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Saturday thoughts: That just about does it

January 11, 2009

Soon after John Cavanaugh scored his team’s third goal, staking the Friars to a meager one-goal lead early in the third period, we received a text message from one of our friends who happened to be in attendance.

The message was four words long, and perfectly summed up both the game and our hope for a second-half resurgence: “It’s really over now.”

Any faith we had in this team’s ability to rebound from its horrific December and early January is now completely out the window, and we’ll be lucky to see it win a game for the remainder of the 2008-09 season. Yes, it was really that bad.

For about two and a half periods, Lowell was completely outplayed by the Providence freaking College Friars, previously the worst team in Hockey East (maybe ever) and the one that these same River Hawks had beaten 10-2 on aggregate in their two previous meetings, and lost 4-2. To Providence. Really.

Lowell went down to the Schneider Arena riding a five-game losing streak in which it had not scored more than two goals in a game. Should’ve been out for blood, and with Providence starting a brand new, fresh-from-the-package rookie goalie who had been on campus for literally a day (he practiced with his new teammates once before tonight), should’ve splashed it around like the last scene in Dead Alive. Instead, Lowell was outshot by Providence 9-8 in the first period and was held without a goal despite the fact that the goalie in question, one Alex Beaudry previously of Gloucester in the “prestigious” CJHL, looked very shaky. So shaky, in fact, that he was rarely square to the puck in the opening 10 minutes or so and made two separate saves with his face. Despite this, Lowell did not score until the game was already 1-0 to the home side and it was close to halfway through the second period.

This was a Providence team that, coming in, had scored four goals against just one Hockey East opponent this year, and that in a 9-4 loss. This was a Providence team that had held its opponents to two goals or fewer in one game. This was a Providence team that had a single, solitary league point. And because Lowell, a team for which we had so much optimism and hope and positivity, actually went out and got embarrassed like that, we have to say that’s it.

What has this team shown us in the last two months, besides the fact that they can consistently play to a level slightly below that of its opponents? It can’t score, that’s for sure. It also can’t stay out of the box, can’t transition the puck effectively, can’t make good decisions with the puck and can’t link together a string of passes longer than, say, two without turning the puck over needlessly. Over the last month or so, the River Hawks have repeatedly failed to take care of the puck and the puck, therefore, has turned on them.

It’s only fair. And really, there’s no excuse for it. We’re usually the first in line to make excuses for Lowell’s numerous failures over the past few years. “Hutton got hurt,” we’ll say. Or, “Hey, this is a team full of freshmen and sophomores.” What excuse can we possibly conjure with any semblance of a straight face at this point? The River Hawks were out-everythinged by PC tonight and didn’t even look like they cared any great amount. Were it not for a goodish effort from Maury Edwards, who scored Lowell’s first goal and whose booming point shot singlehandedly set up the second, this game would have been laughably out of reach long before the empty netter. Of course, Edwards also took the stupid penalty when Lowell was already down a man (A Lowell player did that? What a big shock!) that led to the second Providence goal — not that it’ll count as the River Hawks’ sixth 5-on-3 goal against; Nick Schaus‘ previous penalty had expired but he hadn’t even gotten both skates on the ice — so there’s that.

We’re realistic though: Lowell will probably still make the playoffs even if it doesn’t deserve to. That happens in a league where 80 percent of the teams make it every year. Providence is still likely too far back to make serious noise and Merrimack faces a pretty tough back half of the schedule. Do we take that as a given though? Nope. Do we even want it to happen? Again, no. Because what’s the point? Great, they make a playoff it’s nearly impossible not to make, play the No. 1 seed (there’s no way in hell the ‘Hawks do any better than eighth) and get demolished on back-to-back nights. That was fun. We’d rather stay home and not worry about it.

Accuse us of abandoning ship all you like, of bailing on the team just because things have been hideously bad for the last little while, but if you saw the game, ask yourself which team looked like it hadn’t played in a month and hadn’t won a Hockey East game and which team was actually (and, it turns out, ludicrously) being discussed as a contender for home ice. There’s no reason in the world that an unbelievably bad Providence team that hadn’t played a real game in 31 days should have taken it to Lowell in the manner that it did. Our only response can be incredulity and outrage. Obviously.

And yeah, the lines were all mixed up tonight to herald the inspiring return to the lineup of Mark Roebothan. Tell us if this makes any sense:

Monroe-Holmstrom-Falite
Budd-Campbell-DeLuca
D’Agostino-Vallorani-Worthington
Roebothan-Ferreira-Potacco

Does that strike anyone else as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Hmm, the team hasn’t produced more than two goals in one outing since the RIT game (and that due to the Herculean five-point effort from Scott Campbell, who was invisible tonight). So yes, let’s put the guy with 13 career points on the top line, a plugger on the second line, then a guy with no goalscoring touch to speak of and a guy who makes no decisions ever orbiting the team’s best playmaker. Makes perfect sense.

Lowell deserved to lose tonight, moreso than Providence deserved to win (although credit to the Friars for, y’know, doing so). Lowell also deserves to lose each and every subsequent night for the remainder of the season unless things make a drastic 180-degree turn starting tomorrow. There is no explanation in the entire world, let alone a lack of puck luck, that will justify this abhorrent indignity to us.

Providence! Honestly.

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