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Weekend preview: Second helpings

November 22, 2012

The Lowell River Hawks (3-5-1, 2-4-1 ) vs. the Princeton Tigers (2-3-1, 2-1-1 ECAC)

4 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.

Lowell is tied for eighth in Hockey East with five points from seven games, Princeton is tied for fifth in the ECAC with five points from three games.

Last three games
Lowell  — 8-2 at Amherst, 0-3 vs. UNH, 3-4 vs. Maine.
Princeton — 2-7 at Clarkson, 3-3 (ot) at St. Lawrence, 4-0 vs. Colgate.

Prior meetings
Lowell leads Princeton 4-3-0, all-time.

Season series
These teams have yet to meet this year, but the last time they did, Princeton swept Lowell 5-2 and 7-2 on consecutive nights in 2010-11.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Josh Holmstrom — 9 GP, 4-3-7 (7 GP, 3-2-5 HE)
Joe Pendenza — 9, 4-3-7 (7, 3-3-6)
Riley Wetmore — 9, 5-0-5 (7, 5-0-5)
Derek Arnold — 9, 2-3-5 (7, 2-2-4)
Scott Wilson — 9, 2-3-5 (7, 2-3-5)

Princeton:
Tyler Maugeri — 6 GP, 5-3-8 (4 GP, 3-3-6 ECAC)
Andrew Calof — 6, 3-5-8 (4, 2-4-6)
Michael Sdao — 6, 2-3-5 (4, 2-1-3)
Andrew Ammon — 6, 1-4-5 (4, 1-4-5)
Eric Meland — 6, 0-5-5 (4, 0-4-4)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Doug Carr (3-4-1) — 9 GP, 492:29, 2.31 GAA/.912 sv% (7 GP, 422:53, 2.55 GAA/.902 sv% HE)
Connor Hellebuyck (0-1-0) — 1, 50:14, 5.97/.821

Princeton:
Michael Condon (2-3-1) — 6 GP, 343:42, 2.97 GAA/.887 sv% (4 GP, 224:51, 3.20 GAA/.865 sv% ECAC)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (9 games) — 21 goals for (2.33/gm), 24 goals against (2.67/gm). Power play 5/37 (13.5%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 27/36 (75.0%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (7 games) — 17 goals for (2.43/gm), 18 goals against (2.57/gm). Power play 4/33 (12.1%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 23/30 (76.7%, 1 SHGF)

Princeton:
Overall (6 games) — 17 goals for (2.83/gm), 18 goals against (3.00/gm). Power play 7/27 (25.9%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 25/31 (80.6%, 0 SHGF)
ECAC (4 games) — 14 goals for (3.50/gm), 13 goals against (4.00/gm). Power play 6/20 (30.0%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 17/22 (77.3%, 0 SHGF)

Outlook
Funny though it may sound, this non-conference game on a Saturday afternoon against a non-conference opponent Lowell hasn’t played in two seasons might be the biggest game of the season to this point. Think about it this way: Lowell either continues to keep its foot on the gas and comes out hard against a team that bleeds goals (18 against in six games? Yeesh) could be the continued boost to the scoring confidence of a team that has looked impressive in attack exactly once so far this season, and that against a third-string goaltender on a bad team.

In theory, Lowell could pump a team that’s stopping far fewer than 90 percent of the shots it faces in a given night, as Clarkson did last weekend, and we could continue to feel better about everything this season, even if the Princeton Tigers, like the Amherst Minutemen before them, don’t exactly constitute the staunchest competition the NCAA has to offer. Continued scoring is the biggest problem this team has had all year (or is at least tied for that spot, but we’ll get to that) and the spark shown by Scott Wilson and Riley Wetmore in particular is encouraging, and we would obviously like to see it further encouraged on Saturday.

But it could also be yet another Waterloo in a series already pretty well jammed with them already. While the lack of goals for has certainly taken the headlines this season, we can’t help but ignore the elephant-sized gorilla in the room: The penalty kill still stinks, even if the goals flooded in last Sunday. Lowell cannot continue giving up a power play goal per game if it has any aspirations for something resembling success, and Princeton seems a pretty good test in that regard. The Tigers’ power play is running at just under 26 percent and scoring more than once a game, which is an interesting counterpoint to Lowell’s turnstile PK if nothing else.

We think Lowell can, should, and will win this game, but if things go a little bit off the rails, as they have so often this season, then we wouldn’t be surprised to see the River Hawks parading to the penalty box like they did in Amherst, and poor Doug Carr fishing pucks out of the back of the net far too often. Again, this is an excellent opportunity to stick with what worked on Sunday, and build upon it, while also tinkering with the things that are still very, very bad. We just hope they take the opportunity.

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