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Weekend preview: Ain’t scurred

February 19, 2009

UMass Lowell River Hawks (14-13-1, 11-9-1 HE) vs. the No. 6 Vermont Catamounts (17-7-4, 12-6-3 HE)

7 p.m. Friday at Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt.
7 p.m. Saturday at Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt.

All-time head-to-head Lowell trails Vermont 8-12-1.

Lowell is fifth in Hockey East with 23 points from 21 games. Vermont is third in Hockey East with 27 points from 21 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 4-4 (ot) vs. BC, 6-0 at BC, 2-1 at UMass Amherst
Vermont — 4-3 at Merrimack, 2-3 at Merrimack, 4-1 vs. Providence

Prior meetings
In maybe the worst Hockey East effort of the year, Lowell lost to Vermont 3-1 on Nov. 8 at Tsongas Arena. Lowell went 1 for 9 on the power play (ugh) while the Catamounts were 2 for 8. Ben Holmstrom had the lone goal for the River Hawks. Rob Madore made 25 saves in the win, and Nevin Hamilton took the loss, surrendering three goals on just 19 shots.

Season series
Lowell trails Vermont 0-1-0.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Maury Edwards — 28, 8-15-23 (21, 7-14-21)
David Vallorani — 28, 7-14-21 (21, 6-10-16)
Jeremy Dehner — 28, 2-18-20 (21, 2-15-17)
Scott Campbell — 28, 9-10-19 (21, 4-8-12)
Kory Falite — 24 GP, 12-6-18 (17 GP, 8-3-11 HE)

Vermont:
Viktor Stalberg — 28 GP, 20-14-34 (21 GP, 17-11-28 HE)
Peter Lenes — 28, 13-15-28 (21, 4-11-15)
Brian Roloff — 28, 7-15-22 (21, 6-12-18)
Dean Strong — 28, 3-18-21 (21, 2-12-14)
Justin Milo — 28, 9-9-18 (21, 3-6-9)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Nevin Hamilton (8-5-0) — 14 GP, 810:47 minutes, 2.07 GAA/.928 sv% (13 GP, 750:51 minutes, 2.00 GAA/.933 sv% HE)
Carter Hutton (5-7-1) — 14, 785:50, 2.37/.908 (9, 489:13, 2.82/.896 HE)

Vermont:
Rob Madore (10-5-3) — 18 GP, 1,095:41 minutes, 2.14 GAA/.921 sv% (14 GP, 848:29 minutes, 2.12 GAA/.920 sv% HE)
Mike Spillane (7-2-1) — 10, 603:36, 2.88/.886 (7, 423:36, 2.97/.891 HE)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (28 games) — 85 goals for (3.04/gm), 66 goals against (2.36/gm). Power play 27/146 (18.5%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 115/133 (86.5%, 4 SHGF)
Hockey East (21 games) — 68 GF (3.24/gm), 54 GA (2.57/gm). Power play 19/102 (18.6%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 93/106 (87.7%, 4 SHGF)

Vermont:
Overall (28 games) — 86 goals for (3.07/gm), 69 goals against (2.46/gm). Power play 26/142 (18.3%, 5 SHGA), penalty kill 125/157 (79.6%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (21 games) — 59 GF (2.81/gm), 52 GA (2.48/gm). Power play 18/106 (18.0%, 3 SHGA), 88/115 (76.5%, 3 SHGF)

Outlook
Situations like this make it reaaaaaaal easy to write this blog.

Last week we talked all about how similar Lowell and BC were, and how important these four points were, and how the winner the last time out seemed to be the team that wanted it more since there was very little separating the two teams otherwise.

Circumstances are exactly the same this weekend. Lowell’s offense is .03 goals per game less productive than Vermont’s, its defense is .10 goals per game better, its power play is .6 percent more efficient. And once again the only appreciably different team stat is the penalty kill, in which Lowell holds a commanding 6.9 percent lead.

Not that you’d know it from that first meeting this year. God, was that awful or what? Lowell outshoots Vermont 25-19 and loses 3-1. Lowell goes 1 for 9 on the power play and only 6 for 8 on the penalty kill. Hardly, we think, indicative of Lowell’s second-ranked Hockey East power play, nor of Vermont’s ninth-in-the-league penalty kill. The most frustrating part about that game, though, was that Lowell put 14 shots on net in those nine power plays and allowed just six in eight penalty kills. Two of them hit net.

Those are what you’d call statistical outliers, certainly, and Vermont will be facing a group of much more composed and organized Lowell special teams units this weekend.

Even though this game is indeed in Burlington where Vermont is 9-2-3 this year, we feel good about Lowell’s chances (shocking though that me be to you, o reader). Lowell, we feel, wasn’t in the proper state of mind for the last meeting, having lost both the game and Carter Hutton against BU the prior night, and in embarrassing fashion. That was almost certainly the low point of the season as far as effort goes. As such we feel Lowell will be a little more motivated to pull together for a three- or four-point weekend than it was to even be there back in early November.

And as far as the Gutt being a difficult place for Lowell to play, it is 1-1-1 in three games there over the last two years, and that includes a three-point weekend on the last weekend of the season two years ago when Lowell was so bad it missed the playoffs. In fact, Lowell more or less punked Vermont out that weekend.

Not to say that we aren’t petrified of what Viktor Stalberg can do to opposing defenses and goaltenders, nor are we unaware that Vermont can steal even the most lopsided game. But it’s also important to note that this is a team that lost to Merrimack last weekend.

Call it a split with Lowell being slightly favored to fare better.

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