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Friday thoughts: Robbed

December 6, 2008

If it was anyone but Brian Foster between the pipes for UNH, Lowell wins that game by three or four goals no problem. But because Foster was in net, that Lowell conceded just one goal on the 34 shots Nevin Hamilton saw and another shot went into an empty net was enough to send the better part of the 5,300-plus in attendance, the majority of which were supporting Lowell, home disappointed.

Foster was MASSIVE for UNH last night in a way that cannot be properly underscored by mere words, making 29 saves and earning a shutout despite an incredible River Hawk onslaught for the entire third period. He flat stole the game. There’s no other way to say it. After Lowell opened with a so-so first period and a better second, the ‘Hawks unloaded in the third, getting more than a week’s worth of frustration over their poor play out in the form of attacks right at the mouth of goal.

Unfortunately, Foster was equal to them all, and even stopped four or five point-blank should’ve-been-goal chances, including pulling one try back from the goal line. It was by far the best goaltending performance for or against the River Hawks this year, and there’s not even a close second. Not that the River Hawks did a tremendous job of getting out of their own way. Too often they fanned on pucks just sitting in the crease waiting to be tapped in, they didn’t elevate their shots against a classic butterfly goalie like Foster, and their breakout was a complete disaster for the better part of two periods.

Peter LeBlanc scored 11:25 into the opening period, and that stood as the game-winner. Never a good thing. But that’s a consequence of Lowell being entirely uncomposed in attack for the first 40 minutes. No flow, no sense of purpose, everyone trying to dump off the shot to someone else. Foster was giving up rebounds and there were lots of loose pucks available for tap-ins, but most of the River Hawks were standing around and just looking at them. Through two periods, Lowell had just 14 shots on net, and 15 in the third. Had the Lowell team that played the third period played even two-thirds of the game, incredible performance for Foster or not, the game would’ve been over, and with a better result, long before Mike Sislo‘s empty netter. Frankly, you can count the number of forwards that showed up for Lowell on one hand (Kory Falite, Ben Holmstrom, Scott Campbell, David Vallorani and Nick Monroe). Everyone else seemed disinterested in attempting to take the game by the scruff of the neck at best, and disinterested in ever seeing the ice again at worst.

The two injury substitutes, Chris Auger and Jonathan Maniff, were both poor replacements for Mark Roebothan and Matt Ferreira/Jason DeLuca. Auger may have rung one off the post and been not-ineffective (note: this is not to say he was effective), but Maniff may have played himself out of any ice time he had coming to him for the rest of the season. Apart from being a one-dimensional sniper that didn’t get a shot on net, his play in his own end was abysmal and resulted in both a lazy hooking penalty and perhaps the stupidest roughing penalty in the history of hockey. For no reason at all, he just punched a UNH player in the face. It was a play as bewildering as it was misguided. Completely foolish. That their line, which was filled out by Sammy D’Agostino, was benched for the third period was a shock, only because it didn’t happen a period earlier. But with both Roebothan and DeLuca still sporting slings and Ferreira still questionable for tonight’s game at UNH, this might be a problem with which Lowell has to live for a while longer. The baffling thing, to us anyway, was why two effort-deficient defensive liabilities were on the same line at all when they could have been grouped with other forwards who would make the holes in their game seem not quite so gaping.

It’s also worth noting, by the way, that while student attendance is up dramatically this year, the student section still has a long, long way to go. It was dead silent for the majority of the game, and while you can say Lowell didn’t give them a ton to cheer about, it’s their job to help energize the crowd and the players. Why do you think UNH or BU or Northeastern or Maine are such fun places to play? It has a lot to do with the quality of the crowd, and all that is paced by an energetic student section. Lowell’s might be bigger, but it’s still just as pathetic with its “We only cheer for goals” attitude as it’s always been.

At the end of the day, though, Foster won UNH two points almost singlehandedly, and Lowell went 0-fer on five mediocre power plays, which didn’t help matters. Cosmically, this might just be a bit of puck luck balancing out for UNH, which has played well below the standard of which they are capable for the last, say, month or so. We still like Lowell’s chances at the Whitt, though, especially with some of the line juggling that is sure to come. (Falite to the remainder of the CPR line, please!)

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