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Weekend preview: Great field marshal, why bother to spur us on?

November 21, 2008

Lowell River Hawks (5-4-0, 3-2-0 HE) vs. the Providence College Friars (2-7-1, 0-6-1 HE) and No. 6 Northeastern Huskies (7-2-2, 5-2-1 HE)

vs. Providence 7 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass.
vs. Northeastern 7 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass.

All-time head-to-head Lowell trails Providence 34-44-9 and leads Northeastern 50-31-7

Lowell is tied for fifth in Hockey East with six points from five games, PC is 10th with one points from seven games, and Northeastern is first with 11 points from eight games.

Prior meetings
Lowell defeated Providence 4-1 in the ‘Hawks’ sold-out home opener on Oct. 24. Nick Schaus, Mark Roebothan and Jonathan Maniff helped Lowell open a three-goal lead through two periods before Kyle Laughlin opened the Friars’ account. Paul Worthington added an unassisted empty net goal to wrap the scoring. Carter Hutton made 26 saves in the win, and David Vallorani got his Hockey East career off to a good start with a pair of assists.

Lowell has not yet faced Northeastern.

Season series
Lowell leads PC 1-0-0 and has not played Northeastern yet.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Kory Falite — 9 GP, 6-3-9 (5 GP, 3-1-4 HE)
David Vallorani — 9, 1-7-8 (5, 1-4-5)
Ben Holmstrom — 9, 2-5-7 (5, 1-3-4)
Maury Edwards — 9, 2-5-7 (5, 1-4-5)
Scott Campbell — 9, 3-3-6 (5, 1-3-4)

Providence:
Matt Bergland — 10 GP, 2-9-11 (7 GP, 0-5-5 HE)
John Cavanagh — 10, 3-3-6 (7, 1-0-1)
Matt Taormina — 10, 2-3-5 (7, 1-1-2)
Ian O’Connor — 10, 2-3-5 (7, 1-1-2)
Pierce Norton — 9, 3-1-4 (6, 2-0-2)

Northeastern:
Tyler McNeely — 11 GP, 5-4-9 (8 GP, 4-2-6 HE)
Alex Tuckerman — 11, 3-6-9 (8, 3-5-8)
Ryan Ginand — 11, 6-2-8 (8, 4-1-5)
Joe Vitale — 11, 3-5-8 (8, 2-3-5)
Wade MacLeod — 11, 3-5-8 (8, 1-4-5)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Carter Hutton (2-2-0) — 5 GP, 278:39 minutes, 1.51 GAA/.940 sv% (2 GP, 100:00 minutes, 1.80 GAA/.939 sv% HE)
Nevil Hamilton (2-1-0) — 3, 178:33, 2.02/.927 (same HE)
T.J. Massie (1-1-0) — 2, 79:44, 3.76/.875 (1, 19:52, 12.08/.667)

Providence College:
Justin Gates (1-5-1) — 8 GP, 406:42 minutes, 3.69 GAA/.856 sv% (6 GP, 288:02 minutes, 3.75 GAA/.857 sv% HE)
Chris Mannix (1-2-0) — 4, 194:43, 4.31/.861 (3, 134:42, 4.90/.841)

Northeastern:
Brad Thiessen (7-2-2) — 11 GP, 669:40 minutes, 1.79 GAA/.941 sv% (8 GP, 484:48 minutes, 1.86 GAA/.943 sv% HE)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (9 games) — 28 goals for (3.11/gm), 18 goals against (2.00/gm). Power play 10/51 (19.6%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 38/45 (84.4%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (5 games) — 19 GF (3.80/gm), 13 GA (2.60/gm). Power play 6/24 (25.0%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 23/27 (85.2%, 0 SHGF)

Providence:
Overall (10 games) — 21 goals for (2.10/gm), 41 goals against (4.10/gm). Power play 6/48 (12.5%, 4 SHGA), penalty kill 43/56 (76.4%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (7 games) — 10 GF (1.43/gm), 30 GA (4.29/gm). 3/38 (7.9%, 4 SHGA), 26/35 (74.3%, 0 SHGF)

Northeastern:
Overall (11 games) — 34 goals for (3.09/gm), 21 goals against (1.91/gm). Power play 9/59 (15.3%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 66/72 (91.7%, 4 SHGF)
Hockey East (8 games) — 24 GF (3.00/gm), 16 GA (2.00/gm). Power play 7/40 (23.5%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 44/49 (89.8%, 4 SHGF)

Outlook
Friday might be a trap game and Saturday might be trouble, but don’t make the mistake of thinking we’re worried.

Providence seem to be the most eminently beatable team in Hockey East since the 2004-05 Merrimack Warriors who won just one Hockey East game and finished the league schedule with three points. In fact, the 2004-05 Merrimack offense, which scored just 85 goals in 36 games, is actually outpacing Providence’s 2.1 goals per game so far this year. Plus Merrimack had already won a game by this date in 2004 (5-2 over UMass haw haw).

This PC team seems like it might never get there. The Friars’ Hockey East goal differential is -20 in seven games. That doesn’t even seem like it should be possible. Worse is their power play productivity, which has produced a paltry six goals on 48 attempts and allowed FOUR shorties already. When your power play yield is just plus-2 through 10 games, you may want to consider canceling the rest of the season and firing the coach.

Usually we like to paint some kind of picture that could almost be considered rosy to highlight the threat, real or fabricated, that a team poses to Lowell, but outside of freshman Matt Bergland who has 11 points in just 10 games, there really, really isn’t one. PC’s goaltending, to quote a friend of ours who is all too familiar with the ’04-05 Merrimack squad, is “Casey Guenther” bad. A team GAA of 4.07 isn’t exactly being propped up by a team save percentage of .852. The numbers against Hockey East opponents, against whom they have yet to win in seven attempts, are an even-worse 4.24/.847, and they’ve been held to one goal or less five times.

If Lowell doesn’t win this game with an absolute glut of goals, we will consider Friday an abject failure. The average goal differential for the Friars against league opponents is 2.67, and with the way Lowell’s offense clicked against a dreadful UNH defense last week, we expect (nay, demand!) a beating so brutal that it would make Genghis Khan himself queasy. Anything less is completely unacceptable.

The next night, though, we’re not sure what to expect. Northeastern will come to Tsongas Arena having faced a still-Fosterless UNH side on Friday that allowed 16 goals last weekend. While that seems like more of a trap game for Northeastern (let’s keep things grounded in reality and in perspective on that front: UNH ain’t lookin’ so hot these days) than Providence is for Lowell, we’re very worried about the Huskies, who seem almost the polar opposite of the Friars.

For example, instead of doing everything badly, they seem to do everything just as well as Lowell. Both have shockingly similar goals for and goals against numbers, and their special teams nets would be close as well were it not for NU’s ability to score shorthanded goals (they have four so far this year!).

Frankly, no one on Lowell can take the weekend off, but you could say that just about any week. Lowell needs to be ready to come out swinging against both teams with the confidence they should have gained last weekend. What’s so scary about a No. 6 team? Lowell killed one last weekend. And an unranked team, especially one like Providence? Please. We’re looking for four points this weekend, would settle for three, and be outraged by anything less.

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