Jim Madigan said his team is known for battling back during this turnaround stretch.
“One thing I do know is we’ve been in a lot of close games in the last five minutes and have found a way to get a goal late in a game,” said Madigan, whose team has 34 of its 94 goals in the third period. “We did it at Minnesota, we did it against Yale and we did it again [against BC in the Beanpot semifinal]. Our guys are confident in these close, tight games late in the third period. As a coach, you feel good because we’re also defending well and we’re also playing smart and looking for that opportunity to capitalize. The more battle tested you can be, the better you are as you get to the last third of the season and approach the playoffs. Chances are, there are going to be a lot of one-goal games down the stretch, so the more confident you are playing in those types of games, you have a chance of success.”
BU promises to be a formidable foe. The third-ranked Terriers are 19-6-5 overall and 13-4-3 against Hockey East opponents, tops in the league. They are 7-2-1 in the last 10. In addition to the Beanpot title game, the teams square off in a pair of games this weekend to wrap up the regular season.
“They have some of the best freshmen in the country, led by Jack Eichel,” said Madigan. “But they also have a good balance of some older kids. They’ve got a junior goaltender [Matt O’Connor] who is really good. Matt Grzelcyk is one of the best defensemen in the league. Up front, [Evan] Rodrigues has put up points in this league, Cason Hohmann, Danny O’Regan is as skilled and as smart an offensive player as we have in our league. There is some experience on that team. They’ve got a good balance of younger and older guys and they’ve got a good balance of skill and grit. They present a major challenge for us.”
Madigan said his current players shouldn’t feel responsible for the Huskies’ lack of success in the Beanpot and that they should just play their best. Snydeman said it isn’t as if they don’t know the history. They just want to write a different chapter.
“None of us were around then,” said Snydeman. “We hear about it all the time, how many years it has been since the last one. This time of year, you hear the whispers. It would be huge for us. The campus would respond unbelievably. I think this is the team that has the opportunity to do it, the way we’re built. It would be huge for the program. It validates the competitiveness of the tournament if someone else is able to win it. BC and BU fans sure aren’t sick of their teams winning it but I think everyone else is. They’d like to see someone else take it home for once.”