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February 20, 2008

Three things that have our full support:
1. Two points.

We went over it yesterday, but we’ll say again how huge that win at BC was. Massive, absolutely massive. In that game, the team did a few things that it had not done consistently in its previous few games, including but not limited to:

  • Capitalizing on its opportunities. Lowell was 2 for 4 on the power play against a solid defensive team.
  • Playing a good road game. The win at BC was just the second game Lowell has won on the road all season. The other was at Merrimack. One doesn’t have to be a devoted follower of college hockey to see the disparity in opponent quality there, but we’re hoping that the win at Conte Forum is a sign of things to come. Road performance, especially with three of Lowell’s last six regular season games (and likely the Hockey East quarterfinals), needs to be at an all-time high if Lowell wants to make some noise in the postseason.
  • Stopping a strong offense. It’s not often that BC goes 0-fer on the power play in a game, but Lowell made them do it in their own rink on Friday. It was just the seventh time all year that BC hasn’t struck with the man-advantage. The River Hawks also effectively neutralized Hobey Baker candidate Nate Gerbe, also no small task since he’s scored 44 points in 29 games.

Everyone, including us, had the ‘Hawks coughing up at least three points to the Eagles. We’re glad we were wr.. wrrrrrr.. wrooo.. less than accurate.

2. Kory Falite and Ben Holmstrom
Just another average weekend for the boys on the top line. Ho hum, three more goals between them.

These two have been on fire since the Duluth series, with 13 combined points between them in the last six games. Falite scored twice at BC on Friday night, scoring the game-winner and an empty-netter. On the first goal, Falite with his typical aplomb around the net, nicely banking a shot in off the pipe to put Lowell up 2-0. The second was a long-range roller into an empty net, but they all look the same on the scoresheet.

Holmstrom, meanwhile, scored on Saturday. He might only have five goals this season, but three have come in the last four games. All year he’s been the perfect trigger man for Falite, and he’s starting to find his scoring touch at the right time as well.

The addition of Paul Worthington to the already dangerous Falite-Holmstrom-whomever line is exciting to see as well. Once he fully gets his legs back under him, the three should work together incredibly well.

3. Smart moves to promote the team.

We’ve never been big fans of the way the University has handled the way it treats the hockey program. To be honest, it felt like the athletic department was going out of its way to say, “Hey, the hockey team is just one of many fine athletic programs here at Lowell.” Let’s face it, though, this is Division 1 hockey, not Division 2 indoor track, and it should be treated as such.

This year, though, the school finally gets it. Promoting the team on campus, having contests to increase attendance at otherwise unappealing games (we’re looking at you, Merrimack), and making tickets free are all fantastic steps that should have been taken years ago.

But this weekend, we saw something we never thought we’d see: the school putting together a bus trip to an away game. No, really. We couldn’t believe it either. It was nice to have Lowell fans create a presence away from Tsongas Arena (or indeed, at it) and those fans could be heard loud and clear all over the building on Friday night. Let’s hope the school has the good sense to keep this up when the River Hawks visit Northeastern or (hope against hope) Maine. Now that would be something.

Two things of which we are not particularly big fans at the present:
1. The most dangerous lead in hockey.

In all three games against Boston College this year, Lowell opened up a 2-0 first-period lead before succumbing to a BC goal in the second. In one game (Friday’s), it ended up being largely inconsequential. In the other two, the cheers of Lowell fans were death knells. The Eagles not only answered the Lowell onslaught on Saturday, it was met head-on and bowled over. BC scored three second-period goals and the game was over, regardless of the fact that another third of the game still remained. Lowell hasn’t blown many two-goal leads this year (just five by our count, and two were in the same game), but they’ve come back to win after a team made up the deficit just once, in the 3-2 win over Maine. What that shows is that Lowell has not yet figured out how to stop the bleeding once it starts, and that’s not a good thing.

2. The way Vermont’s playing.

Sure, they’re sub-.500 (not that you’d know it from their fan’s behavior, but more on that tomorrow), but the Catamounts are inexplicably winners of fours of their last five. One of those wins came against the Providence College Friars (with whom they splits two weeks ago), and the other against our own River Hawks, and the other two came at home against Merrimack. In the loss to Providence, they took the then-surging Friars to overtime.

This is not encouraging. Vermont is three points up on Lowell and certainly capable of taking two (or even more) points this weekend. Do we think it will happen? Not especially, but the possibility’s there.

Stat of the Week
Patrick Cey and Holmstrom assisted on a goal from Falite at 10:49 of the third period in the game against Vermont on Super Bowl Sunday. From that point until Barry Goers‘ goal at 16:08 of the first period on Saturday night, on which Jason DeLuca and Jonathan Maniff earned helpers, a Lowell forward didn’t tally a single assist.

Not one. Over 145:19. That’s seven-plus periods. It wasn’t as though assists weren’t being given out by stingy SIDs, either. Goers and Jeremy Dehner had three each over that stretch, Maury Edwards had two, and Nick Schaus had one. That’s just weird.

This is my son and partner, H.W. Plainview
Not a lot to say here, but we just ran across Lowell’s average attendance at home this year.
The ‘Hawks are currently averaging 3,458 through the door at Tsongas this year, which is up just under 472 from last year’s average. Not as many as we’d have thought (and certainly hindered by the school’s absurd policy of not removing the tarps for games that sell out the 5,000 or so remaining seats), but certainly an improvement.

What we’d really like to see is the students get out and bump that average attendance up to about 4,000. We’re not math majors, and it may not be possible to get it up that high, but it’s worth a shot, eh? Friday, Saturday and the following Friday are the last home games of the year, and it would be a shame to see them not sold-out. Hopefully the athletic department has something up its sleeve for the next two weeks.

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