Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beanpot Preview

Ah yes, the Beanpot. It's the time of year when it's so cold that it almost seems like a good idea to stay indoors and watch college hockey despite knowing the tremendous odds against any non-BU team. The only pair of games that matter to BU's fans, and the only opportunity for BC fans to really rub it in. The only chance Harvard has at regional exposure.

These are boring, boring times.

Let's start with Harvard vs BC.

Harvard Crimson - 5-11-3 (5-6-3 ECAC, 7th place)

Remember that time Harvard beat Northeastern in the opening round of the Beanpot, and almost beat BU in the final? Not going to happen this year. Harvard opens against Boston College, the only good team in this tournament this year, and is looking to get shellacked in the way that only a bunch of nerds on skates can. The Crimson have fallen victim to untimely combinations of weak goaltending from Ryan Carroll or nonexistent offense. They managed three wins in a row against Yale, Dartmouth, and Union before tying RPI and losing to Princeton. That was the only time this season they strung together wins, and was the only 2+ game non-losing streak they put together. They avoided winning from November 6th through December 28th, notching a win (just their second of the season) over Qunnipiac on the 29th.

This team is bad. Their peripheral stats aren't awful (18% PP, 79% PK), but they aren't great, and they're getting hurt in 1 goal games at 1-5. Their best player is Louis LeBlanc, with 16 points in 16 games, and their goaltending tandem has become a one-horse race with Carroll putting up substantially better numbers than Richter.

Their mascot is also a color.

Boston College Eagles - 12-8-2 (10-6-2 Hockey East, 2nd place)

BC is the only team in the tournament that has bigger fish to fry than the Beanpot this season. They've cooled down from their torrid pace to start the season, but they've got a resurgent John Muse and the power of Jesus. Actually, Muse has been fairly mediocre, but the Eagles know how to score goals. They're got the second best goals for/against ratio behind UMass Lowell, and they've scored more goals than anyone but Maine.

Their best player is Ryan Gibbons, who's posted 28 points in 23 games, but Cam Atkinson is their best scorer, with 16 goals on the season thus far. 9 of the 22 non-goalies on the roster are NHL draft picks, and they're coached by the lovable Jerry York, the perfect foil to Jack Parker's general air of asshole.

Prediction: BC wins 5-2, and it's not that close.

Boston University - 9-11-3 (7-9-2 Hockey East, 6th place)

BU was having a terrible season coming into the holiday break. Jack Paker, in his annual address to the Friends of BU Hockey, called out several of his players, including the goalie Kieran Millan, and literally mentioned "the Red Sox signed John Lackey" as one of the positives of the season. The man knows how to grind my gears. They've picked it up recently though, winning 5 of their last 7, including the most boring college hockey game ever played outdoors (a 3-2 win over BC). They're getting production from Nick Bonino (21 points in 18 games) and a cluster of players with 17-19 points in a similar number of games. Millan has a season save percentage of .881, which is Dan Cloutier territory. Even recently, the games they've been winning have been 6-4, not 2-2.

BU has time to salvage their season courtesy of some games in hand and the general partiy between teams 2-6 in Hockey East. Of course, if they win the Beanpot, which they likely will, the fans on Comm Ave will see the season as a victory overall.

Northeastern Huskies - 11-11-1 (7-10-1 Hockey East, 7th place)

If you ask me the #1 reason why the Huskies are in danger of missing the playoffs, my answer won't be goaltending. Chris Rawlings has been solid, with a SV% of .907 despite a borderline-bad 2.87 GAA. In fact, the team has allowed the third-fewest goals in Hockey East.

The problem is the offense. With the loss of IPNO favorites Ryan Ginand and Joe Vitale, the offense has produced a meager 59 goals this season, second worst in Hockey East, and has gotten obscenely lucky in one goal games, going 6-2. They've gotten mauled at Vermont 9-2* and lost a winnable game versus Lowell in Matthews Arena 6-5 in overtime. You'll notice only the single tie, something rather uncommon for Northeastern, so some points have been lost there as well.

The Huskies, when they do score goals, are doing it by committee. Kyle Kraemer and Wade MacLeod lead the team with 17 points apiece, but 7 players have 5-9 goals each. Interestingly, the Huskies have allowed only a single empty net goal this season, despite pulling the goalie in 13 games.

The last time expectations were this low for a Beanpot title on Huntington Avenue was my freshman year '05-'06 season when the Huskies entered the first Monday night with a single win to their names. They entered the second Monday having doubled their season win total, only to get shut out 5-0 by Harvard. This is Northeastern's enduring legacy in this godforsaken tournament. Winning this tournament would do a couple things: it would make this season something other than a total loss, it would get my aerodynamics class canceled on Tuesday, and it would lead to substantial amounts of Bud Light finding its way to the stomachs of several hockey players by way of my wallet.

*This was a weird game, because Rawlings got pulled for the second period, and then Mountain got pulled for the third, so Rawlings came back to sleep in the bed he made and Mountain subsequently crapped in.

Prediction: BU wins 4-1, the game is closer than the score indicates.

The championship game results in a 3-2 OT victory for the Eagles, and the Northeastern Invitational ends in an embarrassing 4-2 loss for the host team.

Other possibly Beanpot-related miscellany:
  • Puck Daddy Beanpot Preview - "And it is the single worst tournament in sports. [...] So what, exactly, is so awful about it? BU wins it half the time."
  • Puck Prospectus - Shot Quality - I just think these plots are cool. Lots of neat shit on that site. You'd be surprised at how closely baseball and hockey mirror each other, statistically speaking.
  • The Hockey News - Lecavalier a King? Looking likely, but if they get rid of Wayne Simmonds, I'm going to have to punch someone in the stomach.

Northeastern 74, Old Dominion 64

I could talk about the game, but that's not that interesting. So instead, we're going to talk about Joel Hines.
This is Joel Hines. He is the Director of Basketball Operations for Old Dominion. He is in his second season as the DBO, and he was hired because ""He will bring good work ethic, ambition and knowledge of our setting."

All I know about Joel Hines is that he is a class act. When I was yelling at their bench with lame comments about how they were fat and losing by 15 points, some players laughed. Some ignored me. When I called their head coach Ron Jeremy, some players laughed, some ignored me. But not Joel. Joel decided I needed to be taught a lesson. That I needed to be taught the rules of fan-player interaction.

So he told me to "shut the fuck up, bitch." A few times. He pointed and yelled at me when ODU scored to get within 10. I was flattered, frankly, that I was able to help his team to a closer game by providing the motivation they so clearly needed. I advised him that perhaps they should invite me to all their games, so perhaps I could improve their record. He told me to "keep talking, bitch." His players laughed, smiled at me, and I waved back. These players were clearly out of line. They were supporting a rambunctious fan without informing him that he was being rude and/or inappropriate. They weren't defusing the situation. And all those other players, just ignoring me? Well, that's not very proactive, is it?

The world would be a terrible place without people like Joel Hines, people who understand that you should always break the fan/team barrier. People like Ron Artest. People like Glen Davis. These people understand that their interaction with fans is an important part of encouraging responsible fan behavior.

Good on Joel Hines. Even if his language is a bit rough around the edges.

In other news, the Huskies are unbeatable when they make threes, and Paws appropriately awarded Mark the fan of the game bumper sticker for putting up with my yelling and a possible Atest situation with Mr. Hines.

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