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Weekend preview: Big games

November 7, 2008

Lowell River Hawks (3-2-0, 1-0-0 HE) vs. the No. 3 Boston University Terriers (5-1-0, 2-1-0 HE) and the No. 16 University of Vermont Catamounts (3-2-1, 0-2-0 HE)

vs. BU 7 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass. (Referees: Scott Hansen, John Gravellese; Linesmen: Matt Riegert, Wayne Silva)
vs. UVM 7 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass. (Officials TBA)

All-time head-to-head: BU leads UML 58-17-8 and UVM leads Lowell 11-8-1

Lowell is sixth in Hockey East with two points from one game, BU is fifth with four points from three games, and UVM is in a four-way tie for last with no points from two games.

Last three games
Lowell — 4-1 vs. Quinnipiac, 4-1 vs. Providence, 1-2 at Michigan State
Boston University — 7-2 at Vermont, 7-2 vs. Michigan, 1-2 at New Hampshire
Vermont — 3-2 (ot) at Dartmouth, 2-7 vs. Boston University, 2-3 at Boston College

Prior meetings
Lowell has not played either team this year.

Season series
Lowell has not played either team this year.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Kory Falite — 5 GP, 3-2-5 (1 GP, 0-0-0 HE)
David Vallorani — 5, 0-5-5 (1, 0-2-2)
Paul Worthington — 5, 1-3-4 (1, 1-0-1)
Ben Holmstrom — 5, 1-2-3 (1, 0-0-0)
Maury Edwards — 5, 1-2-3 (1, 0-1-1)

Boston University:
Nick Bonino — 6 GP, 4-7-11 (3 GP, 1-5-6 HE)
Colin Wilson — 6, 3-5-8 (3, 2-1-3)
Chris Higgins — 6, 2-6-8 (3, 1-3-4)
Jason Lawrence — 6, 5-2-7 (3, 2-1-3)
Brandon Yip — 6, 3-4-7 (3, 3-1-4)

Vermont:
Peter Lenes — 6 GP, 3-6-9 (2 GP, 1-1-2 HE)
Colin Vock — 6, 1-4-5 (2, 1-1-2)
Dean Strong — 6, 0-5-5 (2, 0-1-1)
Justin Milo — 6, 4-0-4 (2, 0-0-0)
Brian Roloff — 6, 1-3-4 (2, 1-2-3)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Carter Hutton (2-2-0) — 4 GP, 238:39 minutes, 1.26 GAA/.947 sv% (1 GP, 60:00 minutes, 1.00 GAA/.963 sv% HE)
T.J. Massie (1-0-0) — 1, 59:52, 1.00/.964

Boston University:
Kieran Millan (3-0-0) — 3 GP, 179:56 minutes, 1.67 GAA/.923 sv% (1 GP, 60:00 minutes, 2.00 GAA/.920 sv% HE)
Grant Rollheiser (2-1-0) — 3, 178:51, 1.68/.918 (2, 118:58, 2.02/.917 HE)

Vermont:
Mike Spillane (2-2-0) — 4 GP, 238:36 minutes, 3.52 GAA/.863 sv% (2 GP, 118:36 minutes, 5.06 GAA/.828 sv% HE)
Rob Madore (1-0-1) — 2, 127:12, 2.36/.919

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (5 games) — 13 goals for (2.60/gm), 6 goals against (1.20/gm). Power play 5/32 (15.6%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 21/24 (87.5%, 0 SHGF)
Hockey East (1 game) — 4 GF (4.00/gm), 1 GA (1.00/gm). Power play 1/5 (20.0%, 0 SHGF), penalty kill 6/6 (100.0%, 0 SHGF)

Boston University:
Overall (6 games) — 27 goals for (4.50/gm), 10 goals against (1.67/gm). Power play 12/46 (26.1%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 45/52 (86.5%, 2 SHGF)
Hockey East (3 games) — 13 GF (4.33/gm), 6 GA (2.00/gm). 7/25 (28.0%, 0 SHGA), 22/26 (84.6%, 1 SHGF)

Vermont:
Overall (6 games) — 18 goals for (3.00/gm), 19 goals against (3.17/gm). Power play 4/35 (11.4%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 30/39 (76.9%, 0 SHGF)
Hockey East (2 games) — 4 GF (2.00/gm), 10 GA (5.00/gm). Power play (2/11, 18.2%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 8/14 (57.1%, 0 SHGF)

Outlook
Two big tasks for Lowell this weekend, if last year is any indication.

