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Loose pucks: Why, a 4-year-old child could understand it!

February 24, 2009

Three things that are good:
1) A successful February.

Lowell isn’t exactly known for steamrolling its opponents when it comes to the shortest month of the year. Since the 1998-99 season, Lowell has averaged a record of 2.4 wins, 4 losses and 1.3 ties (about seven league points per February versus about nine for its opponents). This year, Lowell already has eight points, seven of which have come on the road, with the possibility for four more looming this weekend. Back in September, you couldn’t have been looking at this February stretch (at BU, at Amherst, at BC, vs. BC, at Vermont, at Vermont, at Northeastern, vs. Northeastern, vs. Maine, vs. Maine) with a great deal of optimism, but Lowell have answered the bell emphatically. It’s fantastic to see.

2) Taking care of Vermont.

Yes, this one folds into the above thing a bit, but it’s awful nice going into the Gutterson Fieldhouse, which has been a house of horrors for just about everyone in Hockey East this year — only BU, Northeastern and now Lowell have taken two league points from Vermont up there — and stomping the hell out of the hosts, who just happened to be No. 6 in the country at the time.

It’s also nice to exorcise the demons of last year’s sweep by the Catamounts as well as the first game of this year. It was a run of very, very poor efforts against Vermont from Lowell answered with two very, very strong ones. That’s the way you answer the critics’ questions.

3) Playing Chris Auger in place of Kory Falite.

Okay this might sound a little crazy but stick with us here. In games in which Chris Auger has played and Kory Falite was in the lineup, Lowell is 0-4-0 with five goals for and 11 against. In games in which Auger has played in place of Falite (since the fateful 5-3 loss to BU in which Falite played himself into Healthy Scratchville), Lowell is 3-0-2 with 16 goals for and nine against.

Juice, as he’s affectionately known, has played with a grit and determination not often seen from him last year and, while he doesn’t have any points in this stretch to show for his strong play (and thus has gotten little recognition for it), it’s clear that he wants to stay in the lineup and deserves to be as well. His play, as well as Falite’s before it, is indicative of the kind of effort Lowell had been putting during their stays in the lineup. Where Auger’s ‘Hawks are thorough and comprehensive in all zones, Falite’s was disinterested and, at times, overtly lazy.

This, of course, is not to blame Falite or credit Auger for the play of an entire team, but we just think their respective efforts typify that of the entire squad’s. We’d very much like to see more Auger performances for the rest of the year, both from the player himself and the team at large.

Two things that are bad:
1) Northeastern’s defense.

Where Lowell “held” the volatile BU offense to an average of 4.67 goals a game in their three meetings this year, Northeastern, and perhaps more specifically Brad Thiessen, kept them to a mere two per game in league play this year. That doesn’t exactly bode well for the River Hawks, but if not scoring is all we have to be worried about this weekend (and with the way the Huskies’ attack looked on Friday and Saturday, it might be), then we’re a-okay with that.

2) Giving up third-period leads.

We’ve been over this. It sucks.

Stat of the Week
The last time Lowell took six points in back-to-back weekends against nationally-ranked teams was the weekends of Feb. 23-25 and March 3-4, 2006 against — you guessed it — No. 8 BC and No. 17 Vermont. That Lowell team got its points on the strength of three consecutive wins, splitting with BC 0-6 at the Heights and 6-3 in Lowell (who remembers the stellar performance from Vinny Monaco to help seal up the latter result?) before sweeping Vermont in Lowell 3-2 and 5-2.

The last time Lowell was undefeated against nationally-ranked opponents two weekends in a row? Well, USCHO’s box scores only go back 10 years, so we have no idea.

Go find me a 4-year-old child, I can’t make head or tail of this
This little run sure is nice and all, and it’s easy to get caught up in all the what-if scenarios to see if maybe, just maybe, Lowell can squeeze into its first home ice spot in like eight years. But we mustn’t take for granted how difficult the road is, or indeed how well the River Hawks have played in the past few weeks. Regardless of whether or not Lowell pulls out a home ice berth, it is certainly the one team NO ONE wants to play.

It’s nice to be in that position.

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