The first two February Mondays are without equal in the Boston Hockey calendar.
I've written previously about the majesty (yes, MAJESTY) of the most important regular season tournament in college hockey, so I'll spare you the refrain. Instead, let's stick with what's most germane to this blog - the Boston Bruins. And since each team has a Bruins prospect of their own, this works out nicely.
BU (Matt Grzelcyk - 85, 2012) vs. Harvard (Wiley Sherman - 150, 2013)
The tournament's opener also doubles as its best match up, pitting the 3rd and 10th team in Pairwise (as of this writing on Friday), BU and Harvard, respectively. Both teams were abysmal last year which makes the resurgences all the most exciting.
BU Captain and local boy Matt Grzelcyk is playing in his second Beanpot after sitting out what would've been his sophomore appearance last year due to injury. Bruins fans may liken him to Torey Krug or fellow former Terrier, David Warsofsky, for his smaller frame and play-making ability in the offensive zone. Grzelcyk
has yet to score a goal this year so a better comparison might actually be Matt Bartkowski. scored his first goal of the season on Friday ruining what was a decent joke. WELP.
Across the ice from Grzelcyk will be Harvard freshman Wiley Sherman. Admittedly I have not seen Harvard play yet this season, so I've not seen Sherman. That Sherman is 6'7'' makes it even harder to believe I haven't seen him but that's what's up. Sherman's played in each of Harvard's 18 games on the third pairing where he's compiled an assist and 13 shots on goal. His one point ties him with Harvard's goalie for lowest among players to play all 18. Look out, Kevan Miller.
BC (Ryan Fitzgerald - 29, 2013) vs. Northeastern (Matt Benning - 175, 2012)
This is the fifth straight year that Northeastern and Boston College have squared off at the Beanpot. The last preliminary match up was a BC slaughter that I like to pretend never happened, but the three Final contests were hockey nirvana. Northeastern never beats the Eagles so it's not exactly a rivalry, but then again, it didn't stop Bruins/Habs. BC is going for their sixth straight Beanpot which would tie the mark set by BU between '95 and 2000. Northeastern, meanwhile, is going for its first since Taylor Swift was born.
Ryan Fitzgerald, the lone member of this group to have won a Beanpot, has not been immune to the loss of offense the Eagles have faced this season. After a very disappointing open to the season, BC has positioned itself as a bubble Pairwise team (which is weird) and wants to lock that in. They'll count on Fitzgerald, the team's leading goal scorer, to kick off "trophy season" the right way.
If BC's open to the season was disappointing, Northeastern's start was catastrophic, and effectively ended an at large bid to the tournament before Thanksgiving. But the Huskies have made a dramatic turnaround and are nearly .500. thanks in no small part to the play of Matt Benning, who has 11 points in his last 12 games. Benning's work on the power play has armed Northeastern with a very potent weapon which they've used to great efficiency. While he's not the greatest top pairing defenseman, he's played capably for Northeastern this year. The speed of BC's forwards have caused him problems in the past, though, so watch for that match up.
There's a lot more great players in this tournament, though. Here are a few standouts that you should be watching:
1. Jack Eichel - BU
2. Jimmy Vesey - Harvard (Nsh)
3. Alex Tuch - BC (Min)
4. Kevin Roy - Northeastern (Ana)
5. Thatcher Demko - BC (Van), Steve Michalek - Harvard (Minn), Matt O'Connor - BU, Clay Witt/Derick Roy - Northeastern*
*I have no idea who's playing goalie for Northeastern
If you're interested in getting more of my thoughts on the Beanpot, as well as perspective from the other three schools, check out this week's episode of Eastern Bias. They're good people. Except for Shep. Shep is the Jeremy Roenick of Maine.