Tommy Cross

Back to Class: Let’s talk about the Beanpot Tournament

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We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. Look for more college hockey on NBCSN this Friday night as Boston University takes on Maine at 7:30 p.m. ET.

This year’s Beanpot Tournament final features one usual fixture in Boston College and another not-so usual team in Northeastern. BC has won the last three tournaments and four of the last five while Northeastern has won it four times in the now 61-year history of the event.

Not seeing BC facing off against Boston University makes this year’s final a bit of an oddity as those two schools have traded off winning the tournament in each of the past 18 years. Not since Harvard won it in 1993 has a team other than BC or BU taken home the trophy.

That in itself takes a bit away from the whole event, but it changes the rooting interest for fans in a year like this where one of the usual also-rans get a shot to take it home.

A Northeastern win tonight would put a charge back into the annual tournament. BC haters would get a chance to pile on them for breaking the string and the school with the fewest Beanpot titles would get something to hang their hat on. After all, it’s been 25 years since Northeastern last won it.

The odds are stacked against them to do that as this is the time of year when BC kicks their game into gear and starts really warming up for the NCAA tournament.

Funny things can happen at the Beanpot though. It was just two years ago when these two teams faced off for the title and saw the Eagles take home a wild 7-6 overtime victory. Maybe Northeastern can capture some Cinderella spirit and pull off an upset.

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The Final Five is done: The WCHA decided against continuing with their Final Five format next season with their newly array of schools. The event has always been a tremendous one to take in in St. Paul, Minnesota but this year’s iteration of it will be the last one thanks to conference rejiggering. Now they’ll be doing just a boring old regular tournament. Boo, hiss.

Outdoor game troubles: North Dakota and Nebraska-Omaha’s second game of the weekend was played outdoors at the home of the College Baseball World Series. It was, uh, a bit of a disaster as the game was delayed for two-and-a-half hours and saw other issues crop up. Yikes. By the way, UND swept the weekend over UNO.

Please, keep ignoring Quinnipiac: Ho-hum, just another victorious weekend for the Pairwise Rankings No. 1 team. The Bobcats stomped Cornell 4-1 on Friday and edged out Colgate 3-2 on Saturday. They’re 21-3-4 on the season and are unbeaten in 20 straight games. After Minnesota’s loss to St. Cloud on Saturday night, perhaps this week is the one where the pollsters finally plug them in at No. 1 in their polls that don’t mean anything.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.