When Boston College and Northeastern take to the ice Monday night at 7:30 in the championship game of the 61st annual Beanpot, it will be a match-up of two teams that could not be more different.
BC, winner of three of the last five NCAA Championships and three consecutive Beanpots, sits in first place in Hockey East and is regarded as one of the top teams in the entire nation. Legendary head coach Jerry York is now the all-time career-wins leader among NCAA hockey coaches.
The Huskies, on the other hand, are in last place in Hockey East with very little Beanpot history outside of the 1980s. After last Monday's opening round in which Northeastern upset BU, coach Jim Madigan wanted to deflect all stories about history or lack thereof.
History tells us BC is superior, and the match-up on paper indicates BC is the more elite team. But, on the second Monday in February the history and all the records can be thrown out the window. Plus, Northeastern has already proven they can beat BC this season. In the second game of the season NU beat BC 3-1.
BC will certainly have the overall talent advantage, especially up front with five highly skilled forwards that can light up an opposing goaltender at any time. Leading that group is sophomore Johnny Gaudreau who was held scoreless in the 4-1 win over Harvard during the opening round. Senior Steven Whitney is one of those elite forwards. The Reading, MA native had a highlight-reel snipe to put the icing on the cake last Monday. Fourth line role player Quinn Smith chipped in for two goals, including the game-winner against Harvard.
Northeastern will counter with freshman Kevin Roy, the NCAA leader in rookie scoring. The Anaheim Ducks draft pick has 15 goals and 15 assists. His 1.25 points per game ranks him 12th nationally. Roy provided all the heroics in the win over BU, scoring three times, the first hat trick in a Beanpot since NU's Mike Ryan recorded the trick in 2002.
The place where BC holds the biggest advantage is on the blue line. Even with an injury depleted defense, the Eagles back line is vastly superior to NU. Leading the way is freshman Michael Matheson and senior Patrick Wey. Matheson, a Florida Panthers draft choice, had a booming slapshot goal to make it 3-0 in the semifinal last Monday.
Northeastern also has some injury concerns on defense. Freshman Colton Saucerman has been a fan favorite from the beginning of the season. He plays with an edge, and his seven points lead all NU defensemen. Sophomore Josh Manson also provides a big presence on the blueline.
The goaltending match-up will pit two seniors against each other in the championship game. Parker Milner for BC and Chris Rawlings for Northeastern will attempt to backstop their respective teams to a Beanpot title. Milner has been fairly consistent and has been nearly unstoppable at times, evidenced by his 19 game winning streak to cap last year's NCAA championship season. Rawlings has been terrific at times, but has struggled with consistency and focus throughout his NU career. There is little doubt Rawlings can make the big save, but the question most NU faithful are asking is can he make the routine stop to keep the Huskies in the game.
Sometime late Monday night, there will be a champion crowned in this historic tournament. Will it be the Eagles making it four straight or will it be the Huskies for the first time since 1988?