The four schools playing in Monday night’s Beanpot Tournament at TD Garden all have had challenges this season, some more than others.
Boston College (15-7-2) righted the ship with a 4-1 Hockey East victory over Vermont Friday night after dropping four of its previous five games. A big part of that win was the play of senior goaltender Parker Milner, who had 38 saves.
Milner said even though the Eagles had a 10-game winning streak earlier in the season, they took nothing for granted then or now.
“It’s a tough league,’’ said Milner. “I don’t think we’re doing things horribly. My opinion is we weren’t as good as everyone thought when we were 11-2 at the beginning of the year, and now we’re not as bad as everyone thinks. No one likes to lose but we’re trying to work through it.’’
One of the vulnerabilities shown by BC has been defense. The Eagles have been working hard to resolve that.
“I think we can all do better defensively and that starts with me,’’ said Milner. “No question I can play better than I have as of late. No question the forwards can do a better job defensively, and the [defensemen] can too. We can all do a better job. We want to put the emphasis on the defense and the offense will come.’’
Prior to beating the Catamounts, BC was swept in two games by last-place Maine at Conte Forum.
“That wasn’t fun to be a part of for sure, but we learned a lot about our team and hopefully that will help us moving forward,’’ said Milner. “It’s easy for everyone to pin all the blame on the [defense when things go wrong] because we have four freshman defensemen in the lineup every night. I don’t think that’s the case at all. I want to play better than I’m playing and a lot of the older guys want to put in a better effort, as well.
“We were winning but we were still not where we wanted to be, but it creeps into your head, ‘Well, we are pretty good.’ Maybe it took us getting knocked flat [against Maine] to realize, ‘Hey, we’re not that good right now.’ ’’
Last season, BC’s trip to Maine proved to be the turning point of the season. The Eagles were swept at Alfond Arena on Jan. 20 and 21. After that, BC won 19 in a row on the way to the NCAA championship. Milner cautioned against assuming that scenario could play out again this year.
“We’re trying to separate ourselves from last year because it’s a different team,’’ said Milner. “We don’t really want anyone thinking it’s just going to happen automatically. We have to make this turnaround happen. It’s not going to be the same story as last year. It’s going to be this year’s story and we’ll try to make it a special one.‘’
The Eagles are hoping their Beanpot opener against struggling Harvard (5-14-1) could provide a springboard to another successful run. Milner said it’s always special to compete in the tournament.
“It’s such an indescribably cool thing to be a part of,’’ said Milner. “It’s unique. We know what it means and we love playing in it.’’
Needing a boost
Speaking of Harvard, the Crimson are coming off a 3-0 loss at Rensselaer. It was their seventh defeat in a row and 12th in the last 14 games (1-12-1). Coach Ted Donato, who has had his roster thinned because of injuries and the school’s academic scandal, has remained optimistic that the Crimson can find a way to win more games, and a win over BC and ultimately the Beanpot trophy would go a long way toward giving the program a needed boost.
“It’s a great opportunity,’’ said Donato. “We’re playing Goliath, so to speak, in college hockey over the last few years. I think the guys are excited. It’s one game and we’ll put our best out there.’’
Donato said he’s hoping Monday will be the start of a turnaround.
“We’ve even used consolation games to springboard ourselves toward the end of the season and the playoffs,’’ he said. “Last year, I think even the win in the consolation game [over Northeastern] helped us really springboard to make it to the ECAC championship game. I think we’re looking for that kind of experience, but obviously we want to win.’’
Inside the numbers
Harvard, which is seeking its 11th Beanpot title, last won it in 1993. BC is the defending champion and the Eagles have won 17 titles, including three straight and four in the last five seasons. Boston University (13-10-1) squares off against Northeastern (7-13-3) in Monday’s early game. The Huskies are 1-4-2 in their last seven and last won a Beanpot in 1988. The Terriers, who are 1-3-1 in their last five, have won the Beanpot 29 times, including seven from 2000-09.