College hockey notebook: Harvard basks in Beanpot glow; NMU’s Tolvanen on brink of history
The last time Harvard won the Beanpot, Tag Team was just about to drop “Whoomp! (There it is),” Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears were still card-carrying members of the Mickey Mouse Club and Ruth Bader Ginsburg was still months away from being appointed to the Supreme Court. It’s been a while.
The Crimson ended their 24-year Beanpot drought Monday by beating Boston University 6-3 at TD Garden. In the process, Harvard ended 24 consecutive years of Boston College and BU trading the title back and forth. Score one for Cambridge, finally.
As much as winning the Beanpot means to Harvard, and it surely meant a lot, the victory is just another step for a team that has been as good as anybody this season. The dominating effort helped vault Harvard into the top three in the Pairwise rankings as they continue to battle for a top seed in the national tournament.
Beyond ending the drought and moving up in the rankings, Harvard was just flat out better than BU in the Beanpot and that was evident from the drop of the puck. With contributions from throughout their lineup, Harvard outshot the Terriers 46-17 in the title game.
Five different Crimson players registered multiple points in the game including defenseman Adam Fox, who had a goal and an assist. Fox has been one of the top freshman producers in the country at any position, averaging 1.17 points per game from the blue line. His rate of production is even higher than that of former Michigan standout and current Columbus Blue Jackets rookie Zach Werenski at the same age, making him one of the most productive 18-year-old defensemen in college hockey in decades.
While Fox’s freshman status makes him stand out a little bit more, Harvard has six players on its roster that are averaging a point-per-game or better. Senior Alex Kerfoot, who scored what stood up to be the game-winning goal, leads the team with 31 points. This depth of production has made them a tough matchup for anyone.
With the Beanpot now in hand, the Crimson are currently riding an eight-game unbeaten streak with just four games to play in the regular season. They have a really good chance to add more hardware before the season is up.
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The Crimson trail Union by just one point in the ECAC standings with four conference games left. With the way they’re playing, they’ve got a great shot at winning the Cleary Cup as ECAC regular-season champions. That said, St. Lawrence and Cornell both remain within striking distance as well.
Considering Harvard lost a bedrock player last year in Hobey Baker Winner Jimmy Vesey, the Crimson continue exceeding expectations in 2016-17. Winning the Beanpot over a strong Boston University squad only brings more credibility to what Harvard has been doing pretty much all season. They’re definitely a team to watch more closely as the tournament approaches.
Northern Michigan’s Tolvanen eyes NCAA record
Up to this point, it had not been a terribly fun season for the Northern Michigan Wildcats. However, what goaltender Atte Tolvanen is doing right now might be enough to allow NMU to put aside the overall record and just enjoy the ride a little bit.
The sophomore netminder has not allowed a goal in any of his last five starts. Those five consecutive shutouts set the WCHA record and tied the NCAA mark. A tough road game against Minnesota State Friday will test the Finnish goalie in his bid to become the sole owner of that record.
It has been 335 minutes and 49 seconds since Tolvanen was last scored on. The all-time record for consecutive shutout minutes is held by Lake Superior State’s Blaine Lacher, who went 375:01 between goals in 1994.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the streak for Tolvanen is that he has had to really work for it. In the shutout that helped him tie the NCAA record, the sophomore stopped 48 shots. He has faced no less than 34 shots in any of his five straight shutouts.
Before starting the streak, Tolvanen had not recorded any shutouts this season. He is now 10-17-4 with a .923 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average.
Conference regular-season titles up for grabs
Most conferences will see their regular seasons end in the next two to three weeks and all but one are likely to go down to the wire.
Over in the WCHA, the Bemidji State Beavers already have the MacNaughton Cup in hand and can focus their energies on winning the conference tournament to earn their way into the national tournament.
Having already addressed the WCHA here and the ECAC race above, here’s a quick look around and the other races.
Atlantic Hockey: It’s looking like a two-horse race or the top spot in the conference. Canisius has a one-point advantage over Air Force, but the Falcons have a game in hand. The first-place Golden Griffins are riding a 12-game unbeaten streak into the final three games of the regular season, while USAFA closes out the year with a pair of series against RIT and Sacred Heart, both in the bottom half of the standings in AHA.
Big Ten: Penn State did Minnesota a real solid by sweeping Wisconsin to break a first-place deadlock and giving the Golden Gophers sole possession of the top spot. However, there’s still a lot of runway left in the Big Ten regular season with four weekends of intra-conference matchups before tournament play begins. The Gophers have a three-point advantage over the Badgers, but Penn State and Ohio State remain in striking distance.
Hockey East: With two weekends remaining in the regular season in Hockey East, Boston College is holding onto the top spot with some challengers rather close. Boston University is most likely to challenge for the title as the Terriers are just three points back. Notre Dame and UMass-Lowell are four points away, while Providence is looking more like a longshot at five points back. BC’s regular-season-ending series against UMass-Lowell is going to be a particularly big one in two weeks.
NCHC: Is this ever a fun two-horse race. Minnesota-Duluth sat idle last weekend while Denver swept past local rival Colorado College to take a one-point lead in the standings into the final weeks of the season. There are still three weekends of conference play in the NCHC. UMD’s next two series are against the NCHC basement dwellers, CC and Miami, before closing out the regular season against Western Michigan. Meanwhile, Denver heads to Miami this weekend before a pair of tough series against St. Cloud State and Omaha. With how the Bulldogs and Pioneers have played, this is going to be a lot of fun to watch.