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Loose pucks: Blackest Friday

November 29, 2011

Three reasons we’re still stuffed:
1) Winning the eminently winnable.

Unfortunately, last year kind of got us accustomed to Lowell losing games it should win (The UConn Game, which never happened by the way, certainly didn’t help matters), but now Lowell has more or less righted the ship in that regard, and is handily beating its poorer opponents regularly. Look at Huntsville, look at Amherst, look at Maine, look at Mankato, look at BU. All not very good, all victimized by Lowell. And apart from the non-existent UConn game, Lowell’s only losses are to then-No. 1 BC and UNH on the road. Those three games also account for a significant portion of the goals against Lowell has suffered all season, not so coincidentally.

2) Doug Carr.

It’s difficult to remember now, but there was a point when Carr was viewed across the league as a poor goaltender. “Tee hee hee,” idiots would say. “This Carr kid is awful. Just look at his stats.” And yes, his stats last year were not very good by any measure. However, anyone that actually watched this team for any length of time (i.e. no one outside of Lowell, because why would you have watched last year’s team if you didn’t have to?) saw that the poor stats were the result of a bad team, and not bad play. And now, as if by magic, it’s perceived that he’s playing out of his mind because, hey the team is a lot better. He was always an above-average goaltender, even as a freshman, and this surge of success is certainly not the result of him suddenly becoming excellent. He has always been excellent. Now he gets to share that secret with everyone else in Hockey East, much to their dissatisfaction.

3) Rene Rancourt at Tsongas on Friday.

A couple years ago, we went down to Providence for a Lowell game the day after Thanksgiving and Rene Rancourt, seemingly at random, showed up to sing the national anthem. In full tuxedo. What a delightful treat. Our fist-pumpin’, anthem-beltin’ hero not only brought some serious thunder to what most fans would likely agree is one of the most torturous of listening experiences (it would be nearly impossible to think of even three good anthem singers at any college hockey game we’ve attended in the last five years), he also came out between both periods and sang holiday songs. We really hope we can expect the same on Friday. Rene Rancourt is awesome. Lowell is awesome. It’s a match made in heaven.

Two things that have us hungry for more:
1) Not hanging more than three on Huntsville.

The Chargers lucked out a little bit by having Lowell only pump three past Clarke Saunders, who was, to his credit, quite good in the game. But three goals against a team like that probably isn’t enough. Two points and all that, sure, but seeing Merrimack hang six on them two nights earlier, then UNH go up and kick three field goals? Well, that leaves us wanting a little bit. Now, to be fair, UAH started its one good goalie only against Lowell, likely because it knew what mighty terror it would face, but still. Next time Huntsville comes to town, we want a touchdo… oh, right.

2) Polls.

Yes, yes, “polls don’t matter” and all that, but we know blatant disrespect when we see it. Lowell remaining unranked is a travesty. Especially when you have 7-7-2 Michigan, — which just lost to Northeastern. At home! — ahead of them at No. 18. Lowell is currently 17th in the pairwise, and yet Denver, which is tied with Lowell at 17, is No. 10. Nebraska-Omaha and Michigan Tech, both objectively worse than Lowell according to statistics and things that make sense, are ranked ahead of our dear River Hawks. Get a clue, college hockey voters.

Stat of the Week
Consecutive shutouts don’t happen every day for Lowell, as you likely well know. The last time it took place was the 2006-07 season, when Nevin Hamilton helped beat Northeastern 1-0 on Feb. 8 and Merrimack 3-0 on Feb. 16, both were at home. Here are the other times it’s happened in the history of Lowell hockey:

Jan. 25 and 28, 1983: Dana Demole posts consecutive shutouts in a pair of 7-0 wins over Salem State and New Haven. It’s the first back-to-back shutouts by Lowell ever, because back then every game ended like 8-5. Almost always in Lowell’s favor.
Nov. 10 and 16, 2001: Cam McCormick picks up a pair of 1-0 Ws over UNH (on the road) and Amherst (in Lowell).
Nov. 24 and 28, 2001: A week later, McCormick and Jimi St. John combined to shutout Army, then McCormick went the distance against Union. Talk about a hot streak.
Dec. 7 and 28, 2003: Dominic Smart and Davidson, respectively, combine shutout to Clarkson in the final game before break, and Vermont in the first game back. The latter game was the night before what would have been The Dartmouth Game, if that existed, which it does not.
Jan. 3-4, 2004: Chris Davidson shut out Amherst on back-to-back nights because Amherst sucks, but Lowell later has to forfeit the games, which is ludicrous.

Just a note to Lowell fans
Friday’s game, we’ll admit, didn’t start out especially well for the River Hawks, but even as Lowell built its case against the Chargers and then eventually scored, one sour season ticket holder behind us loudly opined that Lowell was not being lethal enough in attack for his liking, particularly on the power play. Lowell was 1 for 3 on the man advantage at the time. Now, you can say that yes, those power plays added up to nine minutes of ice time in which the River Hawks had only scored one goal, and if you want to get into a semantical argument about goals per 60 minutes of power play time being a better indicator of a team’s true power play or penalty kill than simple percentages, well, we’re right with you. But this malcontent, who could not see the forest for the trees (the limbs of all of them whispering, “One goal is an insurmountable lead for a team as bad as Huntsville!”), complained that this still was not good enough. Of course, we know you know better. If a team were to score on one of every three power plays it received for an entire season, you could probably go ahead and start engraving its name on a national title trophy right now. The fact is that Lowell’s power play is humming right now at 10th in the country and second in Hockey East. And this, friends, is why we have “Malcontent Lowell fans” listed as Dead to Us.

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