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Weekend preview: You want blood?

December 5, 2008

The No. 17 Lowell River Hawks (8-5-0, 5-3-0 HE) vs. No. 19 UNH Wildcats (5-6-3, 3-4-2 HE)

vs. UNH 7 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass.
at UNH 7 p.m. Saturday at Whittemore Center, Durham, N.H. (on CN8)

All-time head-to-head Lowell trails 29-48-14

Lowell is fourth in Hockey East with 10 points from eight games, UNH is eighth with eight points from nine games.

Last three games
Lowell — 6-3 vs. RIT, 3-1 at Merrimack, 3-4 vs. Northeastern
UNH — 3-4 vs. Merrimack, 4-3 vs. Providence, 2-3 at Northeastern

Prior meetings
UNH and freshman netminder Matt DiGirolamo came into Tsongas Arena on Nov. 14 and got absolutely pounded 8-3. Kory Falite had a hat trick and an assist, Matt Ferreira scored his first two college goals, including a shorty, and Ben Holmstrom and Maury Edwards both had three assists. Danny Dries had two pretty nice goals for the Wildcats, but it didn’t matter.

Season series
Lowell leads 1-0-0 and 8-3 on aggregate.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Kory Falite — 13 GP, 10-3-13 (8 GP, 6-1-7 HE)
David Vallorani — 13, 3-10-13 (8, 1-7-8)
Scott Campbell — 13, 7-5-12 (8, 2-3-5)
Ben Holmstrom — 13, 2-9-11 (8, 1-7-8)
Mike Potacco — 13, 4-6-10 (8, 4-2-6)

New Hampshire:
James van Riemsdyk — 14 GP, 8-11-19 (9 GP, 6-8-14 HE)
Peter LeBlanc — 14, 6-5-11 (9, 3-5-8)
Danny Dries — 12, 5-4-9 (8, 4-0-4)
Joe Charlebois — 14, 0-8-8 (9, 0-0-7)
Mike Sislo — 14, 6-1-7 (9, 4-1-5)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Nevin Hamilton (5-2-0) — 7 GP, 416:42 minutes, 2.16 GAA/.920 sv% (6 GP, 356:46 minutes, 2.02 GAA/.929 sv% HE)
Carter Hutton (2-2-0) — 5, 278:39, 1.51/.940 (2, 100:00, 1.80/.939)
T.J. Massie (1-1-0) — 2, 79:44, 3.76/.875 (1, 19:52, 12.08/.667)

New Hampshire:
Brian Foster (5-4-2) — 11 GP, 666:23 minutes, 2.43 GAA/.924 sv% (6 GP, 363:18 minutes, 2.31 GAA/.929 sv% HE)
Matt DiGirolamo (0-2-1) — 3, 183:35, 5.56/.821 (same HE)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (13 games) — 46 goals for (3.54/gm), 27 goals against (2.08/gm). Power play 15/71 (21.1%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 53/62 (85.5%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (8 games) — 31 GF (3.88/gm), 19 GA (2.38/gm). Power play 9/35 (25.7%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 35/40 (87.5%, 1 SHGF)

New Hampshire:
Overall (14 games) — 38 goals for (2.71/gm), 45 goals against (3.21/gm). Power play 9/81 (11.1%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 71/86 (82.6%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (9 games) — 27 GF (3.00/gm), 32 GA (3.56/gm). 7/49 (14.3%, 1 SHGA), 41/50 (82.0%, 1 SHGF)

Outlook
Last time Lowell played UNH, both teams were coming off disappointing weekends. Lowell had just coughed up the BU game and put in a poor performance against Vermont, and UNH had just tied and gotten blown out by Minnesota. We figured both teams would be eager to make an immediate statement in the game. When Danny Dries opened the scoring roughly two minutes in, we were worried. When Sammy D’Agostino answered 20 or so seconds later, we knew it was Lowell’s night.

Of course, the situations are a little different now. UNH went from having a disappointing weekend against Minnesota to having a disappointing month against everyone. Matt DiGirolamo got two starts and gave up 15 goals, so you gotta figure he’s not even going to see ice in his sodas at the dining hall. Now Brian Foster has returned fully healthy and, well, he’s seen his goals-against average balloon while his save percentage dwindled. With Foster back in the lineup, UNH has gone 1-2-0 and allowed three goals or more in each of those games. The only win in that bunch came at the Whitt against Providence, and that was in a 4-3 game. They also gave up a four-spot at home and lost to Merrimack. In short, and any observer impartial or otherwise would tell you, they’ve been atrocious since before Lowell dropped eight on them and no one can figure out what’s wrong.

Lowell on the other hand has played itself into a very enviable position. Best offense in Hockey East, fourth-best defense, top power play, and an okay penalty kill. The same, obviously, cannot be said for UNH. In fact, if you were to cover the team names and show us the individual stat lines for each team, we’d think Lowell’s lofty marks were UNH’s and UNH’s kinda dumpy, middle-of-the-road ones were Lowell’s. But that’s how drastic the Lowell turnaround has been.

Now, we’re not too sure that Merrimack and RIT is the best prep for what should be a Wildcat side starving for wins and goals. But then, is Merrimack really the best prep for a Lowell team that’s uphappy to have only scored NINE and allowed four against teams like Merrimack and RIT? Tough to say, clearly, but were we betting men, we’d take Lowell in this series.

Look, Lowell has the chance to go to the Whittemore Center, where UNH is an impressive 5-1-1, with the season series already in hand. A damn good chance, truth be told. UNH has yet to win a road game this year, if you can believe that, and Lowell’s scoring 5.20 goals a game at home this year. Five-point-two-oh. That’s insane. UNH has allowed 21 goals in seven road games. No good.

At the Whitt, hey, we’ll take our chances. Lowell historically does well enough there, and when it has good teams it tends to get ugly. Hate to break it to ya, but Lowell has a damn good team this year. We’ll settle for two points, want three and hope for four. Doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request.

Not against this UNH team at least.

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