Lowell went 2-4-0 against the Terriers last season, winning 4-3 at Tsongas Arena right before break and then rolling to a 4-1 victory at Agganis Arena in Game 2 of the Hockey East quarterfinals. But the games Lowell lost were doozies; 7-4 after leading 4-1 in the second, 6-2 in maybe the most lopsided Lowell loss of last season, and 5-3 and 4-2 in the playoffs despite Lowell leading by two goals early in both games.

And now BU comes in guns blazing, with 14 goals for and just four against in their last two games with Michigan and Vermont, respectively. BU has converted on nine of its last 16 power plays and looks deadly doing it. We were fortunate enough to catch bits and pieces of the BU/Vermont game on CN8 (R.I.P.) last weekend and we feel like we have a pretty good idea of how both teams operate.

BU relies heavily upon its ability to draw penalties and force the power play, which, again, is as unbelievable as it was last year. The puck movement is incredible and the shooters can score from anywhere. Without those power play opportunities, however, BU looks simply good, rather than great. A BU team that doesn’t draw many penalties is one that Lowell should have little problem beating, so it’s up to Lowell, which takes very few penalties (discounting the penalty-laden silliness from the Quinnipiac game they’re averaging just 11 minutes or so in five games), to stay out of the penalty box once again tonight. If it does, it can hold BU to two or three goals, and if the power play looks as good as it has the last two games (3/14, 21.4 percent, and it could easily have been more) BU might be in trouble since it takes more penalties per game than anyone in Hockey East (23.8 minutes per!).

But it all, as usual comes down to goaltending. BU’s two freshmen netminders, Grant Rollheiser and Kieran Millan, have very similar stats and will more or less limit opponents to two goals a night. Same goes for Carer Hutton, who we assume gets the start tonight. In fact, neither team has allowed more than two goals in their combined 11 games this year. The first team that does so will be the one that loses tonight, and make no mistake about that.

Here comes the big shock: we like Lowell in this one. We know, right? Why? Lowell’s top power play unit of Kory Falite, Ben Holmstrom, Paul Worthington, Maury Edwards and Jeremy Dehner had 28 combined points against BU last season in six games. And that’s with Dehner and Worthington sitting some out for injury. Edwards in particular is a Terrier killer, having totaled 4-4-8 in those six games. BU let him bomb it from the point in every game last year, and you see how that worked out. Give Edwards space and he’ll go all Fulton Reed all over your goalies. Since BU is so casual about giving away power plays this year, we think there’s a good chance you’ll see these five guys on the ice together for a good amount of time tonight.

As Vermont on Saturday, well, we’re trying to holder back the snickering. Vermont just hasn’t been a good hockey team this year. We know, we know, the Catamounts swept Lowell last season despite Lowell having two home games and they held Lowell to like four goals in three games or something. That’s fine. But that was with Joe Fallon. Joe Fallon is gone now, and his replacements are, umm… not very.. what’s the word… good.

Mike Spillane, for example, stinks on ice. Scroll up a bit and get a load of those stats. Not impressive whatsoever. Rob Madore has been good enough to get his team to overtime in his two starts, but they’ve done little for him otherwise. Stats like his deserve two wins, not a win and a tie, and Miami and Dartmouth aren’t exactly worldbeaters this season, despite Miami being No. 8 right now. Again, we saw that game against BU last week, and we saw what Vermont doesn’t do well.

For example, the penalty kill. Yes, BU’s power play is very good, but Vermont’s PK play is almost as bad. Only 30/39? Any time your PK percentage dips below 80 it’s cause for concern, but a 57.1 percent efficiency in league play is just awful.

For another example, the power play. Just 4 of 35? Come on. We thought this was supposed to be a Vermont team with a number of 10-goal scorers. Did we read those USCHO posts wrong, Vermont fans? We thought this team was all about scoring depth. Looks to us like four of Vermont’s players are really carrying the water up front, while everyone else sits around and hopes Kevin Sneddon doesn’t notice how badly they’re playing in all three zones. That game last weekend was pathetic, and we think Lowell can at least play half as well as BU did last week and cruise to a win.

We’d like four points out of the weekend, but we’ll set our optimism to “tamped down” and take two. But if Lowell wins Friday against BU, no less than three will be acceptable.

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