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Loose pucks: Don’t put it in your pocket

February 26, 2008

Three things that we are currently happy about in the face of incredible odds:
1. Nevin Hamilton.

Lost in the ultra-disappointing end to Saturday’s game was the outstanding play of Nevin Hamilton, who made 23 saves and kept Lowell in the game much longer than it had any right to be. It’s said that 1-0 losses are hard to swallow because even the worst teams should score two per game, but some nights, for whatever reason, it doesn’t happen.

Thankfully for the River Hawks, Hamilton provided something to lean on for the first 50 or so minutes before a defensive lapse allowed Corey Carlson to break into the zone and put some rubber on Hamilton. He made the first save, but Slavomir Tomko‘s follow-up beat him. It’s a disappointing result, but that’s the kind of loss that shouldn’t count against a goaltender. Hamilton did everything Lowell could have asked of him.

2. Health.

Well, with the return of Chris Auger on Friday night, that more or less means everyone is healthy for the first time all year. A full complement of healthy bodies can only mean good things in this final stretch, right? Right?

On the subject of Auger, though, we must confess that he didn’t look 100 percent to us. He didn’t take many draws (if any) even though he was the natural center between Maniff and Cey, and his usually good wrist shot didn’t have the same snap it typically does. Auger only put one shot on net. Hopefully he continues to get healthier, but the ‘Hawks have lost almost 80 (by our count) man-games to injury.

3. Everybody pissed off.

This is the type of attitude you want after a weekend like that. Word is that that players-only meeting we told you about the other night got pretty heated, and that’s a good thing. Players challenging each other means that kids are being held accountable. Lazy or poor play almost never goes unnoticed, but sometimes it goes unaddressed until it becomes a problem.

This weekend, it became a problem, and kids got a called out for it. We think it’s fantastic.

There were some that criticized Blaise MacDonald for bailing early after a very brief postgame speech, but what’s the guy supposed to do? Break down game film and tell the boys how not to miss three open nets? He’s got a whole week to coach them, and we have a feeling he’ll run them into the ground to adequately prepare them for the series with Northeastern if he has to.

It’s a hell of a lot better than everyone sitting around feeling sorry for themselves for five or six days. Hope the team likes early-morning skates.

Two things we are reluctant to back:
1. Fairweather fans.

Everything was flowers and sunshine through December and even into January. When MacDonald signed that four-year extension, Lowell fans almost across the board were pretty happy. Then this ugly run happens and people are quickly expressing all their reservations about this whole four-year deal thing. This, by the way, was literally 25 days into a four-year period.

Memo to all you doom-and-gloomers: NOTHING has changed. Lowell, for all its early success, is still a remarkably young team (one senior, three juniors) and, well jeez, these things happen. Especially to young teams. Goalies hit cold stretches, offenses run dry. Granted, you never want to see it happen this late in the season, or all at once, but with a team this young, it was all but inevitable.

A lot is made of teams that “don’t know how to win.” Lowell is this team, very much so in fact. But they’re making inroads. They’re still doing a lot of little things right in games: winning draws, winning puck battles, sustaining pressure (though only at times). The problem is that right now they’re doing the big things wrong (Exhibit A: Friday).

Know that team that couldn’t stop winning early this season? They’re still in there somwhere. We’d love to see that team again this year.

2. Total disaster.

On the other hand, what else can we say? That weekend was sickening.

Stat of the Week
Patrick Cey has 10 points this year and is the 11th Lowell player to break into double digits. This is the first Lowell team to feature 11 double-digit scorers since the 2002-03 squad (led by Ed McGrane), which had 12. Jason DeLuca and Ryan Blair (eight points each) are both within striking distance of giving Lowell 13 10-point scorers for the first time since 2001-02. That fabled team had a whopping 15.

What business is it of yours where I’m from, friendo?
We don’t know the last time it happened, but the bottom two teams in Hockey East swept their opponents this weekend, with Merrimack taking a pair from Providence and Maine beating UMass twice in Orono. This was all we needed. The Hockey East playoff picture wasn’t tight enough. Thanks guys.

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