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Saturday thoughts: Rhymes with “bissed bopporbunities”

March 9, 2008

When Travis Ramsey ripped a point shot past Carter Hutton at 2:20 of overtime, the Alfond Arena erupted, but it was like cheering for a win at the Battle of New Orleans.

Though it won the game, Maine had been eliminated from playoff contention for roughly 15 minutes before Ramsey’s game-winner and though Lowell was swept once again at the Alfond (no surprise), 2-1 in overtime. There was a biting, sardonic irony in the fact that Maine fans were as unaware that though the battle was won, the war was ultimately lost. Delirium has rarely been so misplaced.

In the end, though Lowell lost both games, it can take pride in several things: it will be going to the playoffs next weekend (unlike some teams we could mention), it played better this weekend than it did last weekend when it took four points from Northeastern, and it did in fact beat Maine twice this year.

The latter, to us, is the most important. While Alfond remains the house of horrors it has always been, Maine is neither an irresistible force nor an immovable object any more. They can be resisted (see the late 3-2 win) and can easily be moved (see the 6-0 win in Florida). The monkey is off Lowell’s back in that regard.

But last night was another typical night at Alfond Arena. Lowell failed to win the game because it failed to bury numerous chances. The two most glaring were in the second period.

First, by virtue of being a better chance, was Chris Auger‘s shorthanded breakaway. Auger was on the forecheck during a Lowell penalty kill and nicely poked the puck off a Maine defenseman’s stick. Auger broke into the zone and had no one within five strides, closed on Ben Bishop (20 saves) and shot. Bishop made a good save, but the chance was so golden, so glaring that it’s difficult to not be disappointed that Auger didn’t make one more move with the puck (he has great hands, after all) because once Bishop gets moving, he’s an utter trainwreck. He would likely have been down and out, and Lowell would have been up 2-1.

The second was Ben Holmstrom‘s chance at a loose puck in front of a wide open net, also during a penalty kill. After a Lowell dump-in, Bishop went to the corner to play the puck, and tried to do … something with it. The puck bounced off his stick and straight into the slot, where a hard-charging Holmstrom reached out to poke it into a gaping net that must have looked as wide as the Grand Canyon. Bishop, however, used every inch of his 6-foot-7 frame and then some to dive and redirect the attempt up into the crowd.

Lowell also had a goal waved off with 11:27 to go in the third period, purportedly because Scott Campbell was in the crease.

From the NCAA 2006-08 Mens and Womens Ice Hockey Rules:

c. A goal shall not be allowed in any of the following cases:

7. If any member of the attacking team (other than the player in
possession of the puck) was in or skating through the goal crease
when the goal was scored from outside the crease, unless:

i. The goalkeeper was outside the crease when the puck entered the
net; or
ii. An attacking player was in the crease but, in the opinion of the
official, did not prevent the goalkeeper from defending the goal.

So let’s review the facts: Mike Potacco had the puck behind the net and centered it for Campbell, who was crashing. The puck deflects off Campbell’s shin pad and past Bishop. However, because the game was on WABI, referee Scott Hansen decided the goal needed to be reviewed.

(For the record, we knew the second he toddled into the booth that it would be overturned. This is the way things go in Maine.)

Now, Hansen ruled that Campbell was in the crease, which he undoubtedly was. However, he’s allowed to be there after the puck (he was), if he’s not interfering with Bishop (he couldn’t have been). And regardless of whether or not he was in the crease, he would have been judged to be “the player in possession of the puck” since it deflected off his leg.

So we fail to see the problem, and we’re sure that, as he did for UMass a few years ago, Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna is drafting a letter of apology to Lowell, head coach Blaise MacDonald, and Campbell (the real victim here) as we speak. We will gladly accept an additional two points in the standings as additional penance (please subtract them from Maine’s total. Thank you).

This is all very disappointing to us, obviously. It dampens what should have been a quality win for Lowell at Alfond. Holmstrom had a nice goal to open the scoring, and that whole line was outstanding (we’re still chuckling over Paul Worthington‘s hilarious undressing of the hapless Simon Danis-Pepin*). Hutton (19 saves) made a bunch of very big stops to keep the ‘Hawks in the game when Maine was buzzing in the first period. Maine probably should have had three or four goals in the opening 20 alone.

Also worth mentioning is the play of the entire defensive corps. Jeremy Dehner, Nick Schaus, Barry Goers, Ryan Blair, Maury Edwards, and Kelly Sullivan brought their A games to Orono. In fact, most of the team did.

This was a weekend that should build a ton confidence, though Lowell didn’t earn any points. Lowell pretty much outplayed Maine for 100 or so minutes and came away with a 1-4 and 1-2 (ot) loss. Hockey isn’t fair sometimes. We still hate the Alfond.

*Denotes future All-American

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