BOSTON - Jim Madigan joked that he had little to do with the three Beanpots he won as a member of Northeastern hockey (two as a player, one as a coach). But when the focus shifted the Huskies Beanpot drought-now 26 years long-Madigan's tone shifted as well.
And Madigan and his current Huskies are in position to end that Beanpot dry spell. But win it, they'll have to defeat a team that has the opposite of its problem: a Boston College squad gunning for its fifth straight Beanpot championship.
"It's special in a sense that we haven't won this tournament in a long time," Madigan said of the 62nd iteration of the tournament. "Yes, our record proves that we've had a good start and a good two-thirds of our season, but we also know this tournament is not based on records.
"We proved that last year when we beat a very good BU team, and their record was much better than ours."
For the Eagles and head coach Jerry York, there's no pressure to end a trophy drought, but with Boston College now the top-ranked team in college hockey, there are plenty of eyes on this flock of Eagles.
"We welcome pressure. We have a good team, we know that, and now we're expected to play very, very well, and win some trophies," said York. "But that's something we embrace. Some people look the other way and say, ‘gee, I don't want the pressure, I'd rather be the underdog.'
"But I think it's something we've talked about, and we feel the more pressure makes just more alert, and work harder. It's good for you."
And like Madigan, York knows records and rankings mean little when the four local schools meet up at TD Garden in early February.
"We stress all the time that the team that plays the best that night is going to win the game," York said. "Maybe it's not the best team, but whoever plays best that night, and that's kind of our mindset.
"We're not saying, ‘we've won this many games, so we should advance.' That's not the way it works in sports."
The teams will enter Monday night's game on opposite ends of the momentum spectrum: The Eagles romped Merrimack in Hockey East action 6-1 on Friday, while Northeastern was upset by Massachusetts at home 3-0.
Pressure will come in many other forms for the Huskies. There will be pressure on Kevin Roy, the tournaments reigning MVP after he scored 5 goals as a freshman last year, but who's goal in the semifinals against Harvard marked his first since Jan. 4.
Of course, Roy has been the focus of many an opponent's defense, adding pressure to him, but also taking some off his teammates.
"Our guys know that," Madigan said. "Other guys can contribute offensive because they've got their own skill packages and are good players, but know that we just went to Notre Dame, and every time Kevin was on the ice, 28 and 3 were on defense, and they had certain forwards going against him."
"If that opens up opportunities for other guys, that's great, like double-teaming a receiver in football."
There will be pressure on Northeastern's defense, a group that has been questioned all season, to match up against BC's top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes, and Bill Arnold.
(For some context, since York established that line, it's racked up 80 points in 14 full games, among many other ballooned statistics.)
The matchup will pit the two Hockey East rivals against each other for the third time in four years in the Beanpot finals: a familiar finale, featuring unfamiliar paths.
"It's great to play in it, but when you win it, it's a special feeling, and it never goes away," said Madigan. "That's some of the wisdom you're trying to impart, and at the same time, not putting too much pressure on them, because we haven't won the tournament as an institution for a long time."
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