ASNetminding: Tournament time for Boston, Minnesota and now Big Ten


The Beanpot, the North Star College Cup and now the inaugural Super Saturday for the Big Ten at Madison Square Garden.

It’s a a special week for many college hockey teams, and perhaps no bigger tourney takes place than the one in Boston over the first two Mondays of February.

Since 1952, local rivals Boston College, Boston University, Harvard and Northeastern have battled for the Bean, with all but one of the tournaments being held at Boston Garden.

It has become one of the top social events of the season, and traditionally, Beanpot teams figure in the national title hunt.

This season is no exception.

Game 1 on Monday pits seventh-ranked (PairWise) Boston College (16-4-4) against fifth-ranked Harvard (11-4-3). Eleventh-ranked Boston University (13-7-4) has 30 Beanpot titles and takes on 26th-ranked Northeastern (9-12-4) in the nightcap.

It’s not going to be an easy time for the Beanpot teams, either. On Friday, BU hosts Merrimack, BC plays at Notre Dame and Harvard hosts rival Princeton before settling in for the traditional tourney.

The winners play for the title on Feb. 8 following the consolation game.

In-state tournaments are a great way to get fans involved and give players a shot at former teammates or coaches who passed them over. And they’re held in NHL arenas, another bonus.

Boston women also get to enjoy the rivalry tournament, with their semifinals held Tuesday and the finals on Feb. 9. In the first semifinal, Boston College plays Harvard and Boston University plays Northeastern in the nightcap.

Northeastern has won the most women’s titles with 16.

Three years ago Minnesota added a similar tournament with the North Star Cup. Played at the Xcel Engery Center Sunday and Monday, Minnesota, Bemidji State, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State will play for bragging rights in Minneapolis.

What’s unique about the North Star Cup is teams may not play each other without it. Minnesota State (20th, 13-8-5) and Bemidji State (35th, 10-10-5) represent the WCHA while Minnesota (15th, 13-10-0) competes in the Big Ten and St. Cloud State (No. 2, 20-5-1) is in the NCHC.

The only Division I team in Minnesota not competing in the Cup this weekend is Minnesota – Duluth of the NCHC, which travels to Northern Michigan.

Saturday’s games pit Minnesota State against St. Cloud State followed by Minnesota vs. Bemidji State.

The Big Ten is holding its inaugural Super Saturday, a hockey and basketball doubleheader at Madison Square Garden where other college hockey games have drawn over 12,000 fans this season.

Following a men’s basketball game between Michigan and Penn State, the rival schools will take to the ice when sixth-ranked Michigan (14-3-4) takes on the 15th-ranked Nittany Lions. The teams have a tuneup Thursday at Penn State.

Vote for your Hobey favorite

Hobey-Baker-Award-logoThe Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation opened its fan voting last week online, posting photos and profiles of 60 candidates.

The award goes to the top player in college hockey. Last year, Boston University’s Jake Eichel was the runaway winner. This season, no clear-cut favorites have emerged yet.

The foundation’s site directs fans to its Facebook page where you can vote once every 24 hours for your favorite player.

Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko currently leads all vote-getters with 2,528 votes, 10% of all cast. North Dakota forward Drake Caggiula has 2,373 votes (9.5%) and St. Cloud State defensman Ethan Prow (1,856, 7.4%) round out the top three. Omaha forward Austin Ortega (1,444 votes, 5.4%) is the only other player with more than 1,000 votes so far.

Picking a winner is a three-step process, the site says. While fans can now vote, coaches have nominated the three players in their league and the top three in the nation. The list will be trimmed to 10 and then three with the primary voting done by the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Selection Committee, a group of 27 individuals representing print and electronic sports media, college hockey coaches and officials, and NHL scouts.

1,000 wins for York

hockeyeast-bostoncollegeBoston College quickly took the suspense out of when coach Jerry York would earn his 1,000th victory behind the bench last Friday night. Eight players tallied goals and junior goalie Thatcher Demko picked up his nation-leading seventh shutout in an 8-0 rout over Massachusetts.

