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Saturday thoughts: No team will dare oppose the Huskies now

March 1, 2009

Well Lowell had a much more inspired effort tonight.

A whopping 66 attempted shots, 33 of which got to the net, to Northeastern’s 35 attempts and 17 shots on goal. But the difference in this game was Brad Thiessen, who stood on his head to make 32 stops, and the Northeastern defense, which blocked 21(!) shots, but especially Thiessen.

Simply put, he flat stole the win from Lowell. He made two breathtaking, game-saving stops on Jonathan Maniff that, against a lesser goalie, would have hit nothing but net. But Thiessen is, of course, not a lesser goalie when compared with anyone in Hockey East and, indeed, the country. So Maniff’s shots, instead of net, caught Thiessen and nothing else. He was unquestionably the only reason Lowell failed to gain any points tonight.

In the second period, especially, when Lowell attempted 29 shots and was around the net constantly, Thiessen was a rock even in conceding a goal to David Vallorani on a pretty tic-tac-toe play between the freshman, Nick Monroe and Jonathan Maniff, who, along with Kory Falite, was reinserted into the lineup tonight. But if that was all Lowell had to show for its plentiful chances, Thiessen was the reason.

As for the two Husky goals, well, neither was really Carter Hutton‘s fault. The first came when Dennis McCauley tipped a point shot. The second was another tip on a beautiful transition rush by Mike McLaughlin and Randy Guzior. Still, though, it’s frustrating that once again a Lowell goalie posted a sub-.900 save percentage. Through the first period, Northeastern had a goal on five shots. Through the second, it was two on 13.

Now this isn’t to say that Lowell’s defense was especially bad. It did block 12 shots, a full third of Northeastern’s attempts, and it held the Huskies to 17, so that’s all well and good. And on top of that, the penalty kill was once again perfect and held Northeastern to just two shots on three power plays, though obviously that is limited work. In fact, Lowell’s defense was so dominant for stretches that Northeastern didn’t even get its first shot on goal in the third period until more than 11 minutes had passed.

But what did Lowell in tonight, apart from Thiessen (and even this folds into the larger issue), was its inability to score on what appeared to be a very, very threatening power play. The best power play of the night was the man advantage that stretched from the final seconds of the second period into the opening minutes of the third, when Lowell put five shots on net in the space of about 20 seconds and had everyone in a black sweater, Thiessen included, scrambling around in front of the net with very little idea as to what was going on. That the puck didn’t go in during this short interval was as much luck as anything else. But again, this is the kind of thing a goalie of Thiessen’s caliber provides: surety.

Lowell did have a number of good players tonight that didn’t show up on the scoresheet. This was unquestionably Chris Auger‘s best game of the year. He had five shots, was getting back on defense, and doing a lot of good with and without the puck (i.e. going to the right spots on the ice rather than float around aimlessly). Falite, at least the version we like to see, was apparent tonight as well. Four shots and more chances created than in his last four or five games, we’d estimate. Nick Schaus also had five shots and was one of four Lowell players to finish with a plus rating.

One thing we were struck by was the relative ineffectiveness of Scott Campbell, who is usually an irresistible force at the faceoff dot (where he was a rather mortal 7 of 14 tonight) and no shots on goal. He’s the engine that makes the CPR line go and it stayed in the garage tonight, putting four shots on net total and going a combined minus-5, which is such a rarity that we almost couldn’t believe it.

Apart from the result, we considered this a rather positive game for Lowell. It was dictating much of the game and, again we cannot stretch this enough, Thiessen was the reason NU escaped with its two points.

This loss, though, coupled with Vermont’s last-minute win against Maine and UNH’s 1-0 home win over Merrimack, more or less eliminated Lowell from home ice contention regardless of next weekend’s results. So that was fun while it lasted.

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