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Loose pucks: Of thorough beatings and third-period collapses

February 18, 2009

Three things thumbs up:
1) That Friday night game.

Oh man was that a fun one. Everything about it was a delight. Nevin Hamilton made at least five huge saves to keep his shutout alive, the defense was effective (particularly late in the game), the penalty kill was perfect, the power play was clicking all night, the offense scored as many shorthanded goals in one game as it has all season, and BC was punked out at home.

2) Three-point weekends.

If you’re gonna do it, that’s the way to do it. Get the win out of the way nice and early and see what happens the next night. Bonus points if the win is as emphatic as it was on Friday and sets the tone for the following night in such a way that a loss is inconceivable. It helped, of course, that Providence tied UNH in Durham to keep Lowell a point back of the Wildcats even while needlessly giving up the point, but such is life. At least the ‘Hawks kept up with the pack. A couple guys, like Nick Schaus, David Vallorani, Mark Roebothan and Mike Potacco, had massive, massive weekends, which is great to see and we hope it continues.

3) Five of six from BC.

Always nice to have a tiebreaker with the team directly behind you in the standings. Lowell needed at least a win this weekend against a very similar team and got more than that, so you can’t be too disappointed with how the Saturday night game worked out.

Two things thumbs down:

1) Giving away that point.

Frustrating, we know. You never want to go into a third period up by two and only get out of the building with a draw. Lowell could have used that opportunity to stand on BC’s throat and more or less rob them of any hope they’d had of home ice (which, while technically still possible in a mathematical sense, would have been quite the reach). Lowell would have been tied with UNH for the last home ice spot and BC would’ve been four points back of both of them with three weeks remaining, meaning they would’ve needed more than one point on average in the last three series from UNH, Providence and Northeastern just to keep up with Lowell if it lost out. That’s a tall task right there, but now it’s pretty much impossible.

2) Missed opportunities.

Lowell could’ve closed out that Saturday game a couple of times and failed to do so. You can’t let skill teams hang around, and Lowell learned that the hard way. Speaking of which…

Stat of the Week

With Saturday’s tie, Lowell has now lost points in eight total games and seven in Hockey East in which they have led or been tied going into the third period. To wit:

Fri 10/17/08 at Michigan State L 1-2
Fri 11/07/08 vs. BU L 4-6
Sat 11/22/08 vs. Northeastern L 3-4
Sat 12/06/08 at UNH L 2-3
Fri 12/12/08 at BU L 2-3
Sat 01/17/09 vs. UMass Amherst L 3-4
Fri 02/06/09 at BU L 3-5
Sat 02/14/09 vs. BC T 4-4 OT

Now some will might be inclined to include the 4-2 loss at Providence that Lowell actually trailed Providence headed into the third because Potacco scored around a minute into the period and Lowell simply collapsed in the dying minutes to let Providence take the lead with about five minutes to go. But let’s stick to the script closely here and bear with us.

The larger point is that, through 40 minutes, Lowell has led or been tied in eight Hockey East games and nine games overall.

  1. Lowell led Michigan State 1-0 before Carter Hutton gave up two third-period goals.
  2. Lowell led BU 4-2 before TJ Massie had his epic meltdown and allowed four third-period goals (what Blaise MacDonald was thinking there we’ll never know).
  3. Lowell was tied with Northeastern 1-1 before Hamilton gave up three third-period goals.
  4. Lowell was tied with UNH 1-1 before Hamilton gave up two third-period goals.
  5. Lowell was tied with BU 2-2 before Hutton gave up a third-period goal.
  6. Lowell was tied with UMass Amherst 2-2 before Hamilton gave up two third-period goals.
  7. Lowell was tied with BU 3-3 before Hutton gave up two third-period goals.
  8. Lowell led BC 4-2 before Hamilton gave up two third-period goals.

Which is to say that, had those scores somehow held up or scoring between the teams was even, Lowell would have an extra eight league points and seen its opponents lose the same amount.

We brought it up the other day, but Lowell’s third-period save percentage is .864, a full .050 lower than the ‘Hawks’ season average. We also got to thinking that this means we should look at Lowell’s save percentages in just the first two periods. So we did. The results are not pretty: First-period sv% of .941, second-period sv% of .929. Turns out Lowell’s save percentage in the first 40 minutes overall is .935! The drop, then, is a full .071 points. Which, of course, is inexcusible. You don’t even want to see the in-league numbers.

Oh you do? Okay:
1st: .940 (202/215)
2nd: .934 (199/213)
1+2: .937 (401/428)
3rd: .849 (152/179)
Avg.: .911 (555/609)
Drop from avg.: .062
Drop from 1+2: .088

Boooooooo. That’s ridiculous and it clearly cost Lowell in more than a third of its Hockey East schedule so far. This, of course, is despite the fact that Lowell has outshot its league opponents 209-179 in the third period. Of course, the number of goals scored, 27, remains the same.

However, if you assume that Lowell even brings its save percentage up to the overall average against league opponents (again, a .911 that’s heavily weighted down by the awful third period), Lowell stops 163/179, or 16 goals allowed instead of 27. That’s 11 goals fewer in eight league games, only three of which were decided by more than a single goal.

Here, too, are the adjusted standings if Lowell could have kept the results of the game through two periods all the way to the end:

1. Lowell — 21 GP, 12-3-6, 30 pts
2. Northeastern — 21 GP, 14-6-1, 29 pts
3. Vermont — 21 GP, 13-5-4, 28 pts
4. BU — 21 GP, 11-6-4, 26 pts
5. UNH — 21 GP, 9-8-4, 22 pts
6. BC — 21 GP, 8-9-4, 20 pts
7. Maine — 21 GP, 7-11-3, 17 pts
8. UMass Amherst — 21 GP, 6-12-3, 15 pts
9. Providence — 21 GP, 4-13-4, 12 pts
10. Merrimack — 21 GP, 3-16-2, 8 pts

Now we understand that table is all very presumptive and whatever, but it gives you a fantastic idea of just how many league points Lowell has frittered away, and to whom, thanks to its terrible third-period defense.

Thoughts on soccer
We neglected to mention this last week, but we were deeply saddened to hear that 12-year Lowell men’s soccer coach Ted Priestly was leaving the school to take a job at Holy Cross. Priestly is a great coach and a better friend and we’re sure he’ll do very good things with the Crusaders, and he probably did need a new challenge. But still, we’ll miss him at those soccer games and at the merchandise table at the Tsongas. Best of luck to Coach Priestly. He’ll always be a River Hawk to us.

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