Following the historic win in front of 4,673 fans, the school released several tidbits to put the historic achievement into context:

  • He reached the 1,000-win mark in his 1,703rd game behind the bench. In all, York’s record is 1,000-595-108 (.619) in 44 seasons overall and 533-260-74 (.658) in his 22nd season at the helm of Boston College.
  • York is the 128th coach across the big four (football, basketball, baseball and hockey) professional sports leagues and Division I college athletics to reach the plateau. At the collegiate level, he is the 55th head coach to reach 1,000-career victories and the first to do so in college hockey.
  • The all-time total goal count in York’s victories is 5,421 goals for and 2,395 goals against.
  • He is 125-87-3 as coach of Clarkson, 342-2248-31 at Bowling Green and 533—260-75 at BC. All told, he’s defeated 69 college teams.
  • His teams have won 488 home games, 344 road games and 168 on neutral sites.
  • Included in his wins are five national titles, eight Beanpots — and seven wins when he coached against BC.
  • York has sent 65 players to the NHL.

Making history

bigten-minnesotaMinnesota women’s coach Brad Frost is now the winningest coach in program history, thanks to a weekend sweep at St. Cloud State.

Frost is 280-44-21 midway through his ninth season at the helm. He surpassed Laura Halldorson’s career mark of 278-67-22 (1997-2007) in Friday’s 7-0 win.

Minnesota is now 21-3-0 and ranked third in the nation.

Blazing hot

nchc-stcloudstateNobody is happier to be done with St. Cloud State this season, especially SCSU forward Joey Benik, than Western Michigan.

The senior forward had two goals and five assists in the Huskies’ 8-3 and 7-3 victories over the weekend. Earlier this season, SCSU swept WMU, 5-2 and 11-1 to outscore the Tigers 31-8 in the four-game regular-season sweep.

Benin’s five points in Friday’s win marked the third time in his career he’s reached that number — twice against WMU.

Junior defenseman Niklas Nevalainen also had a big weekend, dishing out five assists.

Streak snapper

nchc-miamiMiami (Ohio) snapped a seven-game road losing streak and got its first road sweep of the season with 3-1 and 7-3 wins at Omaha.

The Mavericks have now dropped five of six games, including the past four at its new Baxter Arena where it started the season 8-0. Miami’s Sean Kuraly, a senior forward, scored the game-winner of Friday and had four more points in Saturday’s victory.

Loss avenged

bigten-wisconsinThe Wisconsin women’s hockey team avenged its lone loss of the season with a weekend sweep of visiting North Dakota.

The Badgers, ranked No. 2 in the country at 24-1-1, shut out UND 1-0 on Saturday and managed the sweep Sunday with a 3-1 win.

North Dakota blanked the Badgers, 3-0, in Grand Forks earlier this year and also skated to a 0-0 tie. UND is ranked eighth in the latest poll.

Stepping up

nchc-northdakotaWith Hobey Baker Award candidates Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz out with injuries, North Dakota coach Brad Berry put together four lines on Friday that had never played with each other.

After blowing a 4-0 lead on Friday before rallying for a 5-5 shootout victory, UND’s offense hit high gear on Saturday in a 5-1 win.

The 10 goals were a confidence boost for a team that’s relied heavily on its CBS Line — Caggiula, Brock Boeser and Schmaltz — all season.

Leading the charge was underrated freshman Rhett Gardner, who entered the series with just five goals all season but had back-to-back two-goal games to nearly double his season output.

Others stepping up this past weekend:

  • Evan Cowley, Denver: The junior goalie came in relief with his team trailing 2-0 and shut down Minnesota Duluth, allowing just one goal in the final 114 minutes in the series sweep. Cowley turned aside 38 shots in a 3-2 win and 34 more shots in Saturday’s 2-1 victory. UMD went 0-4 on the power play.
  • C.J. Franklin, Minnesota State: The WCHA’s co-leading scorer this past weekend with two goals and three assists in the Mavs’ sweep of Lake Superior State.
  • Brandon Hawkins, Bowling Green: Also had five points on three goals and two assists in BGSU’s sweep over Alaska Anchorage.

Dave Dondoneau

Dave Dondoneau is a freelance writer based in Honolulu