On Wednesday afternoon, the talk at TD Garden was centered around the 61st Annual Beanpot Tournament, which commences Monday night. - John Quackenbos
Despite the Huskies' historical struggles in the Beanpot, Jim Madigan and Northeastern have set their sights on victory on Monday night against BU - a full recap and notes from Wednesday's Tournament Luncheon at TD Garden.
BOSTON -- The go of the 2012-13 Hockey East season has not been smooth for the Northeastern Huskies, but on Monday night at TD Garden, everything will be wiped clean.
The Beanpot Tournament will take center stage on Causeway Street beginning at 5 p.m. that evening, and the underdog Hounds have set their sights on the venerable prize.
It will be a fresh start, and head coach Jim Madigan made that clear on Wednesday afternoon at the annual Tournament Luncheon in the Garden's Budweiser Legends Club. For the Huskies, the record will then stand at 0-0 and the chance to win is equal.
"The Beanpot always comes at the right time of the year," Madigan said. "So if you are playing well as you approach the Beanpot, you are obviously looking at [it to launch] you into the last stretch and the playoff run...And if you are not playing well, you can use it as a launch to...win a big, significant tournament and help you through the last ten games of the year."
NU has not seen success in the tournament for much of its 60-year history, leaving fans on Huntington Avenue searching for when their moment will arrive. The Huskies have played for a title just 14 times in its history in Boston, winning it just four times - all in the 1980's.
Madigan is the school's posterboy for Beanpot success. He is the only NU face to have been part of three of 'Pot trophy-raising campaigns - two as a player from 1984-85, before helping the squad to the 1988 title as an assistant coach to former Boston Bruin Fernie Flaman.
When asked for the first words that come to mind when talking about the Beanpot, Madigan called it the "Boston Championship, giving the winner a chance to sit as "the king of the hill in this city against three other real good opponents who have always been at a national level."
"For Northeastern, we have not had the success we wanted in the last few years in this tournament, it's an opportunity for us to gain credibility in this city and get us on the mantle of winning it. It's an athletic must, it's a social must. It's the city championship where the whole city participates in one event."
More confidence for Monday's game comes from the fact NU has already emerged victorious against the opposing Terriers - a 6-5 win less than three weeks ago, on Jan. 18.
"What both teams can take from that game, no matter if we won or they won, it's understanding...The familiarity of having played each other within a three-week time just helps you game plan a bit more. They know how we play, we know how they play."
Entering Friday's game with New Hampshire and Monday's clash with perennial Beanpot, NU will be without some key bodies though, as a pair of defensemen - freshman Dustin Darou and senior Drew Ellement - remain on the sidelines and will for a considerable chunk of time with lower body injuries.
"We'll have to get some contributions from some other guys, some freshmen...Josh Manson played 30-plus minutes on Saturday...so even though he is a sophomore, I would consider him an upperclassman who is ready to log some minutes. We'll end up playing four freshmen there and Dan Cornell will assume some more minutes."
However, one key forward could make his return in the near future.
"Everyone is banged up at this time of the year," Madigan said. "But we are hopeful to have [Ludwig] Karlsson back, so that would be a good sign...so that gives us some balance up front on our lines. We'll work out with five or six D and work with a rotation there that will keep everyone in the game."
Senior captain Vinny Saponari has quite a share of Beanpot memories, which also span to Commonwealth Avenue and the Terriers. He will line up against his former mates in the Garden for the first time on Monday and feels the Huskies just need to play their game, like it is just the ordinary.
"I think it is important to preach to the young guys," Saponari, a Powder Springs, Ga. native said. "Last year, we were young too and I don't think we were prepared for the stage, prepared for the pressure that comes in playing in the Beanpot."
"It was a big stage and we didn't handle it well. I think it is important this year to just preach that we prepare the same way, like it's a normal day, and look at it the same way. The year before, we didn't [have a good start] and it cost us. We lost pretty embarrassingly and it left a bitter taste in our mouth."
TIP OF THE CAP, JERRY!
For his accomplishments as a player and coach in the Beanpot Tournament, Boston College legend Jerry York was named as the lone inductee into the Tournament Hall of Fame for 2013.
York helped the Eagles capture the title as a player in 1965 in his only trip to the championship game, despite scoring three goals and four assists as a senior in 1967 in a losing effort - the third-highest point total by any player in a single Beanpot.
Additionally, he has led his alma mater to a 24-12 record and six titles in the 'Pot during his time behind the bench, including the last three in as many years.
BC, BU PERSONNEL UPDATES
For the Eagles, freshman defenseman Michael Matheson, who was injured early in a 9-3 win on Jan. 19 at Northeastern, will return to a revamped line-up on Friday night against Vermont, according to head coach Jerry York. However, classmate Colin Sullivan will not be back and a timetable was not disclosed.
On the BU side, freshman Matt O'Connor will get the starting goaltender nod against the Huskies on Monday night, beating out Sean Maguire. Sophomore Evan Rodrigues is also expected to return to the line-up Friday at UMass.
FROM THE STAT FILES
The current Boston College senior class has yet to lose a Beanpot game, while BU's group would become the first since 1965 to leave Commonwealth Avenue without a title if the Terriers do not win on two successive Mondays. ... Northeastern head coaches have never placed higher than third in a Beanpot during their second year behind the bench. Three, including Greg Cronin in 2007, have placed third. ... 29-time tourney winner Boston University is 17-2 in semifinal matches against the Huskies, a stretch that began with seven consecutive wins. The Terriers have advanced to the title game in 27 of the last 30 years. ... Harvard has lost to the eventual national champion (Boston College in 2008 and 2010, Boston University in 2009) in three straight Beanpots before two years ago. ... Harvard or Northeastern has not won the title since 1993. The Huskies are currently in a title drought that has reached a full quarter-century. ... Since 1952, Boston schools have won ten national titles and in each of those campaigns, the winner captured the Beanpot that February.
ON THE TUBE
NESN will provide annual coverage of the tournament once again this year. Tom Caron will call the play-by-play for both semifinals and the championship, while Boston Bruins color analyst Andy Brickley and rinkside reporter Naoko Funayama will also join the broadcast.
Joshua Kummins covers Hockey East for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.