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Friday thoughts: We thought Bishops could move diagonally?

February 2, 2008

To say the River Hawks finally got that monkey off their backs with this 3-2 win would be an understatement.

Yes, Lowell played Maine in the championship of the Florida College Classic, and trounced the hated Black Bears 6-0. But this was a Hockey East game, and more important than the beautiful, despondent look on the faces of the Maine fans were the two points the River Hawks earned in the standings.

Lowell found the spark that they had lacked this last week against Minnesota-Duluth. And whereas the Bulldogs are a big team whose physical game matched up well with the River Hawks, Maine is comprised mainly of slow players whose physicality usually results in penalties.

Jonathan Maniff’s nose for the net continues to impress us. Maniff notched two goals on the night, including the beautiful game-winner set up by Ben Holmstrom, with solid support from Scott Campbell. With about 35 seconds to play, Holmstrom won the draw and tied up his man, allowing Maniff to circle around, pick up the puck and race for the wraparound, much to the chagrin of Maine goaltender Ben Bishop, last seen two blocks away with a stunned look on his face.

Maniff is gaining a reputation as a Maine killer (4-1-5 in two games this season) and we couldn’t be happier about it. Holmstrom assisted on the game-winner and as well as the first goal of the night, an open-net tap-in by Kory Falite thanks to the glacial and puzzling movement of Bishop. What, we wonder, was he doing beyond the crease on a low-angle shot?

But that’s Bishop. Can we all agree that he has finally and firmly etched his name on the overrated list? We, as always, hate to be the ones that have to point out the obvious, but we’ve been shouting from the rafters about how poorly this kid moves in the net since day one. Sure, the 6-foot-7 behemoth fills up 9/10 of the net and has the wingspan of a Cessna, but get the big man moving and he’s sure to take himself right out of the play, as was evident on multiple occasions tonight.

The River Hawks have yet to solve their power play drought, but the way they attacked the Black Bears on Friday was certainly promising. Lowell didn’t struggle nearly as much getting the puck into the offensive zone and it is evident that Blaise MacDonald and Co. spent time on the man-advantage transition this week in practice. Lowell had its chances, yet were unable to put the streak, which now stands at 0-20, to rest.

Opposite Bishop, Carter Hutton played a solid game, making 18 saves on 20 shots, some of which were spectacular. Maine’s first goal was the result of a wacky bounce off a shin on Maine’s power play, certainly no fault of his. The River Hawks struggled early on clearing the puck on the penalty kill, and would go on to allow two power play goals, but managed to tighten up at the end when the game was on the line.

The ‘Hawks should feel good about this one. We hope Lowell can add to Vermont’s misery on Sunday and earn themselves a four-point weekend.

Late addition: What really disappointed us last night was that several Black Bears let their emotion get the best of them after the third Lowell goal. They went after Holmstrom right after the ensuing faceoff, and then Rob Bellamy — and you’d expect better from a captain — absolutely demolished Holmstrom with a high, jumping cross check. It was absolutely despicable and uncalled for. The thuggery continued after the final whistle, as several Black Bears crowded around Holmstrom for a quick shoving match. Just so unnecessary and embarrassing for the program. No need for any of that at all.

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