BOSTON -- In Boston, the first week in February means just one thing for hockey fans as the city's four Division 1 teams descend on TD Garden for the 63rd Annual Beanpot Tournament.
Three teams enter Tuesday night’s semifinal round off wins in their last action and as many are listed in the national rankings, making this year's tournament one of the most intriguing in recent memory. The semifinal opener at 5 p.m. on Monday night pits No. 2 Boston University and No. 4 Harvard for the second time this season, while Northeastern hits the ice after a weekend off in the nightcap against No. 14 Boston College.
The opening games were pushed back a day due to the winter storm predicted to dump close to a foot of snow on the Boston area on Monday. It marked just the third postponement in tournament history after the championship round was delayed until March 1 due to the Blizzard of 1978 and the semifinals were also delayed until Tuesday in 1983.
Both semifinals and the Feb. 9 championship game will be televised on New England Sports Network (and TSN2 in Canada) with Tom Caron and Andy Brickley on the call.
Harvard (12-5-2, 8-4-2 ECAC Hockey) has struggled of late with four losses in its last six games and is the lone team in the field which suffered a loss in its last outing. Union's three-goal third period turned out to be too much to overcome in a 5-4 defeat at Bright-Landry Hockey Center on Friday night.
Junior Jimmy Vesey remains among the nation's leading scorers with 18 goals and 15 assists, including one point in each of his 19 games this year. The Predators prospect from North Reading, Mass. scored a goal and two helpers against the Dutchmen after a four-point effort in a 6-1 win at Colgate on Jan. 24.
The Crimson earned a 3-2 win over the then top-ranked Terriers at Agganis Arena on Nov. 25. In that contest, junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo scored the game-winner 3:10 into overtime to cap off a two-goal night.
A team-best 17 of Criscuolo's 28 points are assists as he closes in on the 30-point mark which Vesey became the first Crimson to reach in a season since 2011-12 when Alex Killorn, Danny Biega and Marshall Everson each eclipsed 33 points to lead the team.
Dates with the Terriers hold special meaning for Crimson senior Tommy O'Regan as his younger brother Danny is a BU junior. Danny's 29 points in 24 games including a team-best 17 goals. Tommy's Harvard side has emerged victorious in all five encounters of the Needham, Mass. brothers.
With a six-goal third period, Boston University (16-4-4, 11-2-2 Hockey East) earned a 9-5 home win over UMass on Friday and enters the Beanpot with five or fewer losses for the first time since 1998.
Friday night's highlights were many for the Scarlet and White, led by senior Evan Rodrigues matching the program record with six assists. Rodrigues tied freshman Jack Eichel for the national lead over the weekend with 25 helpers, including 17 during a current nine-game point streak during which he has posted 21 points.
Senior Ahti Oksanen registered his first-career hat trick against the Minutemen and has now scored six goals in his last four games, while Eichel scored two goals and two assists for his fourth four-point game this year.
The Terriers are 29-time tournament champs, but have lost eight of their last nine Beanpot games and a current five-game losing streak is their longest ever. They have not lost back-to-back meetings with Harvard since the 1993 championship and 1994 semifinal.
Boston College (16-8-2, 9-5-2 Hockey East) enters Monday night as the five-time defending Beanpot champion after it dispatched Northeastern for last year's title, 4-1, and can tie BU's all-time record streak (1995-2000) with a run to this year's title.
The Eagles clawed their way to a 3-2 win over Providence on Friday night to improve to 9-1-2 in their last 12 games. They have allowed two goals or fewer in all but one game during that stretch, the 4-2 loss at Maine Jan. 18.
For the second time in five games, rookies Zach Sanford, Alex Tuch and Noah Hanifin each found the back of the net with Sanford's goal with 9:08 to play standing as his first career game-winner. Friday night was a night of milestones for junior captain Michael Matheson as he provided Hanifin with his 50th assist in his 100th career game.
The Eagles posted a three-point weekend against the Huskies Jan. 9-10, which included a 4-2 win on home ice in the latter game. Hanover, Mass. native sophomore Adam Gilmour scored twice and added an assist on the weekend.
After a 0-8-1 start to the season, Northeastern (10-11-4, 6-7-2 Hockey East) is 7-1-3 in its last 11 games and remains unbeaten over its last four after a weekend sweep of Notre Dame on Jan. 23-24. Junior forwards Kevin Roy and Mike McMutry and sophomore defensemen each contributed three points against the Irish.
NU won all four of its Beanpot titles in the 1980's with the last all the way back in 1988. The Huskies have had first-round success of late, advancing to the title game in three of the last four years.
Roy, whose 11 goals and 26 points lead the Huskies this year, has enjoyed success in the tournament over his first two seasons. After a semifinal hat trick in a 3-2 win over BU a freshman and two more goals a week later against BC, the Ducks prospect scored once and added two assists last year and handily leads all Huskies in career Beanpot scoring.
Sophomore Mike Szmatula, currently the team's third-leading scorer with 19 points, and classmate John Stevens are Roy's closest competitors with a goal and two assists each.
The Huskies had the weekend prior to its Beanpot semifinal off for just the third time in program history and the second consecutive season. They reached the championship in the two prior seasons (1987 and 2014) in which they had more than a week's rest entering the 'Pot.