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Friday thoughts: In the winter of ’65 we were hungry, just barely alive

November 14, 2009

Things were looking dire after 20 minutes.

Huntsville, after all, had scored just 46 seconds into the game on, you guessed it, a breakaway opportunity. It had a small advantage in shots, but an advantage nonetheless. It had dictated the pace of the game, insofar as its own ineptitude at doing anything right apart from that brief breakaway seemed to have disrupted Lowell’s ability to play the game at what would be considered a pace conducive to achieving its objectives.

There was some cause for concern. This was not a team with which we were familiar (since we wouldn’t be caught dead watching College Hockey America-brand hockey, obviously) so we thought that perhaps maybe Huntsville really could get its clumsy mitts around Lowell’s throat and choke the life out of it, and that we’d made a terrible mistake.

But then we caught ourselves: how could WE be wrong about something?

Yeah, Huntsville kinda sorta carried play for the opening 20 — we’d be so generous as to grant them even 25 — minutes, if you consider kind of shoving something along the ground because you’re too inept to actually pick it up and handle it with any precision “carrying.” Lowell, at least, was being outshot 7-1 at one point, had given up two breakaways and did as little as physically possible without actually doing nothing with a pair of power plays.

But soon Lowell began chiseling away at the facade of Huntsville’s grandiose ideas that it was somehow on a level even remotely similar to the River Hawks, who are, in every way, their hockey superiors. The second period began with Lowell killing a penalty and having Huntsville take a penalty of their own to negate it. That happened quite a bit, actually, and that is probably what allowed Lowell to get its feet back under it after the sluggish first period. Now, we had heard rumors about the relative awfulness of the Huntsville power play. Indeed, it had only scored twice in something like 47 attempts this season, and that’s hockey-math talk for “not good.” But nothing could have prepared us for this. The Chargers were so bad with the man advantage that we should have been strapped to a chair with our eyes forced open while some doctor constantly dropped liquid into them and luvly, luvly Ludwig Van played in the background.

To call it inept is to do a disservice to things that are hilariously inept. As men who fancy ourselves connoisseurs of the sport, this was something that actually offended us. From whence does this team, sitting at college hockey’s southernmost outpost, summon the gall to call that.. thing a “power play?” Their rights to being a hockey team should be revoked on account of this monstrosity befouling our fair sport. It’s for the good of the game.

But, one supposes, we can’t be too judgmental. It was, after all, this calamitous special-teams situation that allowed Lowell to find purchase and pull itself back into the game. With two successive penalties killed off (if suicide counts as a homicide..?) Lowell began bossing Huntsville in a way that was much more what we expected and, indeed, should have been happening in the prior 25 minutes as well. They took the game to the endboards and halfwalls and just worked the puck, worked the body, worked the cycle. When the Chargers did happen to actually control the puck, they were so surprised or afraid or both that they would immediately throw it the length of the ice with a blatant disregard for icing, or else heft it over the glass as though the puck were a live hand grenade that had rolled to a stop at their feet. In times like these, it’s best not to panic, but panic they did and it, of course, ended up working to their detriment.

On one attempted breakout, Colin Wright, Matt Ferreira and Scott Campbell were able to disrupt the puckcarrier and work the puck into a scrum at the left side of the Huntsville goal. From there, Wright got it free and scored. Ho hum. Prior to the goal, we had noted in the liveblog that Huntsville was trapping their little hearts out, and that Lowell’s breakout and forecheck were, even in a normal game, the kind that breaks traps, so to see this finally work after close to 30 minutes was no real surprise. Would we have liked it to work a little sooner? Of course, but who are we get upset about positive results, eh? Lowell’s goal forced Huntsville to come out of its shell a bit, and that afforded Lowell the opportunity to bring a sledge hammer down upon it.

Wright added his second just under nine minutes later, and that was pretty much nine minutes of straight bone-crushing pressure. The arrival of the goal, which of course stood up as the game-winner, was as inevitable as the comings and goings of the tide or the waning and waxing of the moon. Set a watch to it, form a calendar around it, it was going to happen. And from there Huntsville had to play even more aggressively and that, too, ultimately cost them as David Vallorani added an insurance goal on a nice pass from Mike Scheu less than five minutes into the third.

At that point, the game was so over that no one even needed to say it. You could see it in the play of the Chargers, in the body language of their players, in the strategizing of their coaches. Everything screamed, “Get us out of here within 20 minutes, for the love of Elvis.” At least they did that correctly.

Mission accomplished, fellers. We’ll see ya tomorrah night, boy howdy.

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