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Friday thoughts: The Audacity of Hope

February 16, 2008

We’ll admit to having been a regular bunch of Donnie Downers and Ned Negatives this week, and how could we not have been? Last week’s display was downright pathetic, but we at least we said we still wanted to believe.

But with a pair of games against BC looming, we had our doubts. Could the River Hawks possibly earn crucial league points against the surging seventh-ranked Eagles? Their answer, to borrow a phrase from a famous politician, was an emphatic, “Yes we can.”

Simply put, this was a case of Lowell capitalizing on its chances and masterfully preventing BC from doing so. Mark Roebothan scored his first goal in more than 304 minutes on the power play, redirecting a Ryan Blair shot past BC netminder John Muse (13 saves) at 6:59 of the first period. The goal stood as the only one of the period, and Lowell, against all odds, was winning at BC after 20 minutes and limited the high-flying Eagle offense to just four shots on goal.

At the start of the second period, things got dicey. BC got a pair of 10-minute misconduct penalties in the frame, one for Kyle Kucharski‘s hit from behind (he was also asked to kindly not return to the game), and one to Nate Gerbe for complaining too vehemently to referee Scott Hansen after getting whistled for roughing.

(Here, by the way, is a quick aside about Gerbe’s night. Let us start by saying the things he can do on the ice are seriously unbelievable. He is incredibly skilled and usually a pleasure to watch. You would be hard pressed, we think, to find bigger Nate Gerbe backers outside of Chestnut Hill. However, tonight’s showing from the former Hobey Baker front-runner was disgusting. Not only was he given the misconduct and taking an unnecessary roughing penalty, but got away with slashing Nevin Hamilton after the whistle. It’s times like this we wish there was fighting in college hockey. The garbage Gerbe pulled tonight would have been sorted out by Nick Schaus quickly enough. Frontier justice and all that. No surprise, too, that once Gerbe was done serving his 10-minute major, BC coach Jerry York kept him on the bench for another five minutes or so. Really speaks to how Gerbe played even by Gerbe standards.)

Kory Falite, not one to rest on his laurels and let Roebothan hold the team lead in goals scored, took advantage of the five-on-three power play created by the aforementioned Gerbe roughing minor midway through the second period. Muse dropped a little too early for the sophomore sniper, who ripped a shot off the crossbar for the eventual game-winner at 14:29. It was his 12th of the year and fourth in as many games.

Lowell was 2 for 4 on the power play. The Eagles, whose power play was clicking around 25 percent, went 0 for 5.

Nick Petrecki finally solved Nevin Hamilton (25 saves, some of which were quite big) at 2:01 of the third period to make the game interesting, but Lowell weathered two more penalty kills in the period before Falite scored a 185-foot empty netter with just under two minutes to go.

Gerbe, poetically, was held without a point for the 10th time this season. BC is now 1-4-5 when he doesn’t record a point. Lowell’s defensemen, like Schaus, did a great job slowing him down in the attacking third.

The win was huge for Lowell for two main reasons. Two points against anyone at this point is going to be viewed as big, but against BC? We didn’t think Lowell had a chance to get any points this weekend, but we’re glad to be proven wrong. Further, BU and Vermont both won (thanks for nothing Maine and Merrimack. We hope you rot in that basement), so Lowell kept pace with them in the face of pretty daunting odds.

The game also saw the long-anticipated return of sophomore Paul Worthington, who had been battling a horrific case of post-concussion syndrome for more than a year. He may not have had any shots on goal, but he was buzzing and creating the whole night, and we couldn’t be happier. It was a personal triumph for the kid, and it means a hell of a lot for this team’s offensive depth. Worthy’s a gifted player with great ice vision, so the fact that he could play for the rest of the season means a lot to the team, to us, and to him as well. Welcome back, Paul.

It was also great to see a whole busload of UML students make the trip out to Conte Forum. They were loud and animated all night (though we’re a little embarrassed by the silly hats), and earned the praise of more than a few dyed-in-the-wool BC faithful. Great job by those kids and the University for making it happen. Let’s hope they do it for the Maine weekend as well.

One last thing: Falite’s two-goal performance for the night gives him 13 for the season with seven regular season games and at least two playoff games to go. Coupled with his 10-goal freshman campaign, that gives him 23 in his first 61 collegiate games. It took Ben Walter 70 to hit that plateau. That, readers, is what you’d call “good company.”

Let’s hope for two more points tomorrow. Tsongas should be packed out again. Go ‘Hawks.

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