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Saturday thoughts: Domo arigato, Mr. Roebothan

January 25, 2009

If Thursday’s game featured a titanic effort from Mark Roebothan, his work last night to prop yet another disinterested Lowell performance would make Hercules blush.

Roebothan’s goal, just 1:26 after Merrimack netted the goal that tied the game at 2-all, was not unlike the Son of Zeus’ work to divert the Alpheus and Peneus into the Augean stables and, in doing so, washing away the embarrassing stench of yet another blasé effort against a clearly inferior opponent.

This game was the absolute pinnacle of the season for Roebothan, who has enjoyed a string of performances ranging from good (BC and Amherst) to very good (Thursday) to, last night’s senstational game capped by a pair of third-period goals. Now, sure, he more or less only has those two goals to show for the performances — a lone assist against BC is his only other point in this run — but players like Roebothan and linemates Scott Campbell and Mike Potacco cannot be measured by points alone, even if they combined for a 2-3-5 line last night.

The CPR line was instrumental in driving the momentum in Lowell’s favor right from the opening faceoff and in turn creating the River Hawks’ first lead of the night. It positively buried the Warriors in their own zone for the first 1:20 of the opening period the only way it knows how: ruling the ice along the boards with a despotic iron fist. We don’t see why any team would ever go to the corners against these three consumate board warriors, it’s simply not going to work out in the opposition’s favor. That first three shifts’ worth of ice time created confusion and disarray among the Warrior defense, and ultimately yielded Matt Ferreira‘s fourth goal of the year just 2:04 in. While Michael Scheu (more on him later) and Paul Worthington picked up the assists, Roebothan, Campbell and Potacco could have easily earned a tertiary assist as a result of their hard, largely thankless work.

But, since this was a Merrimack game, there is one common string that connected tonight’s effort to the previous two: uninspired play. As the River Hawks plodded through the first two periods, seemingly outworked by the Warriors at every turn, and decidedly so in the second frame, there were very few consistently good players.

Barry Goers stands out, for one. While his partner on the second pairing, Maury Edwards had perhaps his worst game in a Lowell uniform, Goers was a steadying influence at the back, which, after a not-great season, was very nice to see. Goers tidied up a good number of messes left by Edwards’ misguided play and, while he wasn’t the Barry Goers of old, he was certainly the only reason that his pairing finished a combined plus-2.

Mike Scheu was another very good player for Lowell, though if you don’t recognize the name, we don’t blame you. From what we could ascertain, the freshman, playing in his first game, had a scholarship offer from Northeastern revoked earlier this year and has been practicing with Lowell for some time, though this was his first competitive game since the end of the last junior season. Scheu picked up a primary assist on Ferreira’s opening goal (on his first shift, no less) and made a number of good plays that showed why his line for Markham in the OPJHL was 34-28-62 in just 33 games last season. The newcomer replaced Kory Falite, who was held out of the lineup as a healthy scratch.

Also, the Jeremy Dehner/Nick Schaus pairing was once again in fine form, not that we’d expect anything less.

But there were, as with any win over Merrimack that isn’t a total blowout, causes for concern. Lowell failed to put a shot on net in any of its first three power plays and failed to score on a man advantage for the first time in what seems like forever. A power play goal would certainly have alleviated the pressure caused by the Warriors’ pesky insistence at not knowing their place in Hockey East (read: last, again), but we think that it’s not too much of a stretch to say Edwards is the motor that makes the power play go, and since he had a bad night, the power play was bound to do so as well.

Lowell was also outworked for a large portion of the game in their own zone. Chris Barton’s power play goal was a result of no one being there to clean up a rebound or, indeed, get in the way of his first shot. Similarly Mickey Rego’s goal midway through the third happened because Lowell was beaten down low, Merrimack got the puck to the point, and then to the middle of the ice. It was very disquieting, but at least Roebothan, like Dehner on Thursday and the Falite-Holmstrom-Worthington line in November, was there to pick up the pieces and rescue Lowell’s two points.

And those two points, which, added to the other four unsurprisingly gained against Merrimack this season and combined with BU’s weekend sweep of UNH and Amherst giving up three to Vermont, leave Lowell seated at fifth place in Hockey East, just one point behind the aforementioned Wildcats’ fourth and final home ice spot. Of course, Lowell needs Maine to beat BC at the Heights tonight to maintain sole possession of that spot, as a draw would pull the Eagles even and a loss would put them a point ahead of Lowell with an extra game played.

But despite the iffy effort, it has to be said that you go into a season expecting six points from Merrimack, and Lowell got them. That’s really all you’re looking for at the end of the day, isn’t it?

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