With a massive snowstorm preventing Maryland and NYU from attending, the Beantown Brawl had to shrink to a ten team tournament divided into two pools of five. In my mind there are four championship contenders (BU, NYDC, Tufts and Emerson). I gave reasons why each of these teams is going to come away victorious and reasons why they'll fall short. For the remaining teams, all of which I think have a shot at advancing to the finals, I previewed in standard quidditch tournament preview style.
Why BU Will Win: Five words. The tournament is in Boston. BU has been virtually unbeatable in the Northeast dating back to last year. It's only when they leave their home field that they've fallen apart. There are very few uncertainties or variables about BU's performace on the field. Brendan Stack has been running that fast break offense since World Cup V, with weapons such as all-around chaser Michael Powell, beaters Max Havlin and Katrina Bossotti, and athletic chaser Blake Parsons only strengthening BU. While other strong teams with complex offensive plays and pieces that need to work together like clockwork will struggle to shake off the winter break rust, BU's offensive production mainly depends on the unquestioned athletic ability and chemistry between Stack, Powell and Parsons. The indoor nature of the tournament will also benefit BU's high-speed passing attack.
Obstacles to the Championship: The obvious answer here is that BU's lack of depth will catch up to them. But, unlike many analysts, I don't see lack of depth being a huge problem for BU as long as it's not 100 degrees. They convincingly beat Emerson in the Northeast Regional Championship finals after a whole weekend of games and a physically taxing semifinal against RIT. They've figured out how to play and how to win big games with limited depth. If BU loses the Beantown Brawl, it will be because the Terriers are not familiar with other championship favorites such as NYDC. Maryland, an unfamiliar team, dropping out of the Brawl certainly raises BU's odds for the championship. BU can beat Emerson, but we can't be sure that they will have the same success against the Capitalists, especially with such little video available. Tufts also poses an unfamiliar threat, because astonishingly, BU is yet to have played the revamped 2013-14 Tufts team at a major tournament.
Why NYDC Will Win: NYDC has been flying under the radar due to semifinal losses at both Turtle Cup and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. If you take away those losses to Tufts and Villanova, which both came under extreme/weird circumstances, NYDC has run the table. They've already beaten many of the potential dark horses in the Beantown Brawl like the Gee-Gees and Macaulay. While the injury of James Hicks and the absences of John Gaffigan and Tony Greco aren't good for NYDC at all, it will force Michael Parada to run the offense most of the time. The situation isn't ideal for the Capitalists, but with extra minutes, Parada has shown at fantasy tournaments that he is certainly capable of a huge and explosive weekend if he can stay healthy. If any team in the country can handle losing three of their top keepers for a major tournament, it's NYDC. Alex Linde and Steve Minnich could also make appearances with the green headband. Otherwise, NYDC's seeking is arguably the best at the tournament, they begin their day against Carleton and the Maple Rush and they've added beater Michael Musatow formerly of VCU over the winter transfer season to strengthen their beater lines.
Obstacles to the Championship: The snowstorm. While the snow has prevented Maryland from trekking up to Boston, NYDC will still be attending the Brawl, but without some key players. Beater Robby May can't make the drive, putting pressure on the Capitalists' new beating addition to have a stellar NYDC debut. As I mentioned, Tony Greco, who was expected to be a key piece in the absence of Hicks and Gaffigan, is unable to get up to Boston. Being incomplete at major tournaments can be dangerous, especially with a major test against BU lurking during pool play.
QC Boston: The Massacre
QC Boston finally came together at the Northeast Regional Championship, blowing through the pool of death. With Victor Viega at the helm, the Massacre's former collegiate stars slotted perfectly into the wing chaser roles showing outstanding playmaking and explosive scoring. The games against Hofstra and Rochester, now available on Rogue Sports TV's YouTube channel, are especially telling of the Massacre's full potential. Although they won't get to exact revenge on NYU, the team that eliminated QCB in the quarterfinals at regionals, QC Boston was given a favorable pool, with winnable matchups against Carleton and the Maple Rush. However, the Massacre will be missing chaser Matt Lowe, beater Bobby O'Neil and possibly chaser Zach D'Amico too. Subtracting the firepower of Lowe and D'Amico and the regularity of having O'Neil in the beating rotation, QCB will really have to fight to get past the Canadian squads.
Carleton University & Maple Rush
A pair of the Canadian contingent heading down to Beantown, Carleton and Maple Rush are a somewhat unknown factor in the first pool. Neither team played the NYDC Capitalists when the silver and black community team attended Trial by Fire and neither team has journeyed into the States yet this season. Carleton was a trendy pick for best Canadian team this fall, before they fell short to the Gee-Gees in the Canadian Regional Championship finals. Carleton has encountered more problems over winter break, losing several key players. The second best team in Canada will enter Boston with a severe lack of female beater depth and seekers. For a team that kept the same core of players together for a long time, roster losses could be difficult to overcome. Maple Rush is led by power keeper Jamie Lafrance and speedy wing chaser Brian Wong. Lafrance carried Maple Rush to snagging the last Canadian qualification spot, putting up 29 goals over the one-day Canadian Regional Championship. Wong impressed at Snow Cup, using his speed to compliment ball carriers in an off-ball role. With a veteran beating presence and a good one-two punch in the quaffle game, Maple Rush is in a position to pull off a big upset.
