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Saturday thoughts: Here’s the thing

February 17, 2008

We all understand that last night was not the ‘Hawks best game, but this is one of those “big picture” type things.

Yes, Lowell got shelled by BC last night thanks to inopportune penalty after inopportune penalty in the second period, and not one other game broke Lowell’s way across the league, but this was still a massively successful weekend for Lowell.

Look at it this way, if we could have guaranteed on Thursday that Lowell would take two points from the Eagles this weekend, you, as a River Hawks fan, would have taken that gladly and unquestioningly. The reason you feel a little let down on Sunday morning is the fact that Lowell had a stellar game at BC on Friday night and stole two points. Expectations were naturally higher coming in as a result, and were inflated even more when Lowell opened up a 2-0 lead on goals from Ben Holmstrom (hot of late) and Barry Goers in the first period.

But when Lowell started taking all those penalties in the second period, we got that sinking feeling. Holding BC 0-fer on the power play is one of those things that’s the stated goal, but not the expected outcome. So when BC was spotted nine possible minutes of time on the man advantage (including Nick Schaus‘ ill-advised five-minute major and game misconduct), what good could have come from that? BC’s three power play goals in the period were more a correction toward the mean than Lowell being ineffective on the penalty kill. Over the course of the weekend, the River Hawks allowed three power play goals on 12 chances. That means BC scored on 25 percent of its power play chances, and that’s the Eagles’ season average. The weight of that inevitability was crushing.

The game, at that point, was all but over. Lowell’s spirit had been broken, and the energy in the building from the River Hawk faithful had been sucked into the infinite vacuum where all the hopes of the underdog go to die. The third period goals from Kyle Kucharski and Ben Smith, soft though they were, were nothing more than rote repetition of muscle memory. That Nevin Hamilton (18 saves on 23 shots before getting the hook with 6:42 left) was victimized was inconsequential. BC, at that point, had all the momentum of an avalanche.

The fact of the matter is this: two points from BC allowed the ‘Hawks to keep pace with the rest of the middle-of-the-pack teams better than we could have reasonably expected, given their recent play. Lowell may be three points back of UVM and BU, but it is also just four back of home ice and things could be much worse. There are 12 possible points for the ‘Hawks to earn against Vermont (both games in Lowell), Northeastern (home and home), and Maine (both in Orono).

Picking up a little momentum, which had been sorely lacking, against the Eagles was crucial. Vermont and Maine are still sub-.500 teams, and Northeastern lost to UMass last night, so we can’t feel too bad about Lowell’s chances going forward. Of course, lots of things still have to break Lowell’s way for home ice, though we’ve all but abandoned hope of that, but Lowell can certainly pick up some serious steam against some remarkably mediocre teams over the next few weeks.

Hard, cold reality has been staved off for another week. Go ‘Hawks.

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