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Weekend preview: Uncertainty

November 18, 2010

The Lowell River Hawks (2-6-2, 2-6-0 HE) vs. the Merrimack Warriors (2-2-4, 1-2-3 HE)

7 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Massachusetts.
7 p.m. Saturday at Volpe Center, North Andover, Massachusetts.

Lowell is tied for sevent in Hockey East with four points from eight games. Merrimack is sixth in Hockey East with five points from six games.

Last three games
Lowell — 1-2 vs. UNH, 3-1 vs. Vermont, 1-5 at BC
Merrimack — 3-3 (ot) vs. BU, 1-1 (ot) at BU, 0-2 at Providence

Prior meetings
Lowell leads Merrimack 66-32-8, all-time.

Season series
Nothing to report.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Riley Wetmore — 10 GP, 3-4-7 (8 GP, 2-3-5 HE)
Chad Ruhwedel — 10, 1-6-7 (8, 1-3-4)
Josh Holmstrom — 10, 0-6-6 (8, 0-4-4)
David Vallorani — 10, 2-3-5 (8, 1-2-3)
Joe Pendenza — 10, 4-0-4 (8, 4-0-4)

Merrimack:
Stephane Da Costa — 8 GP, 3-5-8 (6 GP, 0-4-4 HE)
Joe Cucci — 8, 3-4-7 (6, 2-2-4)
Jesse Todd — 8, 2-3-5 (6, 2-0-2)
Karl Stollery — 8, 0-5-5 (6, 0-4-4)
Chris Barton — 8, 2-2-4 (6, 1-2-3)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Doug Carr (2-3-1) — 7 GP, 343:39, 2.62 GAA/.923 sv% (6 GP, 278:39, 2.80 GAA/.918 sv% HE)
Marc Boulanger (0-3-1) — 5, 260:39, 4.37/.858 (4, 196:47, 4.57/.850)

Merrimack:
Joe Cannata (2-2-4) — 8 GP, 483:09, 2.11 GAA/.936 sv% (6 GP, 371:54, 1.94 GAA/.941 sv% HE)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (10 games) — 22 goals for (2.20/gm), 36 goals against (3.60/gm). Power play 7/49 (14.3%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 31/38 (81.6%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (8 games) — 16 goals for (2.00/gm), 30 goals against (3.75/gm). Power play 6/37 (16.2%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 26/29 (89.7%, 1 SHGF)

Merrimack:
Overall (8 games) — 23 goals for (2.88/gm), 18 goals against (2.25/gm). Power play 7/44 (15.9%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 45/48 (93.8%, 0 SHGF)
Hockey East (6 games) — 6 goals for (2.00/gm), 13 goals against (2.17/gm). Power play 6/35 (17.1%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 36/39 (92.3%, 0 SHGF)

Outlook
This is a weekend that could let Lowell steal a point or two.

Merrimack, for all its experience, is a team that’s not unlike Lowell. A bit of trouble scoring this year (led by the conspicuous-in-his-quietness Stephane Da Costa), a so-so power play as a result, and a great penalty kill. And while there’s an appreciable difference in the teams’ overall defense, the weekends’ two likely goaltenders, Doug Carr and Joe Cannata, are pretty damn close statistically even with Carr’s early-season struggle at Maine.

So why don’t we feel that great about this? Well as we pointed out before, Lowell typically doesn’t receive top-notch performances from its freshmen in their first games against the ‘Mack. And Lowell is going to lean heavily on its rookies once again this weekend, as a number of forward upperclassmen are still out due to injury. Against a team that’s been as stingy as Merrimack, that’s not really a good thing.

The good news is that, by all accounts, Da Costa has been struggling quite a bit this year, and for a Lowell defense that’s really been very good in front of Carr for the last several weeks, that has to be a bit of a relief. Honestly, we were terrified at the idea of Real Da Costa vivisecting the Lowell defense and goaltending with surgical precision and an animalistic ferocity.

We’re not happy with the prospect of going into a Merrimack weekend hoping for a point or two. But the sad reality of Lowell’s current situation says this team simply cannot be counted on to get winnable points with any consistency. Down the road? Okay, a Merrimack home-and-home might’ve been a sure two points.

But this team, while still improving, can’t say anything is for sure.

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