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Tournament preview: New year, new consistency (we hope)

January 2, 2009

Lowell River Hawks (8-8-0, 5-6-0 HE) vs. Minnesota Duluth (8-4-5, 5-4-5 WCHA) and Union (8-7-1, 2-4-0 ECAC) or No. 1 Notre Dame (14-3-2, 10-2-2-2 CCHA)

vs. Minnesota-Duluth 6:05 p.m. Friday at the Shillelagh Tournament, Sears Centre, Hoffman Estates, Ill.
vs. Union/Notre Dame 5:05/8:05 p.m. Saturday at the Shillelagh Tournament, Sears Centre, Hoffman Estates, Ill.

All-time head-to-head Lowell trails Minnesota Duluth 2-9-1, leads Union 12-3-1, and has never met Notre Dame

Lowell is seventh in Hockey East with 10 points from 11 games, Minnesota Duluth is fifth in the WCHA with 15 points from 14 games, Union is 11th in the ECAC with four points from six games and Notre Dame is first in the CCHA with 24 points from 16 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 2-3 at BU, 2-3 at UNH, 0-2 vs. UNH
Minnesota Duluth — 1-1 vs. Michigan Tech, 3-1 vs. Michigan Tech, 7-4 at Colorado College
Union — 1-5 at Maine, 1-3 at Maine, 6-0 vs. AIC
Notre Dame — 4-3 vs. Bowling Green, 3-1 at Bowling Green, 1-0 at Ferris State

Prior meetings
The only basis by which we can judge Lowell’s performance against any team in the tournament is the series at Tsongas Arena last year in which Minnesota Duluth posted a pair of convincing wins, 1-0 and 4-1. It went about as well as a one-goal weekend could have gone for Lowell. If you remembered that it was Patrick Cey who scored the only goal of the weekend, please e-mail us to receive a prize.*

Season series
Lowell has not played any of this tournament’s other teams this year.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Kory Falite — 16 GP, 10-5-15 (11 GP, 6-3-9 HE)
David Vallorani — 16, 4-10-14 (11, 3-6-9)
Scott Campbell — 16, 7-6-13 (11, 2-4-6)
Maury Edwards — 16, 5-7-12 (11, 4-6-10)
Ben Holmstrom — 16, 2-10-12 (11, 1-8-9)

Minnesota Duluth:
Justin Fontaine — 18 GP, 9-16-25 (14 GP, 7-11-18 WCHA)
MacGregor Sharp — 18, 9-10-19 (14, 5-7-12)
Josh Meyers — 18, 6-11-17 (14, 4-10-14)
Mike Connolly — 18, 5-10-15 (14, 3-6-9)
Evan Oberg — 18, 4-9-13 (14, 3-5-8)

Union:
Adam Presizniuk — 16 GP, 8-8-16 (6 GP, 2-2-4 ECAC)
Stephane Boileau — 16, 5-9-14 (6, 1-4-5)
Kelly Zajac — 16, 4-7-11 (6, 1-4-5)
Brendan Milnamow — 16, 6-4-10 (6, 1-2-3)
Mario Valery-Trabucco — 16, 3-6-9 (6, 0-1-1)

Notre Dame:
Christian Hanson — 19 GP, 13-10-23 (14 GP, 11-10-21 CCHA)
Calle Ridderwall — 19, 9-12-21 (14, 8-11-19)
Kevin Deeth — 19, 3-14-17 (14, 1-9-10)
Billy Maday — 18, 9-7-16 (13, 6-6-12)
Brett Blatchford — 19, 0-16-16 (14, 0-14-14)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Nevin Hamilton (5-4-0) — 10 GP, 572:02 minutes, 2.20 GAA/.925 sv% (9 GP, 512:06 minutes, 2.11 GAA/.931 sv% HE)
Carter Hutton (2-3-0) — 6, 300:24, 1.60/.938 (3, 121:45, 1.97/.933)

Minnesota Duluth:
Alex Stalock (8-4-6) — 18 GP, 1086:50 minutes, 2.15 GAA/.921 sv% (14 GP, 840:21 minutes, 2.14 GAA/.922 sv% WCHA)

Union:
Corey Milan (8-7-1) — 16 GP, 921:41 minutes, 2.80 GAA/.904 sv% (6 GP, 354:52 minutes, 3.38 GAA/.901 sv% ECAC)
Matt DiGirolamo (0-0-0) — 2, 43:06, 4.18/.812 (no stats ECAC)

