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Saturday thoughts: I’m a-wonderin’ if she remembers me at all

January 5, 2013

That was a pretty comprehensive win in all aspects, and it was so convincing that we’re inclined to say that, scorelines aside, we haven’t seen Lowell push a team around that much perhaps all year. A 6-2 win doesn’t appropriately reflect how thoroughly Lowell ran this game.

On the other hand, if you look at the score and you say to yourself, “Well, Lowell actually didn’t even outshoot them that heavily,” you’re technically right. History will remember this, because of the recorded statistics, as being a game in which final shots were 24-23, and in which Lowell didn’t outshoot the hosts in any period but the final one. But it seems that in some cases, history is written by the losers. There was, if we can put this as nicely as possible, no way in the flaming depths of hell Clarkson escaped that first period having conceded just seven shots.

The stats further note that Lowell only attempted 19 shots, one of which hit the post, and that might be somewhat close. But let’s just put it this way: There was a stretch of about two and a half shifts in the leadup to Lowell’s second goal, scored by Shayne Thompson on a nice shot in traffic, where Lowell must have attempted seven shots in the space of a minute.

Now, if we’re being honest, the 3-0 score through 20 minutes pretty well sums up how that period should have gone. Where Lowell often had difficulties getting to the front of the net in the first two periods of Friday’s contest, it put whatever it learned in the third to good use, and also routinely took advantage of Clarkson’s sluggishness in transition. Chad Ruhwedel’s opener less than four minutes in, shorthanded no less, came because the defenseman just didn’t count on him going the other way with it (not that his shot was in any way spectacular; Greg Lewis got a piece of it, but obviously not enough of one). Thompson’s, as previously mentioned, came at the end of one of those stretches of territorial dominance that were so common last year but have been few and far between of late. Scott Wilson’s came on a delayed penalty during a scrum at the goalmouth that Clarkson swore up and down was frozen, but empirical evidence contradicts the Golden Knights’ belief on the matter. Things, in fact, could have ended even worse in that period, but Lowell’s power play once again looked pretty poor, which is becoming a point of concern (we understand that the team’s sixth goal was scored on one, but that came only after a squandered 5-on-3 in the third period, and came at the tail end of a major penalty).

Lowell extended the lead just 17 seconds into the second period when Chad Ruhwedel jumped a route in the neutral zone and took off on an odd-man rush in the other direction. Riley Wetmore was the trailer, and the recipient of a nice, flat pass, which he rocketed home for the first of his two goals in the game. That was it for scoring, but Lowell once again pretty convincingly ran the second period, and were once again credited with just six (SIX!?) shots on net.

As much as we’d like to think Lowell was generating chances of such unimaginable quality, or playing an opponent with a goaltender of such wallowing ineptitude, that the team could score four goals on 13 shots, logic, and the game we watched, tell us this simply isn’t the case. Not that any of it matters, of course, but we’re looking at these official stats agog at the kind of hockey non-mind that could have watched that game and figured Lowell’s shot total came to just a baker’s dozen in 40 minutes given how badly they were humiliating the home team.

Wetmore struck again in the third but by that point it seemed as though both teams had largely stopped caring. But what was interesting about the second goal from Lowell’s long-absent captain was that it seemed to reignite everything. The game very quickly got physical, as if Clarkson all of a sudden realized it had been walking around with its pants around its ankles for the last two periods courtesy of a Lowell prank and was really mad about it. All the testiness — and it should be noted that Lowell in no way shrank from the physical play — culminated when Clarkson’s Ben Sexton speared some poor River Hawk about 20 miles behind the play. He got the aforementioned major penalty, and a game DQ to boot, while Joe Houk got two for fiddling with the kid’s facemask. Houk got his revenge, though, as he set up Adam Chapie for his first career goal on the ensuing power play.

Mixed in between Lowell’s two third-period goals were a pair for Clarkson that should not have been allowed to take place. The second, which like Ruhwedel’s goal came shorthanded, happened because a Clarkson forward crashed into Doug Carr, who was perfectly fine tonight in making 21 saves, but was never asked to do anything spectacular.

The outcome of this game is important for a number of reasons, obviously. First, Lowell is now well and truly clear of being a .500 team, but moreover, the ability to muddle through a pair of iffy wins against a garbage team like Clarkson (less than a week after doing the same against a worse team like Bentley), and then go out and post this sort of emphatic win that got everyone involved seems very important to the team’s confidence. Wetmore scored his first two goals in a while. Wilson got back on the scoresheet after two games off it. Ruhwedel had a goal and an assist. Joe Pendenza and Josh Holmstrom had an assist apiece. Christian Folin and Jake Suter are now piling up points at unforeseeable rates.

The fact that this team is now on a five-game winning streak is a very nice one, and should buoy the team headed into the breach of its Hockey East schedule on the road against Vermont next weekend. That looks like a team that’s ripe for the crushing.

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