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Sunday thoughts: Sais tu, Acadie, j’ai le mal du pays

October 5, 2009

As exhibition games against Canadian opponents go, this was a fairly uneventful one.

Yeah, the River Hawks carried play in their 3-0 victory, as you’d expect, and no, it wasn’t as big a win as it probably could have been, but one got the feeling that Lowell wasn’t so much concerned with running up the score (as New Hampshire did to these same Axemen the night prior) as they were playing a very Lowellian game.

They kept the puck to the boards, and for the most part dominated them, and tried to set up most of their attacks in transition and off turnovers. Three different lines and defensive pairings got on the board, and Lowell did outshoot its opponent 35-16. Really all you can ask for from a team perspective, even if it took the boys about half of the first period to get their feet under them.

We were a little surprised, by the way, that Lowell rolled pretty much a full complement of everyday players, with two freshman forwards and TIIL favorite Timmy Corcoran sprinkled in for a change of pace (and because both teams were allowed two extra skaters).

The team effort was certainly there for the most part, but this was more about individual effort and establishing a rhythm, which we think most of the lines did. Some of them were, we thought, rather interesting.

Kory Falite’s spot on the Ben Holmstrom-Paul Worthington line seems to have been permanently surrendered to Chris Auger, which seems to work out well enough for everyone. They worked well enough together even if they didn’t have a point. They netted five shots between them (Holmstrom had three), which isn’t bad at all. Both Holmstrom and Auger were also on the ice when freshman Riley Wetmore, who was skating on a couple different lines as the game’s extra forward, popped home the opening goal on a real crisp pass from Barry Goers at the halfboards that was setup by a very nice little interchange between Goers and extra d-man Corcoran, who looked very together and composed once again. He’s a very impressive player considering how little time he’s gotten at Lowell.

Wetmore looked promising overall, and he, like fellow freshman forward Joe Caveney, looked pretty damn good at the little things. Good heads for the game on both of them, we thought. We were especially impressed with the latter, who was the right wing on the quote-unquote fourth line with Kory Falite and Scott Campbell (and we suppose that solves the “Who will Soup play with now?” question, at least for the time being). Despite not being especially size-y — he’s listed as 5-11, 183 — Caveney was pretty much fearless in going toward the goal against a pretty big Acadia backline and helped to create some havoc in the neutral zone on their breakouts. It was just such an occasion that afforded the ‘Hawks their third goal, as he helped Maury Edwards pop a puck loose at center ice and took Falite on a 2-on-1 the other way. Falite, of course, buried the chance after corralling Caveney’s cross-ice pass.

And a relative newcomer chipped in on Lowell’s other goal, as Mike Scheu, who’s about to play his first full season with Lowell, tipped a low point shot from Nick Schaus into the top of the net for a power play goal that made the game 2-0. Nothing much to say about it other than good job, one supposes. It’s the kind of power play goal the River Hawks will probably be able to score all year.

The other lines were David Vallorani with Mike Budd and Jonathan Maniff flanking him, and Scheu with Matt Ferreira and Pat Cey. Both were just alright. The D pairings were just as they’ve always been, with Corcoran getting a little time alongside a few different guys. They all made strong plays when needed.

In fact, all three goals were illustrative of that old Lowell adage: the defense powers the offense. Of the nine points given out tonight, five went to the defense and two of the three goals came directly off a defenseman’s pass. Sounds good to us.

Lowell used its three goalies, and only one was forced to make a really difficult save. Carter Hutton enjoyed a largely effortless 26:08, making just nine saves, only one was which, a shot from David Clarkson (notable only because he once committed to Lowell then declined over the whole Tocco Fiasco) was even remotely threatening, and Hutton gloved it with aplomb. The other chance of note was a on 2-on-1 which the Acadia puck carrier chose to slap at him from the circle despite having a man going hard to the net. The shot hit Hutton in the stomach, much to their coaches’ dismay, we’re sure.

But it was Nevin Hamilton who made the stop of the night, coming across his crease to stop a bad-angle shot from the bottom of the left circle with what was either his blocker or the side of his torso. The puck dropped right in front of the goal line at the post, and he somehow held it in the face of three Axemen crashing his crease. It was very impressive, but he only had to make five saves in 23:57 of work. And finally Michael Heffron got a good nine minutes or so of action in Hamilton’s stead, turning aside two shots, neither of which were especially troubling.

This is not to say the game was without flaws. Lowell did turn the puck over a bit too often, especially in the defending and neutral zones, and tried to get too cute with its passes and dekes at times. But this wasn’t exactly a game rife with tension, and if you’re going to pick a game to try to get away with that stuff, then why not have it be this one? It could be worse. As far as we could tell, nobody got hurt.

And the ‘Hawks could have lost to a Canadian team like Vermont and Amherst did.

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