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Weekend preview: The Strait of Messina

January 16, 2009

Lowell River Hawks (8-11-0, 5-7-0 HE) vs. the No. 12 Boston College (9-6-3, 5-5-3 HE) and the UMass Amherst Minutemen (9-9-2, 4-5-2 HE)

at Boston College 7:30 p.m. Friday at Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass. (on NESN)
vs. UMass Amherst 7 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass.

All-time head-to-head Lowell trails Boston College 27-52-6 and leads UMass Amherst 29-18-6

Lowell is tied for seventh in Hockey East with 10 points from 12 games, Boston College is fifth in Hockey East with 13 points from 13 games and UMass Amherst is tied for seventh in Hockey East with 10 points from 11 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 2-4 at Providence, 1-2 vs. Union, 1-2 vs. Minnesota Duluth
Boston College — 2-4 at Vermont, 3-3 at Vermont, 1-3 vs. BU
UMass Amherst — 2-3 at UNH, 2-2 vs. UNH, 2-5 at Cornell

Prior meetings
Lowell has not played BC this season, but shut out UMass Amherst on the road in their only meeting this year. The first goal of Michael Budd‘s career midway through the second period stood up as the game-winner and Scott Campbell‘s third-period power play goal provided plenty of insurance. Nevin Hamilton made 22 saves to earn the shutout.

Season series
Lowell leads UMass Amherst 1-0-0 with two goals for and none against, but has yet to play BC.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Kory Falite — 19 GP, 10-6-16 (12 GP, 6-3-9 HE)
Maury Edwards — 19, 6-8-14 (12, 5-7-12)
David Vallorani — 19, 4-10-14 (12, 3-6-9)
Scott Campbell — 19, 7-6-13 (12, 2-4-6)
Ben Holmstrom — 19, 3-10-13 (12, 1-8-9)

Boston College
Brock Bradford — 18 GP, 14-10-24 (13 GP, 9-6-15 HE)
Brian Gibbons — 18, 7-13-20 (13, 4-8-12)
Benn Ferriero — 18, 2-10-12 (13, 2-8-10)
Andrew Orpik — 18, 3-7-10 (13, 1-5-6)
Ben Smith — 18, 3-6-9 (9, 3-4-7)

UMass Amherst
James Marcou — 20 GP, 8-14-22 (11 GP, 5-8-13 HE)
Cory Quirk — 20, 7-13-20 (11, 3-6-9)
Casey Wellman — 20, 4-15-19 (11, 1-10-11)
Alex Berry — 18, 6-12-18 (10, 4-6-10)
Chris Davis — 20, 8-6-14 (11, 3-2-5)

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 (2-6-0) — 9, 477:39, 1.88/.926 (4, 181:02, 2.32/.919)

Boston College:
John Muse (9-6-3) — 18 GP, 1,100:42 minutes, 2.67 GAA/.905 sv% (13 GP, 798:14 minutes, 2.78 GAA/.905 sv% HE)

UMass Amherst:
Paul Dainton* (6-5-0) — 11 GP, 632:34 minutes, 2.09 GAA/.915 sv% (6 GP, 340:37 minutes, 1.59 GAA/.943 sv% HE)
Dan Meyers (3-4-2) — 10, 576:52, 2.18/.928 (6, 337:31, 2.67/.921)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (19 games) — 54 goals for (2.84/gm), 43 goals against (2.26/gm). Power play 19/97 (19.6%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 75/88 (85.2%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (12 games) — 37 GF (3.08/gm), 31 GA (2.58/gm). PP 11/53 (20.8%, 0 SHGA), PK 53/61 (86.9%, 1 SHGF)

Boston College:
Overall (18 games) — 58 goals for (3.22/gm), 51 goals against (2.83/gm). Power play 21/118 (17.8%, 5 SHGA), penalty kill 78/89 (87.6%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (13 games) — 40 GF (1.56/gm), 38 GA (2.92/gm). PP 16/78 (20.5%, 2 SHGA), PK 46/54 (85.2%, 0 SHGF)

UMass Amherst:
Overall (20 games) — 61 goals for (3.05/gm), 45 goals against (2.25/gm). Power play 14/92 (15.2%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 79/90 (87.8%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (11 games) — 31 GF (2.82/gm), 25 GA (2.27/gm). PP 8/50 (16.0%, 2 SHGA), PK 48/53 (90.6%, 0 SHGF)

Outlook
Yikes. This looks daunting.

The task at hand is for Lowell to right the battered ship before it crashes headlong into the jagged rocks of an eighth seed or worse while trying to navigate the twin worries provided by the Scylla and Charybdis that are the two matchups this weekend. While a mere two points from these two games wouldn’t exactly put Lowell in the best position in the world. But this weekend presents a dicey proposition for Lowell, which has faced failure after critical failure in the last month or so.

A loss to Boston College would be understandable and not unexpected, regardless of their so-so performance last weekend at Vermont. Certainly, the Eagles offense is explosive and well-constructed. Their breakout in the Friday game against Vermont was particularly impressive and obviously if Lowell has gotten itself into the habit of giving up four to teams like Providence, then Brock Bradford and Co. could dissect Lowell on the counterattack as the Friars more or less did (which is embarrassing to the nth degree). The only encouragement with which we’re providing ourselves for Friday’s game is that BC allowed seven goals to Vermont last weekend and Johnny Muse didn’t look so hot and that Lowell won at BC last year. But still, if Lowell opts to make this an offensive slugfest, it will lose badly, and we’ve seen that it cannot win the close, low-scoring games in which it has recently embroiled itself.

As for Amherst, well, the Minutemen are not unlike Lowell in that they haven’t beaten a real team since November. Since their 4-3 overtime win against BC on Nov. 22, they faced Vermont, St. Lawrence, UConn, AIC, Bemidji, Army, Cornell and UNH twice. Not exactly the ’72 Bruins, but still, in that span they were an appalling 3-5-1. Thus, given how the Minutemen have played any time we’ve seen them this year (and we believe that number to be three), we feel that Lowell, even in its current state of disarray, can win Saturday’s game. However, as we pointed out earlier this week, it’s important to note that Amherst took UNH to overtime twice last weekend, so there is still considerable cause for concern.

It’s important to remember that, when faced with a similar challenge, Odysseus opted to sacrifice a few of his men to the monster Scylla rather than lose his entire ship to the whirlpools created by Charybdis. And insofar as we wouldn’t begrudge Lowell a loss to BC but believe that two points is essential this weekend, we would very much welcome a defeat at the Heights on Friday if it meant not giving up a four-point swing to our current No. 1 playoff rival. A lot of it has to do with resignedly accepting the lesser of two evils for the greater good. But hey, if the ‘Hawks can squeeze between Sicily and Calabria unscathed, we’re all for that too.

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