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Weekend preview: Who wants to lose less?

February 28, 2008

UMass Lowell River Hawks (13-13-4, 8-11-4 Hockey East) vs. No. 18 Northeastern Huskies (14-13-3, 11-10-2 Hockey East)

Friday at Tsongas Arena, 7 p.m. – Officials TBA

Saturday at Matthews Arena, 8 p.m. – Officials TBA

All-time head-to-head: Vermont leads 48-31-7

Lowell is seventh in Hockey East with 20 points from 23 games, Northeastern is tied for fifth in Hockey East with 24 points from 23 games

Last three games
Lowell: 0-1 vs. Vermont, 2-3 vs. Vermont, 2-5 vs. Boston College
Northeastern: 2-3 at Boston University, 4-7 vs. Boston University, 1-3 at UMass

Prior meetings
Steve Silva scored his first two collegiate goals for the Huskies as Northeastern edged the River Hawks 2-1 on Nov. 17 in Boston. Ryan Ginand and Chad Costello earned assists on both goals. Scott Campbell scored for Lowell from Mark Roebothan and Mike Potacco. Nevin Hamilton made 27 saves in the loss, while Brad Thiessen earned his fifth win, making 21 saves.

Season series
Lowell trails Northeastern 0-1-0.

Top scorers
Kory Falite – 30 GP, 14-9-23 (23 GP, 13-6-19 HE)
Ben Holmstrom – 30, 5-18-23 (23, 4-15-19)
Mark Roebothan – 30, 13-8-21 (23, 11-4-15)
Barry Goers – 30, 3-16-19 (23, 2-12-14)
Mike Potacco – 24, 6-11-17 (19, 3-10-13)

Joe Vitale – 30 GP, 11-19-30 (23 GP, 10-18-28 HE)
Tyler McNeely – 30, 11-10-21 (23, 10-8-18)
Wade MacLeod – 30, 6-14-20 (23, 6-12-18)
Ryan Ginand – 30, 10-9-19 (23, 6-6-12)
Randy Guzior – 29, 9-6-15 (22, 7-4-11)

Nevin Hamilton (8-6-2) – 17 GP, 982:44 minutes, 2.56 GAA/.911 sv% (14 GP, 803:09, 2.61/.913 HE)
Carter Hutton (4-7-2) – 13 GP, 765:50, 2.27/.913 (10 GP, 586:41, 2.76/.900 HE)

Brad Thiessen (14-12-3) – 30 GP, 1,754:18 minutes, 2.67 GAA/.912 sv% (23 GP, 1,331:05, 2.66/.912 HE)

Team stats
Overall (30 games), 81 goals for (2.70/g), 74 against (2.47/g). Power play 20/136 (14.7%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 102/121 (84.3%, 0 SHGF)
Hockey East (23 games), 60 goals for (2.61/g), 64 against (2.78/g). Power play 16/102 (15.7%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 72/89 (80.9%, 0 SHGF)

Overall (30 games), 79 goals for (2.63/g), 85 against (2.83/g). Power play 20/155 (12.9%, 4 SHGA), penalty kill 117/141 (83.0%, 4 SHGF)
Hockey East (23 games), 63 goals for (2.74/g), 66 against (2.87/g). Power play 19/124 (15.3%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 72/89 (80.9%, 2 SHGF)

To give you an idea of how cold both teams are coming into this series, Northeastern and Lowell are a combined 3-9 in their last 12. No good.

But this tells you something: both teams will be fighting, scratching, and clawing on every shift because at the end of the season, you want to take advantage of teams on the slide. Magnifying this aspect is the fact that literally everyone that’s not UNH is jockeying for position. We haven’t seen this kind of parity in Hockey East in years.

For two teams playing as poorly as Lowell and Northeastern right now, well, Northeastern and Lowell is just what the doctor ordered if you’re looking to put together a good series and solidify your spot in the playoffs headed into the final weekend.

Since the start of February, NU has beaten Merrimack once and UMass twice, and that’s it. They’re not exactly beating good teams, but then, Lowell hasn’t qualified for “good team” status in a month and a half. The thing is, like last week against Vermont, Lowell is playing a team that is remarkably similar to itself in terms of statistics.

The only category in which Lowell is appreciably better is scoring defense. The River Hawks remain second in Hockey East as far as team defense goes, while the Huskies are seventh. Apart from that, they are shockingly similar. Lowell scores .07 more goals per game and its advantage in net special teams is only .012. Team goaltending: 2.43/.911 for Lowell, 2.80/.907 for NU.

Brad Thiessen will almost certainly shoulder the entire load for NU the rest of the way, as he has all season. Thiessen has played in all 30 games (and started 29) for NU this year, allowing backup Mike Binnington just 54-plus minutes in three games. Thiessen is reliable (though he is given to fits of a poor period here and there), which is more than we can say for Lowell’s goaltending of late.

This isn’t to say that either Carter Hutton or Nevin Hamilton is unreliable by nature, but they’ve certainly had their share of, shall we say, objectionable performances over the past several weeks. The ‘Hawks, who haven’t been lighting the world on fire offensively the past few weeks, will go as far as Hutton or Hamilton will take them this weekend, and indeed, the rest of the season.

The one thing the Huskies seem to have that Lowell lacks is one player that can heft the team on his back and pull out a win (well, not recently). Joe Vitale, who’s the only point-a-game player playing this weekend (30 in 30), has been known to have an offensive outburst this year, as well as in years past.

Some Vitale games for your enjoyment: 1-3-4 at BC, 1-3-4 at Maine, a slew of two-point nights. No one River Hawk has as many multiple-point games as does Vitale. One assumes that one of Jeremy Dehner and Barry Goers will be keeping a close eye on Vitale all night.

But this series features two teams that seriously need wins, so you can pretty much throw everything we’ve said out the window. We’re sure the Northeastern locker room was a lot like Lowell’s after last weekend’s sweep by BU. Desperate times such as these call for desperate measures out of both teams. We wouldn’t be shocked to see a lot of special teams play, and we’re praying the ‘Hawks can right their struggling power play and penalty kill.

Last weekend was big for Lowell, and the result of that mess make this two-game series huge. The last thing Lowell wants to do is head to Orono needing points to make the playoffs.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    February 29, 2008 7:29 pm

    I’m going to laugh, laugh, laugh when the Hawks finish our of the PO. There’s still time!

    Oh, and remember when this team was actually nationally ranked? I don’t know what’s funnier – UMass Amherst ranked #5 nationally at one point this year, or the fact that UML was ranked at all!

    Pass Blaise a drink, I’m sure he needs one at this point.

  2. Jon permalink
    March 2, 2008 3:26 pm

    How’s that foot taste this morning, anon?

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