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Friday thoughts: … wow.

February 9, 2008

The seventh goal of John McCarthy‘s career came in the first period in tonight’s game between UMass Lowell and BU. He has never scored an easier one in his life, nor will he.

Nevin Hamilton had gone behind the net to play a dump-in, where he got tangled up with Barry Goers. Goers’ clearing attempt got about eight feet, before finding the stick of Ryan Weston. Weston looked up and saw McCarthy camped all alone at the top of the crease, with nothing but four feet of blue paint between his stick and a 1-0 lead.

The pass found McCarthy’s stick, and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over just 2:12 in. A surer win has never been secured so early. Lowell ended up skating to a 6-2 loss that chiseled away at our very souls.

Had we seen the game on tape, with all the goals edited out, and been asked to predict what the final score could have been, our honest guess would have been 9- or 10-1. Lowell’s effort tonight was honestly that embarrassing.

It was literally the worst game the River Hawks have played since Nov. 11, 2005, when they were decimated by Maine, 9-2. Tonight, however, Lowell was fortunate to escape the first period with just a two-goal deficit staring them in the face, considering Hamilton allowed goals on two of the first three shots he faced. Hamilton was pulled after the first period, in which he gave up those two goals on seven total shots, and Carter Hutton fared little better in his stead.

But first, Lowell pulled within a goal thanks to a 5-on-3 power play marker from Maury Edwards, his sixth of the year, at 8:03, but the momentum swing was — shall we say — tenuous. Pete MacArthur, who was an absolute force of nature all night, collected a pass from behind the net and backhanded it past Hutton to reclaim the two-goal lead, and Colin Wilson added another shovelful of dirt onto Lowell’s coffin with a power play goal on an odd-man rush seconds later. What had been a 2-0 game was now 4-1 within the span of 2:09. It was only midway through the second period, and an already-sparse crowd was streaming toward the exits (not that we blame them). Kevin Shattenkirk scored late in the period to make it 5-1.

A Ben Holmstrom goal on the power play at 10:28 brought Lowell ever so briefly within three, but Brandon Yip, who already had three assists, scored 4:07 later to close the scoring.

Lowell was plagued by stupid penalties and ineffective breakouts and defensive zone play all night, but what killed the ‘Hawks was indecision. Not taking the man at the right time, not making the right pass, not playing the puck; whatever the situation, the River Hawks found a way to bumble their way through it with uncanny aplomb.

No words we use could properly sum up just how hideous Lowell’s game was tonight. Landscapes in The Road are prettier.

What truly hurts is that Lowell, with no game tomorrow, now has a week to let this one fester. Tonight Lowell was stripped of any mystique that might have been left to its season, all its faults laid bare for all of Hockey East to see. They made BU’s mediocre-at-best defense and goaltending look award-winning. Surely, no one with a passing interest in the game would have mistaken this BU team for the one which had allowed 87 goals in 26 games.

In some ways, though, this game might serve as encouragement. A team can only get its nose shoved in its own feces so vehemently and repeatedly without bitter, violent retaliation. One needs look no further than the bullies tonight, who were beaten by their archrivals in the tournament that matters most to them earlier this week. BU, as we feared, came out on the warpath, savagery on its mind. Lowell just happened to be the one to get steamrolled.

But just imagine having to look at film of this game all week — the disgust and self-loathing it must build. How can Lowell not come out throwing haymakers at anything in a white jersey next Friday at BC? We hope the wheels haven’t fallen off quite yet. We’re so close to the playoffs, and yet, it seems, hopelessly far away.

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