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Friday thoughts: Are we not men of faith?

March 21, 2009

Northeastern scored a power play goal at 8:44 of the second period to break what was at the time a scoreless tie. Concern never crossed our minds. At 9:09 of the second period, the Huskies struck again, turning what had been a gut-wrenching draw just 25 seconds earlier into a two-goal deficit. Worry never even occurred to us.

We turned to eachother and, though the rest of the student section had gone from nervous to dejected in less than half a minute, we said that Lowell had this one. No problem. Seriously, we cannot stress this enough: In our books, there was never a doubt that Lowell would win that game. They just seemed invincible.

And so it was that, by any reasonable metric, Lowell outeverythinged Northeastern, won 3-2 in overtime, and embarked on a journey that only one other team in school history has proven worthy of taking. Lowell is on its way to the Hockey East championship game tomorrow night.

In the game, the ‘Hawks scored three unanswered goals, poured 44 shots on net, attempted close to 70, and won draws at a ratio that neared 2:1.

Back to that 25-second span in which Northeastern got its two iffy goals: neither was Carter Hutton‘s fault. The first, a nice little shot by Kyle Kraemer, only developed into a chance because of a woeful neutral-zone turnover by Barry Goers. Perhaps Hutton shouldn’t have bitten on Kraemer’s sneaky little fake, but he’s hardly to blame for going down early there. The second, a roof job off the scramble by Ray Rassey, came because no one picked up the guy crashing from the point. It happens. So what?

At this point, with Northeastern leading 2-0 and already half the game gone, it would have been easy for us to look at it pragmatically and say that the nigh-unsolvable Brad Thiessen was likely to remain such until the game ended. How many times this season had Northeastern blown a two-goal lead? Couldn’t have been many. And besides that, Thiessen had allowed four goals to Lowell in three meetings, and just one in back-to-back nights only a month ago. Saying, “Pack it in, then,” wouldn’t have been unreasonable. But we would hear none of that talk. Neither would Ryan Blair.

The hulking defenseman netted his first goal of the year at 18:44 of the second to breathe the life back into Lowell’s chances of advancing, slashing toward the net from the point and putting home a gorgeous feed from Scott Campbell to prove that Thiessen was mortal and Lowell would not go so quietly into the night after all.

The third period was all Lowell. All. Lowell. The ‘Hawks outshot Northeastern 16-7 but couldn’t find a way past Thiessen and often had trouble getting through the Huskies’ neutral-zone defense. Thing changed late in the period when, with just 1:05 seperating the Huskies from a date with the Hockey East title game, some foolish Northeastern player hopped over the boards and engaged Paul Worthington at the point of attack. A clearer too many men call has never and will never be made. Lowell took its time out and pulled Hutton, and the sextet of Campbell, Goers, Worthington, Ben Holmstrom, Jeremy Dehner and Maury Edwards quite literally had Lowell’s season in its hands against four furious Huskies.

It’s rather a good thing that there are currently no surer hands in Hockey East than Campbell’s. The sophomore sensation was camped at the bottom of the left faceoff circle undetected when a booming Edwards point shot (is there any other kind?) bounced off Thiessen’s pad and came directly to him. A Northeastern defenseman desperately threw himself at the puck, but he was too far out of position, the net too open, and the chance too good. Campbell buried it with 19.9 seconds on the board, scoring his fifth goal and 10th point in five games and pushing the ‘Hawks to the overtime period they so richly deserved.

Just three minutes into that overtime, the most wonderful thing happened. It’s something that we, as longtime followers of the Lowell River Hawk hockey program, never fully believed we’d see. Chris Auger dug the puck out of the corner and shoveled it backwards for Holmstrom. As Holmstrom steadied himself for the critical shot, Auger rotated into the shot’s intended path and laid his stick blade on the ice despite some interefernce from Louis Liotti. Holmstrom’s shot came. The puck hit Auger’s stick and deflected upwards. Over Thiessen’s pad. Into the roof of the net.

Delirium.

The River Hawks had, for the third time in a week, erased a two-goal deficit and beaten a heavily-favored opponent in a largely hostile building. They had silenced the critics. They had erased the doubts. They had advanced to the Hockey East finals for the first time in 15 years.

Bring on BU.

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