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Friday thoughts: As it should be

October 16, 2010

While Lowell certainly had the capacity to put the game away, particularly early in the game when it was bossing Niagara around, we think that, in the end, this was a result was deserved. And that should be very familiar to Lowell fans who have been around for the last half decade.

You may remember back when the Class of 2010 were just freshmen and they were just getting their feet under them.

That team, loaded with freshmen and relying on them in key positions and situations constantly, often didn’t make meals of the chances they were able to generate. They could put a lot of shots on goal, they could prevent goals from going into their own net reasonably well, and they couldn’t kill a penalty to save their lives. Blaise MacDonald would often say the game was decided by a single detail — bad bounce, missed chance, soft goal, stupid penalty, etc. — that didn’t go Lowell’s way for one reason or another.

Fast forward five years and here we are again.

Lowell outplayed Niagara in many facets of the game for a reasonable majority of it. But correctable moments (coachtalk for screwups that cost the team a goal) ended up costing the ‘Hawks a point. With teams like the one Lowell has now, the margin for error is ridiculously thin, and doing things like playing from behind minimize it further.

So when they concede a softie on a bad penalty (Scheu for a hold while Lowell was on a power play) just six minutes into the game, that’s going to create a deficit that other teams would have no problem coming back from, but which to Lowell may look like some middling Himalayan peaks. The ‘Hawks made a number of rookie mistakes, as they will continue to do all season, but there are positives to this.

For one thing, Lowell battled back from a deficit twice. And while Niagara isn’t exactly the Ken Dryden Cornell teams, Lowell’s not exactly Niagara, so one supposes that it all evens out. The River Hawks also did a good job of holding possession, dictating pace and putting a lot of pucks toward the net (though shots attempted don’t count for very much, in the grand scheme of things).

But perhaps the most positive aspect of the game was the bounceback for Doug Carr, who of course had the nightmare start to his college career last week in Orono. And frankly, we were thinking something similar would happen as he gave up a goal on that mediocre shot early in the first period. But he really battened down the hatches the rest of the way, only conceding a goal on a redirect in front of the net that no one would fault him for. Goaltending is a skill based a surprising amount on confidence, so to pick up 34 saves on 36 shots, earn a result and most importantly look pretty good doing it, that’s a big step for a kid whose debut was, well, that bad.

One area of concern, however, is the penalty kill. Niagara went 2 for 3 on their power play chances, so while Lowell did a good job of staying out of the box on the road, it paid in blood for the slightest mistakes. Coupled with last week’s abysmal effort, that puts the River Hawk PK at an abhorrent 4 of 7 for the year. No matter how young or inexperienced a team is, it needs to do better than 57.1 percent, small sample size or no.

And the other thing that’s unfortunate is that Lowell didn’t identify the way it could score tonight. Both Lowell goals came from more or less the same spot on the ice, as the puck carriers, Mike Scheu and Pat Cey (who’s had a pretty good first two games, and was fairly impressive in the exhibition as well), walked the puck off the halfboards to Carsen Chubak’s left and shot to the far side of the net. Both shots were of quality and carried some velocity, and Chubak just waved at them. Though Cey, for what it’s worth (very little), did hit the post from the slot as well.

But overall this was a much better effort than the Maine game, obviously. Not giving up eight will help with that of course. Despite the easily-drawn comparisons to the team of 2006-07, we think this team has the ability to get itself together more quickly than did its forebears. This was a stronger showing from most parties involved.

Except, obviously, the penalty kill. Please get Daniel Furlong off that posthaste.

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