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Saturday thoughts: Not out of the woods

February 21, 2010

Progress will always be progress, no matter how inconsequential it may seem.

Last night’s convincing 4-2 win doesn’t really do THAT much for Lowell in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t catapult Lowell into the home ice spot it should have had locked up a month ago. It doesn’t mean this team is all of a sudden back to being considered one of the best in the country. It doesn’t guarantee a strong shot at an NCAA berth. And it sure doesn’t erase that 8-4 embarrassment from Friday.

But it might just get Lowell moving in the right direction.

In a lot of ways, Friday night’s game had to have been rock bottom. It was the team’s worst performance since a 6-2 home loss to BU on Feb. 8, 2008 and, we hope, served as a wakeup call to this promising team that has go well out of its way to wear off any luster this season may once have held. Last night began the long way back.

Carter Hutton was once again as solid as you’d like a goalie to be in making 24 saves and allowing two goals, one of which he never saw and the other having been a world-beating shot from — who else — Brian Flynn. But of course Hutton wasn’t the difference, according to everyone involved (though it is impossible to ignore that he was able to successfully save more than five of the first eight shots he faced). The difference, instead, was Lowell actually showed some level of desire to compete in this game and, whaddaya know, bossed Maine around from start to finish.

That’s the frustrating part about this Lowell team. When it comes to play, it wins far more often than not, and usually with a disconcerting amount of ease, as was the case in Orono last night. And look, obviously Scott Darling is a crap goalie. He gave up eight goals on 48 shots and these weren’t the kind of knuckleballs Carter Hutton had to face in giving up seven on 44 (also a bad total, obviously). But most of these shots that beat him were just straight shots, almost all of which he got good looks at. Whether it’s fair or not, we will continue to view games in Orono as the kind that Lowell can’t or at least won’t win, and for them to do so is always going to be a bit of a surprise.

This is what happens, though, when Kory Falite, who scored points Nos. 100-102 last night, applies himself. It’s no coincidence that when Lowell was winning about a month ago, he was scoring in bunches, and it’s no coincidence that when he stopped scoring, Lowell started losing. In fact, Falite has seven multiple-point games this year, in which Lowell has gone 7-0 and outscored opponents 31-14 (4.43 GF/gm, 2.00 GA).

It’s great that Lowell was able to salvage two points from this weekend and have every other result pretty much break its way as it jumped from eighth to a tie for sixth with a game in hand on Amherst. It would have been better to not get embarrassed in the first game of the weekend, but a split’s a split and it’s not the worst thing in the world given our adjusted expectations for Lowell. We’re not happy that Lowell is now just one of those teams opponents “don’t want to see in the playoffs,” but that’s how it is. Lowell can and should win all four of its remaining games. If it can bully an impeccable home team like Maine for 60 minutes, it can and should crush the two current outsiders in the Hockey East playoff picture like bugs.

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