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Saturday thoughts: One or the other

October 24, 2010

So far this season, what we’ve seen from Lowell is that they will do one thing well per game. They can either score almost at will, or they can defend staunchly. They cannot do both.

And against a strong defensive team like Northeastern, it seemed likely that offense wasn’t going to be the thing that won the day. So instead the River Hawks defended, and pretty well too.

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t good enough.

The difference between these two teams, we think, was that Northeastern has more experience playing defensive hockey than does Lowell, and that certainly outed in the result tonight. That Lowell put 40 shots on goal to the Huskies’ 26 is a bit deceptive, because while there were shots from all over the ice, and not just the perimeter, one never really got the feeling that they were never particularly threatening to Chris Rawlings’ attempts to build on a solid start to the season, even if his performance tonight was a bit iffy.

And that’s not to say Lowell wasn’t around the net, because they were. Clearly there’s a book on Rawlings somewhere in Blaise MacDonald’s office, because the River Hawks brought it to the net, and hard, often cutting in on the shortside and trying to stuff it past Rawlings’ sizeable pads. However, while it was successful most of the time last season, the results tonight left a lot to be desired.

At the opposite end of the ice, Northeastern finally scored more than two in a game, and we can’t really fault Marc Boulanger for that. The first goal against came about because no one on the penalty kill saw fit to get into Brodie Reid’s shooting lane, nor to try to move Tyler McNeeley from the front of the net. The resulting tip-in goal was going to be difficult for any goaltender alive to get a piece of. That was a defensive breakdown for sure. And similarly, the Steve Silva game-winner was a puck that came hard off the glass on an errant shot and bounced in crazily in front of the net. Another tough one to give up, and not really anyone’s fault.

But it underscores Lowell’s larger problem tonight in every zone: they simply didn’t get many bounces to go their way. We understand that sounds like loser talk and blame-shifting, but it’s not. Northeastern outcompeted Lowell for the majority of the game, in our estimation. Certainly, the Huskies brought their lunchpails to the rink and worked hard to establish a physical presence for which Lowell had no answer, and little want to match. They bullied Lowell along the boards and even in open ice at times. There are a lot of teams in Hockey East that can execute a physical gameplan, and it would be nice if Lowell could adapt to that style of play, and soon. Otherwise, they’re in for a lot more games like this one.

But that’s not to say Lowell played particularly badly. Maury Edwards had a big turnaround game tonight, not only scoring the goal but unleashing a couple patented howitzers from the top of the circle that, frankly, could have been an attraction at SpookyWorld. Derek Arnold had another solid performance even if it didn’t net him a point, and Boulanger did everything he could have done in defeat tonight.

This was one of those games that Lowell lost plenty of a couple years ago when the team had a similar makeup. The margin for error with this many freshmen in the lineup is rather slim, and Lowell made one or two mistakes too many to emerge with a win.

This was the kind of thing we came in expecting from Lowell, so all McNeeley’s fistpumping on his empty net goal is rendered as embarrassing as the self-congratulatory gloating from Husky fans that’s sure to come. For the ‘Hawks, these games are all about learning experiences. Now the kids know what it takes to compete physically in this league, and that they don’t have to give up four or more goals in conference games.

So there’s something to build on.

One Comment leave one →
  1. rich permalink
    October 28, 2010 4:18 pm

    What got me about this game was the way Lowell lost composure after the second goal. I thought they had a chance in those last 6 minutes to really show resiliency, the way we have seen in recent years. I thought they played scared of giving up another goal instead of focusing on tying the game. Once this team is able to shake off those types of goals they will be successful again

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