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Saturday thoughts: A day late, a dollar short

March 2, 2008

That was fun.

For the first time since November, Lowell swept a Hockey East opponent, impressively taking two points from Northeastern at Matthews Arena. And while Kory Falite and Ben Holmstrom combined for a goal and two assists, including the game-winner, these two points can be largely credited to the hard play of the fourth line.

While Lowell was struggling to get anything going offensively late in the first period, Patrick Cey, Nick Monroe and Todd Bartelson put together a phenomenal shift that continually buried the puck in the Northeastern end and even had what were the game’s best chances to that point. As they went off for a change, a gassed Husky defenseman weakly dumped the puck to center ice, where Barry Goers picked it up, broke back into the zone and fired it past Brad Thiessen for an unassisted goal and a 1-0 lead.

But the erstwhile trio of Cey, Monroe and Bartelson had already gone off, and didn’t even get to add a “+1” to their stats. It’s a shame, too, because the momentum caused by their shift and Goers goal lifted Lowell to a 2-0 lead 49 seconds later.

Mike Potacco scored his 10th of the year and fourth of the weekend (there’s your RHHB Player of the Week, by the way) to put Lowell up two at 15:03, though that lead held for all of, oh, 13 seconds. Wade MacLeod cut the Huskies’ deficit to one almost immediately with his fourth point and second goal of the weekend. The goal was the result of a well-executed rush down the right wing by Joe Vitale, who finished with two assists.

In all, though, Lowell dominated the period, out-attempting NU in close by a wide margin.

The results were flip-flopped in the second. MacLeod took advantage of a listless 20 minutes from the ‘Hawks to level for the hosts with his second goal of the night (and there’s your RHHB Player of the Week honorable mention). Lowell probably deserved to even head into the dressing room down a goal, but Carter Hutton (30 saves) stood tall in his second start of the weekend.

In the third, Lowell went back to the attack again, putting 17 shots on goal after managing just nine in the middle frame. Falite’s late goal on the power play, a blocked shot that arched high in the air and slowly bounced in, was the game-winner.

The real story, though, is how this team responded from its abysmal performance last week. Remember, Blaise MacDonald said, “The way this team is playing, we might not win again,” just seven days ago. A lot can change over that stretch. This looks like a team that believes in itself again.

The ‘Hawks didn’t play like the team that couldn’t get it together offensively, and they didn’t play like the team that lost games with bad mistakes. They played like a composed team that had its wits about it at all times. Their mistakes were minimized, Northeastern’s were capitalized upon.

The River Hawks scored eight goals this weekend. They hadn’t done that since the Florida trip which, not coincidentally, is the last time we felt like they truly played to their potential.

Most importantly, this is four BIG points right when they were needed. A lot of things broke Lowell’s way on Saturday, across the league. Lowell can finish anywhere from fourth to seventh, though a fifth- or sixth-place finish is by far the most likely. Still, Lowell was picked to finish ninth by the Hockey East coaches, and one of Merrimack (picked to finish 10th), Maine (fourth) and UMass (fifth) will finish there in the ‘Hawks’ stead. We love it.

On to Orono, where Lowell could effectively end Maine’s season on Friday night. How awesome would that be?

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