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Weekend preview: Four points required

January 19, 2012

The Lowell River Hawks (12-6-0, 7-5-0 HE) vs. the Northeastern Huskies (8-9-3, 4-9-2 HE)

7 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.
7 p.m. Saturday at Matthews Arena, Boston, Mass.

Lowell is sixth in Hockey East with 14 points from 12 games. Northeastern is ninth in Hockey East with 10 points from 15 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 2-3 (ot) at Vermont, 6-4 vs. Russian Red Stars (exh.), 4-3 (ot) at UConn.
NU — 1-2 vs. Boston College, 3-4 vs. Boston University, 4-7 vs. U.S. Under-18 Team (exh.).

Prior meetings
Lowell lost 3-2 at Northeastern earlier this year because of a terrible coaching decision.

Season series
Lowell leads Northeastern 53-40-7, all-time.

Top scorers
Lowell:
David Vallorani — 18 GP, 8-10-18 (12 GP, 5-8-13 HE)
Matt Ferreira — 17, 7-11-18 (11, 5-6-11)
Riley Wetmore — 18, 7-10-17 (12, 4-5-9)
Scott Wilson — 17, 8-8-16 (11, 5-4-9)
Chad Ruhwedel — 17, 2-14-16 (11, 2-8-10)

NU:
Steve Quailer — 18 GP, 7-12-19 (13 GP, 4-6-10 HE)
Ludwig Karlsson — 18, 8-10-18 (13, 8-5-13)
Vinny Saponari — 20, 3-12-15 (15, 1-10-11)
Braden Pimm — 18, 8-6-14 (13, 2-3-5)
Garrett Vermeersch — 20, 4-9-13 (15, 1-6-7)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Doug Carr (11-3-0) — 14 GP, 853:43, 1.97 GAA/.928 sv% (10 GP, 600:42, 2.20/.924 HE)

NU:
Chris Rawlings (8-8-3) — 19 GP, 1,131:10, 2.39 GAA/.928 sv% (14 GP, 826:10, 2.61/.925 HE)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (18 games) — 64 goals for (3.56/gm), 46 goals against (2.56/gm). Power play 20/94 (21.3%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 60/72 (83.3%, 2 SHGF)
Hockey East (12 games) — 40 goals for (3.33/gm), 35 goals against (2.92/gm). Power play 13/58 (22.4%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 41/49 (83.7%, 1 SHGF)

NU:
Overall (20 games) — 59 goals for (2.95/gm), 52 goals against (2.60/gm). Power play 9/90 (10.0%, 4 SHGA), penalty kill 75/95 (78.9%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (15 games) — 38 goals for (2.53/gm), 43 goals against (2.87/gm). Power play 5/59 (8.5%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 51/66 (77.3%, 2 SHGF)

Outlook
Last week we said that Lowell absolutely positively had to win at Vermont. Because the River Hawks were (and still are, despite the loss) that much better than the Catamounts.

This week we say that Lowell absolutely positively has to win both games against Northeastern. Not just because the River Hawks are (despite an earlier loss this season) that much better than the Huskies. But because the season is riding on it.

It’s a little bit comical, we guess. Saying that the season is riding on a two-game home-and-home series with a ninth-place team in mid-January. But it’s at least symbolically true. The Huskies are, by and large, and despite what their rockhead supporters will tell you, not appreciably better than Vermont. They have a good goaltender and not much else. No offense. Atrocious power play. Bad penalty kill. And yet they beat the River Hawks the last time out for reasons we don’t care to explore again for the sake of our sanity.

But the River Hawks, who once looked like a mortal lock to pull home ice with ease and maybe even compete for the league, have been decidedly average since beating Boston College at Tsongas Center in early December. They were punchless against Northeastern in the final game before break, then brought some competition to Connecticut and used almost all of it against RPI (requiring OT to beat UConn for some awful reason), and then played about half a good game against a garbage Vermont team. Two wins from four straight games against teams that are all well below .500, with both losses coming in Hockey East play, is not the way teams which want to be bound for the NCAA tournament handle things.

And so the reason Lowell has to beat Northeastern twice this weekend is also because these two games are as much about re-establishing Lowell as a team worthy of consideration for the praise heaped on it in the final weeks of the first half as it is the four points, which Lowell now officially needs to earn.

We won’t be happy with anything less than a sweep. This is more than pride and revenge we’re talking about.

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