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Weekend preview: They forgot about one thing…

March 5, 2009

The UMass Lowell River Hawks (15-15-2, 12-11-2 HE) vs. the Maine Black Bears (12-18-4, 7-15-3 HE)

7:30 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass. (late start due to ceremony to honor Billy Reilly, Lowell’s All-Americans and Hockey East 25th Anniversary team)
7 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Arena, Lowell, Mass.

All-time head-to-head Lowell trails Maine 25-67-3

Lowell is fifth in Hockey East with 26 points from 25 games and Maine is eighth in Hockey East with 17 points from 25 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 1-3 vs. Northeastern, 0-3 at Northeastern, 1-0 at Vermont
Maine — 1-2 vs. Vermont, 2-3 vs. Vermont, 3-2 at UMass Amherst

Prior meetings
In their only other meeting of the season, Lowell washed away nearly eight straight years without a win in Orono, prevailing 3-2 on the strength of a power play goal by Kory Falite early in the third period. Mark Roebothan scored shorthanded and Matt Ferreira started his career against Maine off right with a first-period goal. Carter Hutton made just 14 saves to get the win while Lowell rained 38 shots on Dave Wilson, who stood on his head but still took the loss.

Season series
Lowell leads 1-0-0.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Maury Edwards — 32, 8-16-24 (25, 7-15-22)
David Vallorani — 32, 8-15-23 (25, 7-11-18)
Jeremy Dehner — 32, 2-19-21 (25, 2-16-18)
Scott Campbell — 32, 10-10-20 (25, 5-8-13)
Kory Falite — 25 GP, 12-6-18 (18 GP, 8-3-11 HE)

Maine:
Gustav Nyquist — 33 GP, 10-16-26 (24 GP, 6-9-15 HE)
Brian Flynn — 33, 11-12-23 (25, 7-10-17)
Tanner House — 34, 7-11-18 (25, 4-7-11)
Christopher Hahn — 34, 6-11-17 (25, 3-8-11)
Matt Duffy — 34, 7-7-14 (25, 5-4-9)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Carter Hutton (6-8-1) — 16 GP, 904:42 minutes, 2.19 GAA/.912 sv% (11 GP, 608:05 minutes, 2.47 GAA/.903 sv% HE)
Nevin Hamilton (8-6-1) — 16, 934:50, 2.18/.923 (15, 874:54, 2.13/.927)

Maine:
Scott Darling (9-10-3) — 22 GP, 1,271:12 minutes, 2.36 GAA/.909 sv% (16 GP, 901:13 minutes, 2.73 GAA/.895 sv% HE)
Dave Wilson (3-8-1) — 14, 786:27, 2.82/.901 (11, 605:08, 2.96/.895)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (32 games) — 90 goals for (2.81/gm), 75 goals against (2.34/gm). Power play 28/165 (17.0%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 132/151 (87.4%, 5 SHGF)
Hockey East (25 games) — 73 GF (2.92/gm), 63 GA (2.52/gm). Power play 20/121 (16.5%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 110/124 (88.7%, 5 SHGF)

Maine:
Overall (34 games) — 74 goals for (2.18/gm), 88 goals against (2.59/gm). Power play 34/198 (17.2%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 153/176 (86.9%, 4 SHGF)
Hockey East (25 games) — 49 GF (1.98/gm), 71 GA (2.84/gm). Power play 24/142 (16.9%, 3 SHGA), 109/127 (85.8%, 3 SHGF)

Outlook
Ooooooookay then.

While there’s very little wiggle room for Lowell in the standings (it cannot finish higher than it already is but can drop down a spot provided it gets two fewer points than BC does against Northeastern, which is unlikely), there is obviously motivation to win this weekend even outside of the actual “Winning is good” thing.

First, it bumps Lowell’s record back above .500, which would prove important provided it can make some noise in the playoffs and maybe wrangle an outside crack at an NCAA bid. But more importantly, it also gives Lowell back some of the momentum lost during the Northeastern series, even if it is only Maine.

Now, you might think it weird that we would actually say, “only Maine,” considering the history these two programs have in the last eight or so years, but can you honestly look at this Maine team as anything but, if we may paraphrase Roy “Mr. Awesome” Schildt from the wonderful documentary The King of Kong, a chumpatized shell of its former self? Look, Lowell is now 3-2-0 in its last five with Maine and both losses were in the previously uninfringable Alfond Arena, whose loathsome spectre now lies in ruin.

These Black Bears haven’t won on the road in four straight tries, two of which were against lowly Amherst, and are just 4-8-0 in Hockey East away from Alfond this year. Two of those wins were at Providence when the Friars were looking like the worst team in league history, and another was at Merrimack. If the psychic advantage the Alfond provided has indeed evaporated, there is nothing left to prevent Lowell from steamrolling Maine this weekend, especially with noted Black Bear hunter Kory Falite reinserted in the Lowell lineup.

We said it the other day, but if Lowell can muster the kind of blitz on the Dave Wilsons and Scott Darlings of the world that it did against the near-unimpregnable Brad Thiessen, then there’s no way Lowell doesn’t clown Maine out in thorough and embarrassing fashion. Certainly the ‘Hawks got a ton of good looks on Saturday and Thiessen was the only reason the Huskies prevailed.

How can anyone consider Maine’s defense and goaltending to be the equal of Northeastern’s? Maine may allow 26.7 shots per game to Northeastern’s 31.4, but at least the Huskies keep shots to the outside. From what we’ve seen on television (we have (un?)fortunately not seen the Black Bears live this year), Maine gives up many, many quality chances, and that’s probably the reason the team save percentage is an horrific .895.

Frankly, we’ll be terribly disappointed if Lowell doesn’t take four points this weekend. We’d settle for three, but anything less than that would be a poor return.

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