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Friday thoughts: Wowzers

November 15, 2008

After last week’s putrid performance against Vermont, it was clear that Blaise MacDonald had to send a message to his players. We’ll go out on a limb and assume they got the message.

With Kory Falite dropped to fourth-line duty, the sniper who was missing in action for both of last week’s contests ignited the previously low-scoring duo of Matt Ferreira and Sammy D’Agostino and Lowell crushed UNH 8-3 in what was a debacle at the back for the Wildcats. Falite picked up his first career hat trick and an assist, Ferreira finished the night with his first two collegiate goals including a shortie, D’Agostino also scored his first career goal as well.

Removing Falite, who recorded no shots last weekend, from the top line seemed to light a fire under him. He put seven shots on goal in all, worked much harder to cycle the puck along the boards and was simply the imposing type of presence he can typically be. It’s a welcome change of pace.

This was a HUGE win for Lowell. Statement game. Not only did they beat the No. 6 team in the country, they stomped them in a way that has been rarely witnessed since Edward Norton’s infamous scene in American History X became the reference point for all stompings from that point on. It was brutal. Even though UNH scored two minutes or so into the contest, that Lowell answered within 22 seconds and left the first period with a 3-1 lead showed us everything we needed to know. It must have been UNH’s longest night of the season, an embarrassing confluence of problems on offense (everyone trying to be cutesy as hell with the puck), defense (no one playing anything resembling it) and in net (more on that in a second) led to the most humiliating Hockey East loss the Wildcats have suffered since PC bagged up a nice dry bologna sandwich for them in a 7-1 loss back in 2006. And yes, we looked it up.

There were so many things Lowell did well in this game, but we were especially impressed with how they identified the weaknesses in UNH’s freshman netminder Matt DiGirolamo. The kid was clearly out of his depth both against Lowell’s harder shooters like Falite and Maury Edwards (who had three assists last night) and against the Lowell forwards who consistently worked the UNH defense and drove the net with a general impunity. DiGirolamo’s early problem was that he simply didn’t get to the post. Witness the goals by D’Agostino and Mike Potacco, neither of which would have gone in had he gotten right up against the post. Kudos to Lowell, too, for identifying the weakness after the aforementioned goals, because they pounded the posts the rest of the night. He didn’t get square to half the perimeter shots he saw, and those he did get square to typically became rebounds. It created havoc in front of goal that UNH’s defenders were ill-equipped to handle.

On the other end of the ice, Nevin Hamilton gave up a lot of rebounds as well, but time after time it was either Lowell’s defense or UNH’s inability to put the puck in an empty net that bailed him out. It’s funny, no one would ever watch Hamilton play goal and go, “Wow this kid is an unbelievable goaltender.” However, to his credit he often gets the job done, as he did in this 38-save effort. It wasn’t particularly graceful, and with Hamilton it almost never is, but most times you make 38 saves, you’ve done your job very well. It was a big game for Hamilton to prove he can carry the water while Hutton comes back from injury, and he only gave up three goals on 41 shots, one of which was a 5-on-3, so he deserves tons of credit.

It should be noted, too, that every line contributed for Lowell, which is a massive difference from the Vermont game. The newly constituted top line of Patrick Cey on the left of Ben Holmstrom and Paul Worthington registered a goal (from Cey) and three assists. The CPR line had a goal and two assists and did a lot of remarkably good work to bury the puck in the UNH end for long, long periods of time that, while they never resulted in a goal (Potacco’s came on a rush into the zone), were vitally important in not only wearing out UNH’s top line but also establishing some serious positive momentum for Lowell. The third line of Nick Monroe, David Vallorani and Jonathan Maniff also did a lot of things well, especially defensively, and probably deserved a little more for their efforts than Monroe’s one shorthanded assist. The fourth line, obviously, contributed six goals (whoa) and an assist. The defense, as we said, was very good as well, posting a combined plus-eight and seven assists.

Not that UNH’s defense wasn’t a Lovecraftian horror from the earth’s deepest depths. The once-reliable pair of Jamie Fritsch and Joe Charlebois were merely ticket-taker and turnstyle on every Lowell foray into the offensive zone. Charlebois, especially, was abysmal, having been on the ice and at the point of attack on Lowell’s second, third and sixth goals. The way he was getting spun all night, he might miss UNH’s next game with a severe case of whiplash. He and Fritsch left Tsongas Arena a combined minus-7. Oh my.

And we’ll say this about Danny Dries. He played a hell of a hockey game right up until he turned into a sore loser late in the third period when Monroe accidentally made skate-to-skate contact with DeGirolamo while trying to tip a point shot. Hey genius, you’re better than that, although UNH fans seem to think you have, umm, anger management issues. Crap like that is beneath you, Dan-o. It really is.

The only other highlight for UNH, in our minds, was freshman defenseman Blake Kessel. Somehow the kid finished the night a plus-1 and put like four shots on net. He also attempted 10. We think he could end up being a good one.

But for Lowell, this was an important win and perhaps a wake-up call to the rest of the league. We’ve said it all along. Lowell’s for real. This proves it. Going to play UMass Amherst, which pounded No. 1 BU 5-1 Friday, doesn’t scare us at all now.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jay permalink
    November 16, 2008 5:10 am

    Nice win against Umass sat night. Crappy ice led to a lot of puck issues, but the Lowell D did a great job out-hustling and stick checking the Minutemen at every opportunity.

    Hockey East is going to be fun this year.

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