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Saturday thoughts: Clear eyes, full hearts

November 12, 2011

Friday Night Lights was a great television show but it was not without its flaws. Apart from the extremely problematic second season that even the show’s producers eventually agreed was best forgotten, the show had the football team that was so central to everything in its universe win in entirely improbable ways far too often. Often, the game-winning plays came with no time left on the clock.

As a fan of sports, you would watch that show and say, “Well that would never happen.” As a fan of human drama and the way sport can uplift you, you still couldn’t help but get excited in spite of yourself.

Watching the third period tonight, that — the feeling of incredulity and wonder and joy and pride swirling together into an intoxicating mix — was exactly how we felt.

If you had told us that Lowell was going to win Friday night in Orono we might have believed you. They were playing some pretty good hockey and Maine was decidedly not and, Alfond Arena or not, we would have at least thought you could have been on to something. If you had told us that Lowell’s win in Orono on Friday would be a command performance in which they scored five goals including two or three of the highlight reel variety, as well as some caused by Maine making colossally stupid mistakes, then we’d have been less inclined to believe you.

They did it, though, and that’s great. We feel really happy about it.

But if you had told us that tonight’s game would be a win, we would instantly be wary of buying into it. Sweeping in Orono is not just a non-starter for Lowell, it’s a non-starter for most teams in Hockey East and all of college hockey. It happens just once every two seasons or so. For Lowell, it hasn’t happened in 26 years. So no, as happy as we were with Friday, we weren’t willing to buy into the “Lowell sweeps in Maine” narrative. And if you had told us that Lowell would sweep Maine after trailing 2-0 through two periods by scoring four goals, including the game-winner coming with just 34 seconds left, we would have simply laughed. After all, there is only so far we’re willing to stretch our suspension of disbelief.

However, if you had told us that Maine would open the scoring midway through the first period and, after a brief period of the River Hawks controlling play, completely dictate the pace of the contest through the first 20, we’d have bought that, and hard. Coming off what must have been an incredibly frustrating third consecutive loss, this one at home, Maine had to come crashing out of the gates and make a statement. Brian Flynn’s goal did just that, coming almost immediately off a draw after a prolonged period of Maine keeping the puck in the zone, which was only spelled by a Lowell icing. Flynn tipped in the point shot from right in front of Doug Carr and we just about figured this would be yet another painful night in Orono. We’d seen too many games for too many years work out exactly the same way.

And if you had told us Maine would add to the lead late in the second on a bad penalty by a Lowell defenseman, we’d have absolutely believed that. That’s so common as to be hardly worth noticing. We figured that given Maine’s completely lack of ability to win of late, they’d clamp down on the game in the third so hard that the River Hawks would nary set foot outside their own defensive zone.

Where we would have completely stopped believing anything you had to say was when Maine started taking some real stupid penalties and give Lowell a glimmer of hope fairly early in that final period by taking a dopey interference penalty. And under normal circumstances, maybe we’d have bought that Riley Wetmore could have scored on it. But lately Wetmore has taken a backseat to Matt Ferreira and Scott Wilson in terms of scoring, and had picked up a goal and an assist in the last two games inconspicuously (especially after rather conspicuously going pointless against BC). And certainly, we can’t imagine we’d have ever bought into a scenario in which Wetmore found himself in so much space on that power play opportunity that he had time to build a small sniper’s nest before firing one past Dan Sullivan to halve Maine’s lead at 5:08 of the third period.

If you had told us that Maine’s response to the Wetmore goal would be to take a too many men call 1:10 after that and then, during the resulting power play, have their top defenseman’s stick break so that he had to dive at and hug a River Hawk’s skate, we would have told you to get lost. If you’d added to this far-fetched story by saying that Lowell would score on both of those power plays to take the lead, with Wetmore adding his second just 2:53 after his first, then Wilson scoring another picturesque goal on which he deked through a defender down the left wing and went top shelf, we’d have simply gawked. Three goals for Lowell, all on the power play as a result of mental mistakes, in the space of 3:52? You’d have been lucky if we didn’t call the police to ask them about opening a fraud investigation.

Now, to be fair, we would have been more likely to believe that your flimsy fairy tale if you had told us Maine would come back to tie it 2:52 later with archvillain scalawag Joey Diamond scoring on the power play. That’s how this type of thing usually goes, right? Still, we’d have taken the three points from an Orono weekend and happily stolen back down I-95 before anyone could figure out what happened.

And if you also told us that Diamond would run Doug Carr on a rush inside of a minute to go after he had been strong in net all night, well, we’d have gone right back to believing you. It would have been the perfect move to ensure the victory was at least somewhat pyrrhic, just to let the viewer know the bad guys still held some manner of power. Adding that Chad Ruhwedel would break the other way on a 2-on-1 and score with 34 ticks left on the clock would have pushed all your credibility into an inky black abyss, never to be seen again.

Yet here we are, with a young Lowell team, now in the midst of a three-game winning streak, having climbed this mountain for just the second time in program history. You couldn’t make that up.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Pat permalink
    November 13, 2011 9:43 am

    I do have faith in the team but I prayed the Rosary thru the 3rd period. the power of prayer and all :)

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