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Weekend preview: The greatest gift of the garden

March 19, 2009

The No. 19 UMass Lowell River Hawks (19-15-2, 16-11-2 HE) vs. the No. 5 Northeastern Huskies (25-10-4, 20-7-3 HE)

5 p.m. Friday at TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, Mass.

All-time head-to-head Lowell leads Northeastern 50-34-7. Lowell also leads the all-time postseason series 10-3-0.

Lowell finished fifth in Hockey East with 30 points from 27 games and Northeastern finished second in Hockey East with 39 points from 27 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 4-2 at Vermont, 4-3 (ot) at Vermont, 6-0 vs. Maine
Vermont — 3-2 (ot) vs. UMass Amherst, 4-1 vs. UMass Amherst, 1-2 vs. UMass Amherst

Prior meetings
Northeastern edged Lowell 4-3 on Nov. 22 behind three third-period goals, all of which were off rebounds. Lowell went 0 for 6 on the power play and outshot NU 39-32 but didn’t get the second-chance goals that Northeastern did. Lowell also failed to capitalize on 10 power play shots in 11 minutes of man-up time in the first period that could have almost certainly put the game away. Greg Costa had a hat trick for the Huskies, and Ben Holmstrom led Lowell with a pair of assists. Brad Thiessen outdueled Nevin Hamilton for the win.

On Feb. 27, Northeastern pounded Lowell 3-0 at Matthews Arena. The Huskies got goals from Mike McLaughlin, Steve Silva and Jim Driscoll. Hamilton made just 21 saves in the loss, and Thiessen stopped all 24 shots he faced. It was unequivocally Lowell’s worst effort of the season.

The following night, Lowell played much better but still only solved Thiessen once, that on a goal from David Vallorani in a 3-1 loss. Carter Hutton allowed two goals on 16 shots and took the loss, and Thiessen obviously got the win. Lowell also missed several point-blank opportunities in the game.

Season series
Lowell was swept 0-3-0.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Maury Edwards — 36 GP, 11-17-28 (27 GP, 9-16-25 HE)
Scott Campbell — 36, 13-15-28 (27, 6-11-17)
David Vallorani — 36, 9-18-27 (27, 7-12-19)
Jeremy Dehner — 36, 3-22-25 (27, 3-17-20)
Kory Falite — 29, 14-8-22 (20, 10-5-15)

Northeastern:
Wade MacLeod — 39 GP, 14-20-34 (27 GP, 9-17-26 HE)
Ryan Ginand — 37, 20-12-32 (27, 14-10-24)
Joe Vitale — 38, 7-20-27 (27, 6-14-20)
Steve Quailer — 39, 10-15-25 (27, 4-10-14)
Alex Tuckerman — 38, 8-14-22 (27, 4-8-12)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Carter Hutton (8-8-1) — 18 GP, 1,044:00 minutes, 2.07 GAA/.915 sv% (12 GP, 667:58 minutes, 2.25 GAA/.910 sv% HE)
Nevin Hamilton (10-6-1) — 18, 1,054:50, 2.22/.922 (16, 934:54, 2.18/.926)

Northeastern:
Brad Thiessen (25-10-4) — 39 GP, 2,373:02 minutes, 2.07 GAA/.932 sv% (27 GP, 1,638:07 minutes, 2.09 GAA/.932 sv% HE)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (36 games) — 109 goals for (3.03/gm), 83 goals against (2.31/gm). Power play 37/186 (19.9%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 152/173 (87.9%, 5 SHGF)
Hockey East (27 games) — 84 GF (3.11/gm), 66 GA (2.44/gm). Power play 26/132 (19.7%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 122/137 (89.1%, 5 SHGF)

Northeastern:
Overall (39 games) — 117 goals for (3.00/gm), 85 goals against (2.18/gm). Power play 33/220 (15.0%, 6 SHGA), penalty kill 187/216 (86.6%, 8 SHGF)
Hockey East (27 games) — 78 (2.89/gm), 59 GA (2.19/gm). Power play 24/156 (15.4%, 1 SHGA), 127/149 (85.2%, 6 SHGF)

Lowell’s head-to-head leaders vs. Northeastern
Mike Potacco — 11 GP, 4-2-6
Kory Falite — 8, 2-3-5
Ben Holmstrom — 9, 0-4-4
Mark Roebothan — 12, 1-3-4
Maury Edwards — 6, 1-2-3

Carter Hutton (2-1-0) — 3 GP, 182:18 minutes, 2.63 GAA/.899
Nevin Hamilton (1-5-0) —6, 250:55, 2.87/.901, 1 SHO

Lowell’s playoff leaders:
Lowell:
Paul Worthington — 5 GP, 2-5-7
Scott Campbell — 5, 3-3-6
Maury Edwards — 5, 1-3-4
David Vallorani — 2, 1-2-3
Kory Falite — 5, 2-1-3

Carter Hutton (2-2-0) — 4 GP, 266:41 minutes, 2.70 GAA/.908 sv%
Nevin Hamilton (1-0-0) — 1, 60:00, 2.00/.917

Outlook
“How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Will you be happy regardless of what happens Friday? The ‘Hawks won’t. We won’t.

That’s because Northeastern is not, despite what the three previous meetings would indicate, an unbeatable team. Far from it, in fact. That’s because Brad Thiessen, despite what the three previous meetings would indicate, is not superhuman.

One need only look to last season, when Lowell scored nine goals against him in three games, including eight in a weekend sweep that guaranteed the ‘Hawks would make the playoffs. But the difference between last year and this year is that Lowell capitalized on the Huskies’ mistakes when it won those two games, and failed to do so when it lost the three this season. Northeastern isn’t BU, which can overpower any team in the nation with its skill and size. Northeastern isn’t BC, which has speed to burn and a sharpened ability to take over a game if it so chooses.

Northeastern is Northeastern, and it’s a team Lowell can easily handle. The Huskies may have averaged over three goals a game against Lowell this season, but it still needed Thiessen to steal two of those (the first and third). Northeastern often had little answer for the River Hawk power play, even if it failed to score on any of its 18 man-up attempts, and its own power play went a paltry 1 for 15. Things of that nature will almost always meander back toward the team average, and that’s obviously good news for the ‘Hawks, whose power play and penalty kill were in the top two in Hockey East.

Lowell is, judging by statistics alone, a better team than Northeastern. That much is irrefutable. Offensively, Lowell can slug it out with any team in the league and can seal a team off defensively as well. Apart from BU, not one other team in Hockey East can do this as well as Lowell. And if the Huskies do win tomorrow, it will likely be because the goaltending matchup favors them. But that’s not to say that either Nevin Hamilton or Carter Hutton are bad against the Huskies or in the playoffs.

Look, this is a team that was pushed to the brink of elimination by UMass Amherst. How good can they be? Get traffic to the goalmouth and bomb it from the perimeter. Create rebounds. Thiessen’s good enough to stop most first chances. Make him stop second or third chances and he’s not quite so impressive, though that’s true of most goalies. In that regard, Thiessen is exactly like most goalies, so what this game comes down to is a matter of will. Lowell was far more desperate than Vermont last weekend and got through to the semifinals as a result.

So now the finals await. Who wants it more?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jay permalink
    March 21, 2009 1:33 am

    Congrats on the comeback victory and defeating Northeastern in OT.

    Good luck Sat!

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