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Friday thoughts: Kickin’ it old school

March 1, 2008

For a while there, it felt like 2002 all over again.

A game between Lowell and Northeastern hasn’t been that spirited in years. Fans were treated a late comeback, a few near-fights, 49 total penalty minutes, nine goals, a hat trick, an overtime game-winner, and free-flowing hockey. All on Senior Kelly Sullivan Night. Oh yeah, and the win, coupled with Maine’s loss to UVM, guaranteed the River Hawks made the playoffs.

Awesome.

The overtime game-winner was an absolute thing of beauty. Paul Worthington broke in on NU defenseman Dan Nycholat down the right win and turned the corner as Nycholat blew a tire. Worthington was one-on-one with Brad Thiessen (33 saves) and roofed the puck at 3:26 of the extra frame. The building, understandably, went ballistic.

The aforementioned hat trick belonged to Mike Potacco, who needed just 30:35 to get the job done. He wrapped it up in dramatic fashion, picking up a loose puck on the penalty kill and breaking in alone on Thiessen. He tucked it around Thiessen’s right pad to give Lowell its first shorthanded goal of the year and a 4-2 lead (Maury Edwards had struck earlier in the period on the power play for his seventh of the year).

But NU played a strong third period, scoring two goals in 1:10 to level the game midway through. NU’s rush had given Lowell fits all night, and both goals were the direct result of this. First was Randy Guzior‘s goal, picked up the rebound off a Dennis McCauley shot that brought NU within one.

The second, an absolute laser from David Strathman, brings us to something we’d like to mention. Strathman can play. Kid picked up the No. 3 star tonight because he had an assist, the (then) game-tying goal and was a plus-3 despite Lowell scoring five times. Strathman was immense for the Huskies, and as good as he was, Nycholat was just as bad. The lumbering, slow-footed blueliner got spun like a top by Lowell forwards tonight (twice by Scott Campbell on the same stutter step move, twice by Potacco who is just absurdly fast, and once by Worthington on the game-winner). Not good, Dan-o. Not good.

Carter Hutton (27 saves) got the nod tonight despite a disastrous start against UVM last weekend and had a night that we would file under “good, not great.” He’d probably like two back, but he kept Lowell in the game in the face of an incredible Husky onslaught in the opening 10-12 minutes or so minutes. He turned aside several surefire goals, but NU was fortunate enough to have a few rebounds hop right onto sticks despite an otherwise fine night as far as rebound control goes. This was a big win for Hutton tonight, and despite “four goals on 31 shots” not looking so hot, he played much better than last week and made the saves he needed to. Just what you need headed into playoff time.

This, at long last, was a game Lowell needed to play: hard-nosed, aggressive, offense-oriented hockey that goes end to end. Lowell’s a fast team, and it used its speed quite well all night. Not once did the ‘Hawks look overmatched by NU’s numerous rushes and was often able to respond in kind. And the hits, hoo boy. On one shift, Nick Schaus and Ben Holmstrom absolutely cleaned out two seperate players (though Holmstrom got put in the box for 15 minutes of penalties over his quote-unquote charge). This is the type of play that sends an emphatic message. Northeastern backed off its physical play from that point on for fear of reprisal and that allowed the ‘Hawks to move more freely through the neutral zone. NU was also 0 for 4 on the power play despite Holmstrom’s five-minute major, so it seemed as though everything was working well.

The win also ensured Lowell a playoff spot. So, uh, that’s pretty big. The game at Matthews should be awesome tomorrow night.

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