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Saturday thoughts: Sweet Paul Worthington’s Baadasssss Song

February 22, 2009

Y’know, if you told us on Saturday morning that Lowell would get 13 shots on net, give Vermont five power plays, go 0-fer on three of its own and squander a long two-man advantage, we would have said this game was going to be a bloodbath.

But that’s why they play the games, we suppose. Lowell did a phenomenal job on the penalty kill, Carter Hutton made a number of difficult saves to earn his second shutout, and Paul Worthington‘s slow, goofy shorthanded bid from an awful angle was, somehow, the only one of 34 combined shots on goal to find paydirt.

And all that added up to another three-point weekend against a nationally-ranked opponent with which Lowell is jockeying for position in the Hockey East standings. It now stands just two points back of Vermont and UNH for a home ice spot and, if last week’s two-game set against BC was a “statement weekend,” this was a vehement declaration that, just so everyone knows, Lowell is white hot and can beat anybody in any style game.

The ‘Hawks are now 6-1-2 in their last nine, with that loss coming to No. 1 BU on the road. They just took three points in Burlington, where the Catamounts had given up only six points to Hockey East opponents all year. Lowell made Vermont, a team with more skill than any in the league save for BU, completely alter its approach to the game.

And that’s how good Lowell is, even if it did leave points on the table on Friday. A win can go a long way toward erasing the sour taste of a tie like that.

Not that there weren’t problems. Lowell took too many unforced penalties (Matt Ferreira took three by himself), including a bench minor for too many men, which is often inexcusable. If Vermont’s power play was running with any kind of efficiency at all, or if Lowell’s penalty kill hadn’t been impenetrable (it has now killed 28 straight including one at the end of the loss at BU and scored three shorties in the last four games), the ‘Hawks could have found themselves on the wrong side of any of the last three results.

Also, Lowell’s shot production dropped precipitously between Friday (34) and last night (13), and since we didn’t see the game we cannot accurately speak to why. But our suspicion is that Vermont played a much more defensive style Saturday than it did the previous night and Lowell had trouble coping. That could be a problem, especially cuz Rob Madore ain’t no Brad Thiessen, and Lowell faces the latter next week. There’s no way Lowell can beat Thiessen if it only puts 13 shots on net.

But those negatives were far outweighed by the positives, not the least of which was holding the incredibly dangerous Viktor Stalberg to 0-1-1, minus-1 on the weekend. There is also the fact that Lowell, as we mentioned earlier and then alluded to again just now, made Vermont change its entire style of play from one night to the other. So terrified of a proper Lowell attack were the Catamounts that they changed their freewheeling home gameplan, which had scored 45 goals in 14 home games, to the much more conservative read-and-react defensive style we saw last night. How’d that work out?

Hutton, of course, stopped every one of the 23 shots he saw, which is very encouraging. Both Bob Ellis and Jonathan Albert noted at various points in the night that Hutton was playing with a confidence that he hadn’t displayed since the injury against BU, and that’s huge both for him personally and the team at large.

If both Hamilton and Hutton are playing well enough to win every night — and let’s face it, that wasn’t the case for parts of this season — AND the offense is clicking like it has (28 goals in these last nine games), what’s to stop Lowell from winning out? Northeastern reportedly displayed almost no finish this weekend against BU, and before that split with Amherst to lose the season series. And Maine, well, they just got swept by Amherst too, so, y’know.

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