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Saturday thoughts: Just start the season

October 8, 2011

The problem with games such as these is that they are boring.

Even the most hotly-contested slugfests, the most dramatic moments, are viewed with a kind of who-cares attitude that seems impossible to shake. Lots of hits? Great scoring opportunities? Chippy play down the stretch? Breakaways? Gorgeous passing? The tying goal with 0.2 seconds left on the board?

Yawn.

We got all of that and more tonight and apart from a few observations here and there, we learned very little about this team, its personnel and what any of it means in the grand scheme of things.

Let’s start with the positives. A couple of guys really impressed us, and one of them, shockingly, was Riley Wetmore. We already thought a considerable amount of him, and if his performances down the right wing tonight were any indication, that admiration is going to grow. Lots of big-boy power forward moves to lean into the defenseman while shielding the puck to get to the middle of the ice that we don’t often see out of Lowell forwards for whatever reason. He just seemed confident with the puck on his stick and seemed to have a strong understanding of how to work well with David Vallorani and new hop-along linemate Derek Arnold. Very encouraging stuff from that group all around, even if they didn’t come up with a point between them.

Another thing we quite liked was that everyone did a pretty good job of converging on the front of the net the second the puck was below the dots. This is apparently part and parcel with the new system being put into place and guys seemed at least receptive to it if not fully accepting. That, and a seeming greater emphasis on pressuring the D when in the defensive zone, led directly to all three Lowell goals.

The first was typical Joe Pendenza stuff at this point: force a turnover at defensive blue line, score a breakaway goal. That’s what Pendenza does and he does it well. He absolutely blew the doors off Luke Gallant to level the game at one apiece.

Second goal was just off a goalmouth scramble that was the result of Lowell actually having guys, y’know, around the goalmouth. Tyler Brickler swatted it in and did well to just kind of float into position as the scrum developed. Third was just a centering pass that went off the skate of Derek McCoy, and that, by the way, was Mike Budd’s second assist of the night.

We should also point out that many of the newcomers turned in solid performances. The one that stood out the most to us was Stephen Buco, who was menacing if nothing else and seemed especially determined to make a strong first impression. It worked. Scott Wilson also did well even if his overwhelming offensive ability didn’t really rear its head. He had a couple of very strong defensive plays we didn’t expect. Jake Suter and Malcolm Lyles looked good at the blue line, though the latter really only played a handful of shifts. Suter, meanwhile, took home the award for most obviously painful blocked shot.

As far as the indifferent stuff goes, well, we’ll basically limit it to goaltending. Neither Brian Robbins nor Marc Boulanger, who got the first 40 and last 20, respectively, did anything particularly well or poorly and three goals on 27 shots is just about indicative of that. Don’t really think they had much of a chance on any of them, to be honest. The shots that beat them were a laser, a breakaway, and another howitzer.

And now for the negative, of which we’d have hoped there would be fewer.

First, you can’t get outshot by a CIS team. You simply cannot. You also can’t go 0 for 6 on the power play, including a 5-on-3 that was of a reasonable length. You also also can’t give up the tying goal with 0.2 seconds on the clock. You can’t take that many dumb penalties. You can’t lose a forward who floats to the attacking blue line and cherrypicks a breakaway goal. You can’t squander as many one-on-one looks as Lowell did tonight.

Not if you want to win anyway.

The good news is none of this matters. And none of it will until next week, when Lowell goes to Mankato, Minnesota, and formally starts the season.

That’s when we’ll start caring.

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