BOSTON -- Every Beanpot brings with it its own storylines, but this is a new one: Not one of the four participating teams looks like an NCAA title contender this season.
A season ago, Boston University and Northeastern were ranked Nos. 1 and 3 in the country, respectively, when they met in the Beanpot title game. This season, three of the four Beanpot teams are below .500. Boston College, at 13-8-2 the only team with its head above water, still isn't where it normally would be at this stage of the season.
"I hope it's not like watching two golfers shoot 90," BU coach Jack Parker said.
Here's the silver lining: If there ever was a year for either Harvard or Northeastern to break the traditional BC-BU stranglehold on the Beanpot, this would be it. One or the other has won the event since 1993, but both of the last two national champions have endured heavy personnel losses in recent years and might be ripe for the taking.
"This year's field is so wide open," said Parker, whose team has won more Beanpot titles than the other three combined. "We've beaten BC twice and they've beaten us once. Northeastern beat us in the best game we played all year, I thought. We've beaten Harvard, but Harvard's playing much better right now. It's anybody's tournament, that's for sure -- more so than in any other year."
A capsule look at the four teams that will tangle in the 58th Beanpot semifinal games on Monday:
Boston College vs. Harvard, 5 p.m.
Boston College (13-8-2)
Top scorers: Brian Gibbons (9 goals, 19 assists); Cam Atkinson (16 goals, 10 assists)
Top goaltender: John Muse (2.61 goals-against average, .901 save percentage)
The Eagles can win: If they keep Harvard from tallying three goals. The formula has been relatively simple for Boston College this season. If they allow two or fewer goals, they win. If they allow three or more goals, they lose. Not since Nov. 27 against Clarkson have the Eagles won a game in which they've allowed more than three goals, including a 5-4 loss in overtime to Boston University 10 days ago. It doesn't help that defensemen Tommy Cross (knee) and Patrick Wey (wrist) will miss the Beanpot, meaning freshmen Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson will have to log extra minutes.
Top scorers: Louis Leblanc (9 goals, 8 assists), Michael Biega (5 goals, 11 assists)
Top goaltender: Ryan Carroll (2.56 goals-against average, .924 save percentage)
The Crimson can win: If Leblanc goes off. The freshman is a rock star north of the border -- his hometown Montreal Canadiens drafted him in the first round of last year's NHL draft -- but remains a relative unknown here. He most recently scored two goals in a game in a 4-1 win over Dartmouth on Jan. 18, including the go-ahead goal midway through the second period. Against Boston College, the second-stingiest defense in Hockey East, the Crimson's top line is going to have to do some damage -- and what better time for a coming-out party for Leblanc than the Beanpot?
Boston University vs. Northeastern, 8 p.m.
Boston University (9-11-3)
Top scorers: Nick Bonino (6 goals, 15 assists), Kevin Shattenkirk (3 goals, 16 assists)
Top goaltender: Kieran Millan (3.31 goals-against average, .881 save percentage)
The Terriers can win: If history repeats itself. Not only has Boston University won more than half of the Beanpot titles contested, including seven since 2000, but the Terriers have reached the title game in 26 of the past 28 seasons. Before a first-round loss to eventual national champion Boston College in 2008, BU hadn't failed to reach the Beanpot title game since 1994. Even worse for Northeastern, the Terriers have a better record against the Huskies (30-7) than against the other two traditional Beanpot combatants. If ever a team has come into a tournament with history on its side, it's BU at the Beanpot.
Top scorers: Kyle Kraemer (9 goals, 8 assists), Wade MacLeod (8 goals, 9 assists)
Top goaltender: Chris Rawlings (2.87 goals-against average, .907 save percentage)
The Huskies can win: If Chris Rawlings steals it for them. The first time these two teams met, the freshman goaltender made 43 saves, including 19 in the second period, to earn his first career shutout. The Terriers even had seven power-play opportunities -- including a five-minute major to finish the game -- but came up empty. The save percentage of the 6-foot-5 Rawlings ranks sixth in Hockey East, but an awful game at Vermont two weeks ago skewed what has otherwise been a relatively impressive rookie campaign.
Brian MacPherson is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.