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Friday thoughts: Yeah pretty much

January 3, 2009

That 2-1 loss to Duluth was a not-unexpected result. Can’t be too upset about losing a one-goal game to a team like that, all things considered.

But where we take issue (and you knew we would) is the once-again infuriating way in which Lowell, which has now lost four straight, did it. After Maury Edwards took an apparently dubious interference penalty — and keep in mind we’re back here in Lowell, not out in Chicago, and as such cannot speak with any great authority on the veracity of the great Bob Ellis‘ penalty explanations as he tends to be a wee bit biased — and Lowell was then assessed a bench minor, apparently for someone saying something untoward about the call within earshot of the official. Now, we don’t know what was said or by who, and we don’t know whether or not the initial penalty was indeed valid. However, we do know that a penalty of that type (specifically “unnecessary”) led to the 5-on-3 power play for Duluth, which in turn led to the game-winning goal from Justin Fontaine.

Now, you can say what want about Lowell’s inability to put more than one puck past Alex Stalock, who stood on his head for the third straight game against Lowell and made 27 saves to earn the win, but the game was of course lost the second Lowell gave up the two-man advantage to a team with something like the fifth-ranked power play in the country. Of course they were going to score.

In his pregame interview, Blaise MacDonald talked a little bit about what it takes for one-goal losses to become wins or, at the very least, ties. Here’s one idea: stop going two men down.

This was the fifth goal against Lowell this year on a two-man advantage. Fifth. The other games in which this has taken place are the 2-1 loss at Michigan State (in which the Spartans scored on both of the resultant power plays), the 8-3 win against UNH, the 3-1 win at Merrimack, the 6-3 win against RIT, and obviously tonight’s 2-1 loss. In all, they’ve gone down to 5-on-3 seven times and have successfull killed two off just two, and one of those was a mere four seconds. It was fortiuitous that only three of these goals mattered. The one at MSU tied the game in the third period, the one at Merrimack made the game 1-1 early in the second before Lowell pulled away and tonight’s obviously cost the ‘Hawks the game.

Giving up a two-man advantage is something Lowell does more often than most Hockey East teams combined. Every in-league team has conceded fewer 5-on-3 goals than Lowell. To wit:

UNH and Vermont: 4
BC: 3
NU: 2
Maine, UMass, Merrimack and Providence: 1
BU: 0

Granted, it doesn’t really prove anything other than Lowell’s systemic and persistent lack of discipline when already down a man, but it’s incredibly frustrating that this has happened in a full 40ish percent of the River Hawks’ games so far and that it has cost them a pair of very winnable games. A 10-7 record looks a whole hell of a lot better than an 8-9 does, no?

Not a lot more to say about the game since we didn’t see it, but it did sound like Lowell had its chances and was simply unable to solve the ever-vexing Stalock, who has played in more than 50 straight games. It’s also worth noting that Kory Falite, who already had the team lead in shots by a wide margin, put 10 of Lowell’s 28 shots on goal by himself. And it must be the second half of the year, because Ben Holmstrom is scoring, and on the power play to boot. That’s very encouraging, particularly because it came on the power play and Lowell had been rather pedestrian of late in that department. Two last things: It’s shocking to see Ryan Blair finish a game minus-1, but it’s not at all shocking to see Scott Campbell win 67 percent of his faceoffs once again.

Lowell has Union tomorrow in the early game. Should be a good tuneup for the ol’ confidence as the ‘Hawks return to their Hockey East schedule with road games against Providence and BC.

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