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Sunday thoughts: Behind the Stemmons Freeway sign

March 17, 2008

Last night we said all Lowell needed to do in Game 3 was open up an early lead and strangle the life out of BU. Step one was easy. Step two not so much.

Yup, Lowell jumped out to a 2-0 lead just 8:03 into the game, and promptly unraveled in utterly complete and disappointing fashion. BU answered with three goals in the first period and coasted to a 4-2 win that brought Lowell’s season to an unhappy end.

BU was carrying a bit of the play in the first five minutes or so of the game (BU fans would have liked that goal that Pete MacArthur potted after the whistle), but when Kevin Kielt took a hitting from behind penalty at 7:11. Just 32 seconds later, Kory Falite‘s seeing-eye wrist shot through a crowd beat Brett Bennett (25 saves) and Lowell had a 1-0 lead.

On the very next shift, Scott Campbell broke into the Lowell zone, collected a pass from Mike Potacco, put it on net, followed his own rebound around the top of the crease and slid it past Bennett for the River Hawks’ second goal in 20 seconds and his first since Jan. 12. Jack Parker wisely opted to burn his timeout.

So that was that. The early lead we were talking about. But during that 60-second timeout, something happened. Instead of playing conservatively and making well-calculated decisions, Lowell started playing with a shocking amount of overconfidence, and, well, we don’t know how to properly explain what happened next, so we will instead break it down like the Warren Commission Report:

08:57, first period: Sophomore defenseman Steve Capraro attempts a remarkably ill-advised breakout pass up the left wing from behind his own net, and Nick Bonino intercepts it at Lowell’s blue line. Bonino breaks into the zone with Jason Lawrnece, but keeps the puck himself and fires it past Carter Hutton (23 saves) just at 9:04, just 1:01 after Campbell’s goal. It is now 2-1 Lowell, but the momentum is rapidly swinging back in BU’s favor.

10:10, first period: Ryan Blair takes a tripping penalty after a failed clearing attempt forced the puck back into the Lowell zone. Lowell had successfully squashed BU’s high-powered power play the night before and did so again for the first 1:20 of this penalty kill.

11:29, first period: Another failed clearing attempt forces the puck past MacArthur, but not out of the zone. As Ben Holmstrom pesters him, trying to force the puck past the blue line, he clips MacArthur’s helmet (which moves back and to the left, appropriately) with his stick and rightly gets called for a slash at 11:31. BU now has a two-man advantage for 49 seconds.

11:44, first period: BU capitalizes. MacArthur wires a wrist shot to the top left corner to level for BU.

14:34, first period: Jason Lawrence shovels a cross-crease pass from Bonino past Hutton. This is the killshot.

07:56, second period: MacArthur attempts a centering pass that bounces off Chris Auger‘s skate and into the net.

Make no mistakes, though, the game was over the second Holmstrom caught MacArthur with his stick. BU had been held scoreless on the power play the night before, and while Lowell seemed capable of holding them 0 for 1 to start this game, a penalty to give them a 5-on-3 was bound to end in disaster. Of course the talented Terrier captain buried the first chance he got.

Once that second goal was in, the third was a mere eventuality. BU was resurrected in a very real way, and the crowd, which was augmented by BU’s students returning from break, was in full voice. They acted as the Comm Ave Kop, pulling the decisive goal into the net through inspiration alone.

What overcame the River Hawks is only knowable to them, and it would likely be difficult to put into words, at any rate. This team was cruising along, unsinkable through their last three and a half periods, and hit the biggest iceberg of the season.

After MacArthur’s second goal, though, things could have gotten inestimably worse.

08:28, second period: Jason DeLuca goes to the box for tripping.

08:38, second period: DeLuca is promptly followed by BU’s Kevin Shattenkirk, who is whistled for hooking Potacco on a shorthanded breakaway.

09:07, second period: Paul Worthington gets two minutes for running Bennett. BU has a 4-on-3 power play for the next 1:21.

10:08, second period: Jeremy Dehner cross checks Brandon Yip from behind.

12:08, second period: Lowell kills all penalties despite having two players playing with no sticks for the majority of the kill. In his desperation to clear the zone, Blair picks up the puck and throws it out of the zone when a simple shove would have done the job.

12:58, second period: Blair’s penalty begins.

14:58, second period: Blair’s penalty is killed.

In the 6:30 of time between the beginning of DeLuca’s penalty and the end of Blair’s, Lowell spent 5:40 on the penalty kill, and the rest trying to clear the zone while two players were without sticks. Campbell and Blair were immense in their shotblocking and the entire PK unit did an incredible job cutting off passes. This, though, was Lowell showing its youth and completely losing its composure.

However, all that penalty killing energized the Lowell bench, as Potacco had a great shorthanded breakaway opportunity (the cause of Shattenkirk’s hooking minor). Lowell had several quality opportunities to pull within a goal, but Bennett, through sheer blind luck, made the stops.

In the last period of Lowell’s season, BU effectively did what Lowell should have been doing since its second goal: choked the life out of the game and the opposition. Bennett’s dodgy play may have made things a little more interesting than the Terriers would have liked, but he made 10 stops in the period (by himself. Thanks for nothing, Zach Cohen). He wasn’t good, but he was all BU needed.

In all, though, Lowell has to be proud of its accomplishments this weekend. They weren’t given a chance by anyone — other than us — and proved an immense amount despite an almost complete lack of playoff experience (all of nine games total). This, truly, is a team to be reckoned with going forward.

High-quality defensemen, good (and improving) forwards, and solid goaltending: the hallmarks of a good team. This weekend was invaluable to the Lowell program. Youth may not have been served in this case, but it will give way to experience next year.

That’ll about do it for regular updates out of us for the rest of the summer. We’ll have a postmortem up around the middle of the week (we know you can’t wait) with final grades and all that good stuff, plus we’ll have updates here and there. Thanks for reading this last half-season and thanks for your comments, good or bad.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Monty permalink
    March 21, 2008 2:05 am

    Great write up of the season ender.

    And good mention of the Kop. Even if I hate those Kopite bastards. :)

  2. THE UNH MEN'S HOCKEY BLOGGER GUY permalink
    March 21, 2008 6:07 pm

    Hey!

    How come you didn’t let me know you were here?

    Great fledgling blog! (forgive the pun :)

    I’m putting a link up now!

    Good luck with the blog and to the Riverhawks next season – just not against my ‘Cats!

    -TUMHBG

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