Notre Dame:
Jordan Pearce (13-3-2) — 18 GP, 1061:47 minutes, 1.70 GAA/.934 sv% (14 GP, 822:18 minutes, 1.47 GAA/.920 sv% WCHA)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (16 games) — 50 goals for (3.12/gm), 35 goals against (2.19/gm). Power play 16/86 (18.6%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 66/77 (85.7%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (11 games) — 35 GF (3.18/gm), 27 GA (2.45/gm). PP 10/50 (20.0%, 0 SHGA), PK 48/55 (87.3%, 1 SHGF)

Minnesota Duluth:
Overall (18 games) — 55 goals for (3.06/gm), 40 goals against (2.22/gm). Power play 27/123 (22.0%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 87/108 (80.6%, 3 SHGF)
WCHA (14 games) — 37 GF (2.64/gm), 31 GA (2.21/gm). PP 20/89 (22.5%, 1 SHGA), PK 67/82 (81.7%, 2 SHGF)

Union:
Overall (16 games) — 50 goals for (3.12/gm), 46 goals against (2.88/gm). Power play 12/98 (12.2%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 83/103 (80.6%, 2 SHGF)
ECAC (6 games) — 18 GF (3.00/gm), 20 GA (3.33/gm). PP 5/45 (11.1%, 1 SHGA), PK 31/41 (75.6%, 0 SHGF)

Notre Dame:
Overall (19 games) — 69 goals for (3.63/gm), 32 goals against (1.68/gm). Power play 30/127 (23.6%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 97/108 (89.8%, 5 SHGF)
CCHA (14 games) — 49 GF (3.50/gm), 25 GA (1.79/gm). PP 25/93 (26.9%, 2 SHGA), PK 67/76 (88.2%, 2 SHGF)

Outlook
Well, what would you like us to tell you? That Lowell has a good shot of winning this tournament? Sure. All they need to do is get past a team that has beaten them 15-7 on aggregate in four meetings over the last two years and, should they actually do that, they would then almost certainly have to defeat the No. 1 team in the country. Y’know, the one that hasn’t lost since Oct. 25.

So let’s just focus on the less insanely daunting task: beating Duluth. It’s funny, actually, how similar the situations are from last year to this year. Lowell’s offense was clicking just fine and so was its defense. In fact, look at these numbers: Through 21 games last year, Lowell had scored 66 goals for (3.14/g) and suffered 48 against (2.29/g). This year, it’s 50 goals for (3.12/gm) and 35 goals against (2.19/gm) in 16 games. Crazily similar. And once again, Duluth comes in with team stats in about the same place as Lowell’s.

But last year, we thought Lowell had a great deal of swagger about itself. They crushed Maine and edged Cornell the weekend prior, and Duluth’s offense was very substandard. Not so much this year. Lowell comes in losers of its last three, with its top five scorers having combined for just 3-4-7 in those three games.

You need your five best guys getting more than 2.33 points a game, especially against a big, physical team like Duluth. Kory Falite hasn’t scored since the RIT game on Nov. 29, Ben Holmstrom had an assist in the UNH series and BU game. David Vallorani, who’s been more or less bulletproof against criticism in our eyes had one goal over his last three games and no assists. That’s a big reason the offense has only scored four goals in the last three games. No one that’s usually counted upon to make it go is doing so.

And beating Alex Stalock won’t prove much easier than it was last year when he held Lowell to one goal on 50 shots. Kid’s stats are up from 2.34/.914 before Lowell saw him last year to the lofty totals 2.15/.921. That’s the kind of slight improvement that takes last year’s .500 team to 8-4-5 (a .618 winning percentage).

Not to say that the offense isn’t vastly improved. Even though we look back at last year’s series as a thoroughly embarrassing one for Lowell from an offensive standpoint, the ‘Hawks did hold Duluth to just 2.5 goals a game (‘course four of them came in the second one, but who’s counting?). This year Duluth’s humming along at 3ish goals a night with a power play that’s clicking at 22 percent — slightly better than Lowell’s.

It’s not outside the realm of possibility for our dear River Hawks to beat Duluth, but on paper and keeping in mind what we saw at home last year, you can’t like their chances toooooo much. But hey, wouldn’t it be nice to see Carter Hutton steal one?

As for the Saturday game, that’s much easier to predict: If they get Union, they’ll kill Union like they have almost every other subpar out-of-conference opponent this year. Bloodbath to make up for four straight games of frustration. If they get the Fighting Irish, it could be reaaaaaaaaal ugly. Their offense is top-notch and their goaltending is world-class. Their power play runs at close to 27 percent in the CCHA! Yikes.

Officially, we’ll be cautiously pessimistic and view at this weekend as a good chance for the ‘Hawks to face and maybe beat Duluth and, more importantly, steel themselves to the remaining 11 games in their Hockey East schedule. That’s what’s most important, after all.

*no prizes will be awarded

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