Why Tufts Will Win: Tufts showed what they are capable of at Turtle Cup, beating Penn State, UNC and Richmond en route to their marathon victory over NYDC. At Turtle Cup, the young, energetic squad from Boston looked complete at every position, with no gaping holes, and three very solid chaser lines. Every blemish on Tufts' résumé seems to have an asterisk. The Turtle Cup finals blowout against Emerson was tainted by Tufts' fatigue from the NYDC game and their quarterfinal loss at the Northeast Regional Championship was without chaser/seeker BJ Mestnik to catch the snitch against RIT. Tufts has shown that they can compete with NYDC, and as I mentioned earlier, Tufts hasn't played an official game against BU yet, so I wouldn't rule out an upset there either. Tufts' beating trio of Michael Sanders, Nora Mueller and Matthew Carderelli is very underrated, and can provide a big boost in the seeking game. With the tournament being played just outside Boston, Tufts is one of the few, lucky teams that won't have to worry about travel and can enter pool play in a good place mentally.
Obstacles to the Championship: Obstacles for Tufts starts with their brutal pool play schedule of Macaulay, RIT Emerson and the Gee-Gees. Escaping that pool undefeated seems unlikely even for a tournament favorite. I mentioned that Tufts' major losses have come with an asterisk of some sort. Well, Tufts' "asterisk" at Beantown Brawl is the absence of Ethan Sturm. With such a young team trying to shake off the rust from nearly three quidditch-less months, Sturm's absence could throw off their focus this weekend. In addition, besides BJ Mestnik, Tufts' seeking has been very inconsistent, needing every ounce of support possible from their beaters to secure a snatch. Rebounding from a potential pool play loss will be key for Tufts, as well as how they handle the pressure should they go 4-0 on Saturday.
Why Emerson Will Win? They've done it before! I don't think people who weren't in attendance at Turtle Cup understand just how big and even miraculous that tournament victory was for Emerson. If Emerson can win Turtle Cup after driving all night, dropping their first game in heartbreaking fashion and missing very important pieces, there's no reason they can't repeat that performance at Beantown with some more stout zone defense. Although they will be missing new keeper Kevin Estavanik and Sean Cardwell, keeper and captain of ECQ from 2011-13 Max Blaushild will be joining Emerson. Blaushild will be worked into Emerson's double defensive keeper rotation with David Fox and Tyler Trudeau, providing a veteran presence. Turtle Cup absentees Pablo Calderon-Santiago and Jackson Maher will try to provide passing outlets for the keepers on the wings. We all know what Fox is capable of, but it is impossible to understate the importance of a key snatch from Tyler Trudeau or a bludger-control-reversing catch from Aaron Wohl to Emerson's chances.
Obstacles to the Championship: Emerson's critics have been quick to jump on their less-than-stellar passing game, citing too many overthrows and missed catches. On an indoor field, Emerson's passing will come under a microscope, as they won't be able to use poor weather conditions to their advantage. Aside from Tyler Trudeau's snatch against Maryland in the Turtle Cup quarterfinals, Emerson's seeking hasn't performed well in the clutch this season, failing to catch the snitch in two tournament finals versus BU and in regulation and OT against the NYDC Capitalists at Turtle Cup. In the nightmare scenario that the Beantown Brawl's venue has any problems that will force physicality to be limited (like bad "carpet" turf or walls too close to the field), Emerson's biggest asset--Fox's physicality--is diminished. Either way, Fox's stamina will be tested as Emerson faces a tough pool play schedule (RIT, the Gee-Gees, Tufts and Macaulay).
Rochester Institute of Technology
RIT's reputation as a physical powerhouse is pretty much solidified in the Northeast now, and teams will be prepared for their hard hitting players. RIT's defense is very organized and does not shy away from initiating physical contact or slowing down the pace of a game. Shane Hurlbert is RIT's go-to scorer and playmaker in the half court offense. For RIT to hang with tournament favorites and pool play foes Tufts and Emerson, Hurlbert will need a performance similar to his four goal game against BU in the Northeast Regional Championship semifinals. Finally, RIT will need to deal with the loss of beater Kyle Savarse, who will be chasing from NYDC. Savarse was an anchor to RIT's defense and one of the best beaters in the Snow Belt.
Macaulay Honors College
Macaulay is dangerous because they can throw many different styles of play at their opponents and they have a scary seeking rotation to close out games. Whether it's a speedy, passing-first chaser line or powerful driving point player, opposing defenses have to be able to handle Macaulay's many styles. Macaulay is only 16-10 and does not have a signature win this season, exiting the Northeast Regional Championship in the quarterfinals versus Emerson and losing to NYDC in an early season BAQC match. However, with a seeking corps led by Andrew Zagelbaum that single-handedly clinched World Cup VII qualification with a 60*^-40 win over Syracuse, Macaulay could make some noise this weekend.
University of Ottawa's Gee-Gees
The Canadian champions, UOttawa's Gee-Gees are carrying the hopes of Eastern Canada into the States to try to prove that they belong in the conversation come April. Gee-Gees' quaffle players Jon Parent and Alex Gouldreau will look to lead the Gee-Gees offense into a tough defensive pool that includes the likes of RIT and Emerson. Facing more organized defenses and more aggressive beating duos, the Gee-Gees offense might get off to a slow start against RIT, but will need to come back stronger against Macaulay and Emerson before closing out their pool play schedule with Tufts.
Pool One: BU 4-0, NYDC 3-1, QCB 2-2, Maple Rush 1-3, Carleton 0-4
Pool Two: Tufts 2-2, Emerson 2-2, RIT 2-2, Macaulay 2-2, Gee-Gees 0-4
Quarterfinals: BU def. Gee-Gees, Emerson def. QCB, Tufts def. RIT, NYDC def. Macaulay
Semifinals: BU def. Emerson, NYDC def. Tufts
Finals: BU def. NYDC