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Saturday thoughts: You didn’t have to be so hurtful with me

March 8, 2009

There are some things you just go through life believing you will never see.

Rocket cars, robot dinosaurs, a race of space kangaroos come to enslave the planet. But of all these wild imaginings, perhaps the most ludicrous, to us at least, was always a sweep of Maine.

Never in the history of the program has a Chief or River Hawk team taken six points from the Black Bears in one season. A few have come close, but when it comes to beating Maine, no one has ever bettered the performance put on by this exceptional group of Lowell hockey players.

Tonight, in the third game of a series that they had already ensured that they would win, the River Hawks jumped right out of the gate, scored early and never relented for a second in administering a severe and comprehensive 6-0 beating to not only netminder Scott Darling, but also to a clearly disinterested Black Bear team that was thoroughly outclassed in all three games this year.

As it did last night, Lowell made its hay on the power play, going 2 for 3 but converting quickly on their first two man-up opportunities. Kory Falite opened the scoring with a goal 43 seconds into Lowell’s first power play and just 2:54 into the game, and what an important goal that was not only in exhibiting that he was refocused and reenergized for the last stretch (he went 2-2-4 in these games), but also in letting the pitiable Bears know that yes, Lowell would be taking all six points from them this season and no, it would not be pretty, thankyouverymuch.

The second power play goal was Lowell’s third of the game and it came directly off a draw, only three seconds in to Lowell’s second power play. Three. Seconds. That’s how long it took for Ben Holmstrom to win the puck straight back to Maury Edwards and for Edwards’ rocket shot to go past Darling. It was Edwards’ 10th of the year, momentous because it was the first time since Ron Hainsey‘s 2001 campaign that a Lowell defenseman cracked a double-digit goal total. If there is any justice in the world, Edwards will also have the distinction of being the first River Hawk since Hainsey to be named first-team All-Hockey East. If he isn’t, let’s just say we have a contingency plan in place for exacting revenge. (Full disclosure: It involves calling every Hockey East coach at 3 a.m. and saying “Baba Booey” until they hang up.)

But more on the power play this weekend: it went 6 for 11 this weekend, and many of the opportunities on which it didn’t score were abbreviated, which is why we believe “power play percentage” to be a poor, incomplete stat. For example, Lowell had eight power plays on Friday and scored on four. But the four on which it did not score were a full two minutes, 1:22, :19 and :55. In all, Lowell scored four goals on Friday in just 9:22 of power play time. Tonight, obviously, was more of the same, with Lowell scoring twice in 2:46 of power play time. Thus, Lowell scored six power play goals in 12:08, or, if you prefer, .99 per two minutes of power play time. In other words, Lowell scored on just about every two-minute minor Maine took, and that’s incredible.

The other goals were very nice too, a combination of skill (Jeremy Dehner‘s third goal of the year on a rush down the right win), tenacity and desire (Mike Budd‘s rebound goal off an Edwards shot and Falite’s second), and luck (Mark Roebothan‘s goal off his skate on a centering pass from Mike Potacco he likely never saw).

All that, by the way, goes without mentioning a second straight solid effort from Carter Hutton (21 saves and the shutout), a strong penalty kill that kept Maine off the board despite four second-period power plays, and an incredible will on defense that saw the team block an astonishing 23 shots.

This, of course, is exactly how you would like a team to be playing headed into the postseason. Even in games in which it had a distinct advantage, no reason to play hard other than pride and preparedness and against an opponent that was more than willing to go quietly and without a fight, Lowell straight brought it. The 5.5 goals/game is nice, but the thing we’re even happier about is the 1.5 goals against/game. That, and especially tonight’s result which saw the Black Bears attempt a whopping 62 shots to Lowell’s 48 only to be outshot 22-21, tells us that while Maine was able to put together shot attempts, Lowell blocked more than a third of those attempts and rarely saw Hutton forced to make a save that would even be counted as “strenuous.” Real good to see.

Now, after 180 minutes and a plus-9 goal differential, we can officially cross “See Lowell sweep Maine” off the list of physical impossibilities. Next up: the ability to travel forward in time.

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