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Saturday thoughts: Val’s gotcha no problem

December 6, 2009

It’s difficult to explain to you, our beloved readers, the profundity with which we enjoy being right. Sure, we often come across as having a smug sense of self-satisfaction and that’s because we do. But you’ll at least have to grant us that this penchant for know-it-allism is well-earned.

Some will say that this is the Lowell team we all know and love, back from hell and with a new-found dedication to the things that make winning hockey possible. They will be wrong.

The Lowell team we saw last week is the same one we saw tonight and the same one we saw two weeks ago. Where a three-game losing streak looks bad, certainly, it was really say, only five bad periods in a row. And if, at the end of the day, we have to look back on a time when Lowell ALMOST slipped to two games above .500 because of five straight uninspired periods, then we suppose we can live with that. Now to the actual game itself, in which Lowell played one period of give-and-take hockey before it wrestled Amherst to the ground and pummeled it into submission like Brock Lesnar fighting a schoolgirl.

The first period was somewhat even. Neither team seemed especially willing to allow the other much leeway, though Lowell gained a couple of early power plays and attempted something like 16 shots in those four minutes. Only two of them made it to the net, but this was something of a warning shot across the Minuteman bow. However, after a lot of up-and-down play, Jeremy Dehner was called for hitting after the whistle with just about a minute and a half left, and while Lowell did a good job of turning the Amherst rush away at their own blue line, then the red line, then the attacking blue line like some kind of absurd Herbie, the puck was cleared behind the Amherst net with about 20 seconds left.

The scoring rush started inauspiciously with Justin Braun pushing the puck a bit too far ahead of himself for no apparent reason. But he got there well before anyone else and soon Amherst had possession deep. The Minutemen worked back to Will Ortiz who found himself in acres of space and he scored in the dying seconds, wristing one past Nevin Hamilton with 5.8 on the clock.

Lowell could have chosen this moment to be disheartened. We sure heard some talk of, “It’s happening agaiiiiiiinnnnnn” between periods. That chatter can’t have been helped by Amherst’s second goal of the game against the run of play, just 5:15 into the second on a bit of a defensive breakdown and thanks entirely to James Marcou’s playmaking ability which is, we must say, ridiculous when in evidence. The problem for Amherst tonight: that was hardly ever. Indeed, the only times we noticed him especially were the sick pass to Casey Wellman for the tap-in (and if anyone was wondering, yes, his point total this season is entirely the product of Marcou’s hard work) and when he flew across the neutral zone in the third period, took about 14 strides then left his feet to check someone on Lowell away from the play for a penalty for which he should count himself lucky he wasn’t shown the gate.

But now Lowell was down two goals 25:15 into the game, and the Minutemen boosters in attendance were feeling themselves as much as the team they support was. But then Ortiz went off for a questionable elbow less than a minute later and Jeremy Dehner snapped home a nice wrister from just about the same spot from which Ortiz’s goal had originated to cut the lead to one and the game immediately took on a different complexion.

Lowell began to do so many things well that to single out one particular area would be unfair. After the game, Blaise MacDonald called it the best period of hockey Lowell has played all season, and we’d be hard-pressed to disagree even though we personally have seen some whopper periods this year. David Vallorani leveled the game at 10:04, beating the great Paul Dainton* five-hole on a nice feed from Maury Edwards. Then Paul Worthington put Lowell up 3-2 with less than 2:30 to go in the period. And that one-goal lead was flattering to the Minutemen, who were so wide-eyed in the face of the River Hawks’ comprehensive and relentless assault that their escaping with a shot differential of minus-12 for the period was some manner of small miracle.

But Amherst, ever persistent and unwilling to acknowledge that it’s been beaten, pulled back even early in the period, once again counter to the way play had been going. This time it was the less talented and therefore less notable Marcou brother — Michael? Marcel? It’s hard to keep track — that did it, coming on the receiving end of the type of play that made his brother so famous: stand-in-front-and-keep-your-stick-on-the-ice-so-you-can-tap-in-this-perfect-centering-feed. And that’s when the game got nervy again. Not because Amherst had just tied the game, but because Lowell took a penalty close to a minute and a half after the goal, then another 1:22 after that (the latter for too many men!). Amherst used its timeout here, rather injudiciously as it turned out.

Their 5-on-3 play was, to put it lightly, a fiasco. Lowell got the puck and cleared it so often that it almost became laughable. D-to-D pass, attempt to shuffle it down low, taken away and cleared. Repeat ad nauseum until both penalties expired. Whatever Don “Toot” Cahoon drew up, we hope for his sake that it was not that. It resulted in zero, count ’em, ZERO shots on goal. But hey, Matt Irwin attempted two — one went wide, one was blocked by Nick Schaus — so that has to count for something.

Lowell used that momentum, predictably, to score twice in the remaining 7:29 and, if not give the game a fully-deserved scoreline, then at least give it a more fitting one. Both goals came off the stick of David Vallorani, both beat Dainton* high glove (so, too, did Dehner’s.. hmm, there might be a book on the somehow-reigning Hockey East Goaltender of the Month, we think), but both were the results of beautiful individual efforts which we will attempt to chronicle, but fear that we will not do them proper justice.

Lowell’s fourth goal, Vallorani’s second and the game-winner, came when Nick Schaus fired a big point shot into a cluster of bodies in front of Dainton. The puck bounced off Mike Scheu’s chest as he was knocked to the ice by an Amherst defenseman and, while lying on the ice, he somehow found Vallorani alone at the hash marks and slid him the puck. The sophomore did the rest and Dainton*, who was out of position, never stood a chance.

He didn’t stand a chance on Vallorani’s dagger of a hat-trick goal with 3:58 to go either, but for an entirely different reason. Vallorani, having received a stretch pass at around the right neutral zone faceoff dot, broke in one-on-one with a defender we believe to have been Irwin while the rest of the Minutemen were on a change, and that proved their undoing. After a bit of stickhandling, Vallorani unleashed a shot that would have made Vasily Zaytsev break down and cry.

Great individual performance from the sophomore sniper, great showing for the whole team, great to beat an incredibly overrated team right before they slip into their post-Christmas tailspin like every year while Lowell can still reap some respect for their trouble. But most of all, great to get one past the naysayers and chalk up a big W, especially in Hockey East.

So long, losing streak. Good riddance.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2009 3:19 pm

    Very good win for a team that really needed it. Four non-conference winnable games in a row coming up.

  2. Keith permalink
    December 7, 2009 12:33 am

    The work and passion last night was great to see; a determined game and result.

    Nice to see you making so many friends ‘out there.’ I am enjoying the banter volleyed, as much as others are not.

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