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Saturday thoughts: It’s over, Johnny

February 24, 2008

And so we have come at last to season’s end.

Not literally, of course, there are still four more regular season games to be played and likely two playoff games after that, but this team is, to put it flatly, finished.

Blaise MacDonald said as much in his postgame thoughts on WUML, as reported by this morning’s Lowell Sun. “The way we’re playing right now, I don’t know if we’ll win again,” he said.

That’s the kind of thing that might hurt to hear for some, but to those that watched the River Hawks trudge their way through two painfully dull games this weekend, it’s just grim statement of the obvious. It was almost as though they didn’t want to be there.

The problem is that these were arguably the two most important games of the season. Vermont, tied with BU for fifth in the league at the time, was up three points on Lowell. If Lowell wanted to claw its way back to home ice contention, it would need to do so on the back of two solid all-around efforts against a Vermont team that plays fast and slippery at home, and slow and grinding on the road.

That did not happen on Friday. Instead, woeful goaltending cost the ‘Hawks two points that could have been easily had, and they needed to come out on Saturday with fire in their eyes and malice on their minds if they were to keep pace with the suddenly surging Terriers and Catamounts.

That also did not happen. From the absolute outset, Vermont busied itself with not allowing River Hawk chances, as opposed to trying to create their own, and managed a 1-0 win with a pace matched only by Andy Dufresne’s escape from Shawshank State Prison.

It was a sad state of affairs indeed that we began to view the Catamounts’ periodic use of the 1-4 forecheck as ultra-aggressive. The only thing aggressive about Vermont’s game was the way in which it strove for pacifism. The results had many grumblingly likening the game to soccer matches, though ESPN.com tells us four of yesterday’s six English Premier League tilts had more scoring.

The sad fact is that Vermont hardly needed to park all five skaters behind the red line as it so frequently did in the face of a River Hawk rush that often seemed as harmless as a newborn. This was, after all, the third time in four games that Lowell was held under 20 shots (managing 16 and 17 for a combined 33 against BC last weekend).

That Lowell provided UVM with its first shutout of the year and a pair of wins that put them at and above .500 for the first time all year is certainly disconcerting, but is indicative of the type of hockey this team has played for the last month or so, win at BC aside. MacDonald isn’t lying when he says this team can’t win another game if it continues to play like this. The offensive play the last few weeks has been shockingly incompetent, and it’s been nearly a month since Lowell scored three goals on an opponent without an empty-netter.

Things didn’t bounce Lowell’s way either night and Slavomir Tomko‘s goal late in the third period last night simply put a poetic exclamation point on the fact that the current River Hawks are the poster children of punchless offense. Holding a team to four goals over two games is usually a good way to win, but when a team does so little in its attacking zone all weekend and you lose both games, being on the business end of the eight-point swing is well-deserved.

Word is that a players-only meeting was held after last night’s abysmal effort, so let’s hope things have been put into proper perspective. If not, we’re more than willing to help out:

  1. Home ice is no longer feasible, though it is mathematically possible. Lowell is now seven points out of fourth place, and it’s counting on Vermont and/or BU to lose out. Not going to happen.
  2. The offense has been an embarrassment since January, and players returning from injury have done little to help the team’s overall offensive struggles.
  3. This weekend has underscored every one of our concerns about this team since Christmas. A 4-9-0 record after the break, with 10 of those 13 games played at home is not the way a team that was once ranked No. 13 in the nation and third in the conference wants to head into the last two weeks of the season. Get on track or you’re going home early again this year.

Weekends like this make it difficult to love hockey.

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