Skip to content

Weekend preview: This is madness

October 16, 2008

UMass Lowell River Hawks vs. the No. 11 Michigan State Spartans

7:05 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, Mich.

All-time head-to-head: All tied up at 3-3-0

Lowell is 0-1-0, Michigan State is 1-1-0. Neither team has played an in-conference game.

Last three games
Lowell: 1-2 at Colgate, 6-1 vs. St. Francis Xavier (exh.)
Colgate: 1-2 at BU, 3-1 vs. UMass (neutral site), 3-1 vs. Eastern Ontario

Prior Meetings
Lowell hasn’t played State since the 2003-04 season. No players that played in that series remain from either team. On Jan. 9, 2004, MSU shut out Lowell 3-0, and Lowell rebounded for a 3-2 win the next night.

Season series
No games played.

Top scorers
Patrick Cey — 1 GP, 1-0-1
David Vallorani — 1, 0-1-1
Ryan Blair — 1, 0-1-1

Michigan State:
Matt Schepke — 2 GP, 1-1-2
Jeff Petry — 2, 1-1-2
Daulta Leveille — 2, 0-2-2
Andrew Rowe — 2, 1-0-1
Andrew Conboy — 2, 1-0-1

Carter Hutton (0-1-0) — 1 GP, 59:16 minutes, 2.02 GAA/.875 sv%

Michigan State:
Jeff Lerg (1-1-0) — 2 GP, 120:00 minutes, 1.5 GAA/.955 sv%

Team stats
Overall (1 games), 1 goals for (1.0/g), 2 against (2.0/g). Power play 0/4 (0.0%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 0/1 (0.0%, 0 SHGF)

Michigan State:
Overall (2 games), 4 goals for (2.0/g), 3 against (1.5/g). Power play 2/8 (25.0%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 12/12 (100.0%, 0 SHGF)

Well this is going to be a tall order.

Going into the Munn Ice Arena is never easy, as MSU only lost four games there last year. But Lowell has to do it just a week after losing to an inferior team that rode a hot goalie to a 2-1 win.

There’s good news and bad news here.

The good news is that Lowell isn’t expected to win the games, and that’s always better than being the favorite. MSU, despite its loss to BU last weekend, is a very, very good team. Let’s be clear about that. The Spartans boast eight NHL draft picks but, much like Lowell last year, have only a handful of seniors and have taken a few losses to early jumps to the pros, with the great Justin Abdelkader (now of the Detroit Red Wings) being the most obvious example. Lowell is in a position to exploit the more inexperienced teams in college hockey, which is a pleasant change of pace.

The bad news is that one need only look at last week to see even that doesn’t always work out as one would have hoped. Against a very young Colgate team, the River Hawks still had trouble breaking into the attacking zone the third period and really testing an inexperienced goaltender. The problem is that if they do manage to break through the MSU defense (and with 66 shots against in two games, it ain’t exactly a phalanx at Thermopylae we’re dealing with), they have to face Jeff Lerg. THE Jeff Lerg. The Jeff Lerg that shined so brilliantly in the Spartans’ run to the NCAA title in 2007, who despite facing 66 shots last weekend turned aside all but three. The Jeff Lerg who was a Hobey finalist as a junior last year. THAT Jeff Lerg.

Not easy. And especially when Lowell’s offense was by all accounts terrible last week. Lowell’s offense doesn’t exactly have an offensive player that can take over a game, like Colin Wilson, to lean on, or even a reasonable facsimile thereof. It has the slightly more one-dimensional Kory Falite, of course, but if Falite doesn’t show up (hello, last week!) then there’s not a lot you can expect.

On the other hand, the defensive situation seems to be a lot like it was last week as well. Lowell’s hard-nosed defense only gave up 16 shots (two of which went in) against Colgate, and Michigan State averaged 15.5 a night (four of which went in). That’s encouraging. But Lowell once again needs better goaltending than that which allows a goal on every eight shots.

If that keeps up (not that we expect it to), we’re in for a long year. Actually, it’s funny, now that we think of it. We’d been looking for an apt comparison for this team, and in typing the first sentence of this paragraph, we think we may have nailed it. This year’s Lowell team is a lot like the team from 2002-03. Very good defense and promising offense. The prevailing stat from that year, if memory serves, was that if a Lowell keeper stopped better than 85 percent of the shots he faced, Lowell won all but once. We could be slightly off on that, but that was the general thrust. That team could have been great had it not been for lackluster goaltending, and earlier this year in the UML Connector’s season preview, Blaise MacDonald commented that if Lowell’s goaltending went up just a few points from last season’s team mark of .908, the ‘Hawks would win a lot more games.

We’d like to believe that, and we’d like to see it start this weekend. Beating Lerg is admittedly very hard, but stopping the Spartan offense should be slightly easier. Let’s hope for a couple 2-1 wins, eh?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    October 16, 2008 10:22 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: