Loose pucks: Back in the saddle?
Three things oui:
1) A win at last.
Yes, it took a lot longer than anyone involved would have liked, but Lowell is finally a team with a game in the win column, and that’s something for which we should all be thankful. Muddling through the first two games, even when dictating pace and tone, is an avenue we can’t see the team returning to this season if it has any designs on being successful. We hope that the strong if unemphatic win in Colorado Springs — that, like the four-goal deficit in Denver the night before, was not indicative of how well Lowell played — can lead to two or even four points this coming weekend. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Let’s not forget that Lowell started out last season at 2-3-0.
2) Josh Holmstrom.
Well at least someone has shown up for every game. He’s the only River Hawk to score in the first two games, and set up the game-winner on a hard shot from the wing in the third, and right now he’s the early leader for team MVP. Obviously there’s still miles to go before that’s even close to being nailed down, but you really couldn’t have asked for a stronger start to the season out of the kid. We’re starting to see more of his brother in him every single game.
3) Doug Carr.
Another strong outing in Colorado Springs and the team finally gave him the run support he needed to get the win. This is shaping up to be a big, big year for the junior netminder, and if the Lowell offense gets on track in the (very) near future, there’s no telling how far this team goes.
Two things non:
1) Things don’t get easier.
Of course, while going out to Colorado and splitting with Denver and CC is at least a somewhat praiseworthy feat (not that Lowell couldn’t or shouldn’t have had realistic plans of unseating both), coming back for a weekend series against BC is hardly something to get ecstatic about. Opening season loss and Amherst-meltdown-assisted second-game win aside, there’s still no reason to think these reigning national champion Eagles can’t gut anyone they like on any night they please. Lowell can’t take a period off like it did against Denver or Vermont, and one suspects that both Lowell’s failure to draw penalties and eagerness to commit them won’t serve the River Hawks well in their second and third league games.
2) The continuing non-production of what should be the top line.
We understand that Norm Bazin has been loath to combine Riley Wetmore, Derek Arnold, and Scott Wilson this season until things turn sour on offense, but while there’s something to be said both for and against putting all your eggs in one basket, the simple fact remains that apart from Arnold’s power play shot getting tipped home by Holmstrom on Friday, the offensive contribution from the team’s three most theoretically-effective scorers has been minimal. Sure, Riley Wetmore is averaging five shots a game, and Arnold has 11 through 185 minutes, but one always got the feeling that it was Scott Wilson, who has just five shots and no points this season, who made that line go. Granted, teams will be marking all three far more closely this season after the carnage their wrought last time around, but the best offensive players in the league — like Johnny Gaudreau — find ways around that. To this point, Lowell’s top trio has largely failed in that attempt, and it needs to find its way as soon as possible.
Stat of the Week
We mentioned earlier that last year’s 24-win season started out not-so-hot for Lowell, as the team went 2-3-0 in its first five games. So we decided to see just how common something like that was, and what that might portend for this year. Here, then, are all the 20-win seasons in Lowell’s Division 1 history, and how the River Hawks/Chiefs started out in those:
1986-87 (22-12-2): 3-1-1
1987-88 (20-17-2): 1-4-0
1992-93 (20-17-2): 4-1-0
1992-93 (25-10-5): 4-0-1
1995-96 (26-10-4): 3-0-2
2001-02 (22-13-3): 4-1-0
2004-05 (20-12-4): 3-2-0
2008-09 (20-16-2): 3-2-0
2011-12 (24-13-1): 2-3-0
So, you see, it seems as though last year (and 1987-88, when literally none of this current team’s players were yet born) was a bit of an aberration, and that teams that tend to start out the year above .500. We understand that the mathematical principle behind having more wins early in the season leads to more wins later in the season isn’t the most difficult one to wrap one’s head around, but the point remains. If Lowell wants to convince everyone, and itself, of its credentials, winning this weekend is an absolute must.
We’re not exactly psyched to have to go out to the Heights on a Sunday afternoon, but then it seems that no one really is. Sunday afternoon games are the absolute worst thing about college hockey. We’re sure you can all agree.