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Weekend preview: Screaming for vengeance

December 8, 2011

The Lowell River Hawks (9-4-0, 6-3-0 HE) vs. the Boston College Eagles (12-5-0, 9-3-0 HE) and the Northeastern Huskies (6-7-2, 3-7-2 HE)

7 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.
7 p.m. Saturday at Matthews Arena, Boston, Mass.

Lowell is tied for fourth in Hockey East with 12 points from nine games. BC is first with 18 points from 12 games, and Northeastern is eighth with eight points from 12 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 5-3 at New Hampshire, 3-2 vs. New Hampshire, 3-0 vs. Alabama-Huntsville.
BC — 4-1 vs. Providence, 6-1 at BU, 3-5 vs. BU.
NU — 2-1 at Notre Dame, 9-2 at Notre Dame, 4-1 at Michigan.

Prior meetings
Lowell is 30-57-15 against BC, and leads Northeastern 53-39-7, all-time.

Season series
Lowell was swept by BC in late October, 4-2 at home and 6-3 on the road. It has yet to play Northeastern.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Matt Ferreira — 13 GP, 7-7-14 (9 GP, 5-5-10 HE)
Riley Wetmore — 13, 7-7-14 (9, 4-5-9)
Scott Wilson — 12, 5-7-12 (8, 4-4-8)
Joe Pendenza — 13, 3-9-12 (9, 2-7-9)
Chad Ruhwedel — 12, 2-10-12 (8, 2-5-7)

BC:
Chris Kreider — 17 GP, 12-10-22 (12 GP, 8-8-16)
Bill Arnold — 17, 10-9-19 (12, 9-4-13)
Kevin Hayes — 17, 4-11-15 (12, 3-10-13)
Pat Mullane — 17, 2-13-15 (12, 0-10-10)
Barry Almeida — 17, 9-5-14 (12, 6-3-9)

NU:
Steve Quailer — 13 GP, 5-10-15 (10 GP, 3-5-8)
Ludwig Karlsson — 13, 6-8-14 (10, 6-4-10)
Braden Pimm — 15, 6-5-11 (12, 2-3-5)
Vinny Saponari — 15, 1-10-11 (12, 1-8-9)
Justin Daniels — 15, 6-4-10 (12, 5-4-9)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Doug Carr (8-1-0) — 9 GP, 539:46, 1.78 GAA/.935 sv% (7 GP, 419:46, 2.14/.925 HE)
Brian Robbins (1-3-0) — 4, 197:29, 4.25/.860 (2, 76:35, 7.05/.827)

BC:
Parker Milner (9-5-0) — 14 GP, 844:20, 2.49 GAA/.901 sv% (10 GP, 600:26, 2.50/.902 HE)
Brian Billet (3-0-0) — 3, 179:56, 1.33/.956 (1, 119:59, 1.00/.966)

NU:
Chris Rawlings (6-6-2) — 14 GP, 828:18, 2.32 GAA/.931 sv% (11 GP, 648:18, 2.59/.927 HE)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (13 games) — 46 goals for (3.54/gm), 33 goals against (2.54/gm). Power play 16/75 (21.3%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 44/52 (84.6%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (9 games) — 25 goals for (3.57/gm), 27 goals against (3.00/gm). Power play 10/50 (20.0%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 31/38 (81.6%, 1 SHGF)

BC:
Overall (17 games) — 63 goals for (3.71/gm), 42 goals against (2.47/gm). Power play 16/88 (18.2%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 77/87 (88.5%, 4 SHGF)
Hockey East (12 games) — 45 goals for (3.75/gm), 29 goals against (2.42/gm). Power play 14/65 (21.5%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 56/65 (86.2%, 3 SHGF)

NU:
Overall (15 games) — 46 goals for (3.07/gm), 39 goals against (2.60/gm). Power play 4/50 (8.0%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 55/69 (79.7%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (12 games) — 31 goals for (2.58/gm), 35 goals against (2.92/gm). Power play 6/29 (20.7%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 41/53 (77.4%, 1 SHGF)

Outlook
It would appear this is quite the intriguing weekend for Lowell.

On Friday it plays Boston College, or should we say, newly-invigorated Boston College. This is the team that charged past the River Hawks in their first two league games of the season (the first of which Lowell was given every chance to win by a combination of a strong effort from Doug Carr and a pretty poor one from Parker Milner), but soon slipped into a bit of slump. Losses to Amherst and BU twice punctuated their last few games, which were typified by inconsistent and maddening play. But the insertion of freshman Brian Billet into Milner’s position as apparent No. 1 starter has yielded quite the bounty: three wins in the last four games, never more than two goals allowed, and, not surprisingly, three wins. The offense hasn’t gone away either, as the Eagles have averaged four goals a game in their last four.

But the thing is that if this team lost to the Amherst team we saw a few weeks back, they can lose to anyone, and certainly a group of worldbeaters like Lowell, who seem to specialize in overcoming odds that are stacked heavily against them. Plus, they showed adequately enough that they could run the show in the first game of the season, and if the only problem in that contest was lack of finish (evident, as well, in the team’s previous tilt with UConn), it should be pretty obvious that this particular kink was ironed out weeks ago. Apart from the being shut out by UNH, Lowell has been held to three goals or fewer exactly zero times since the end of October. They’ve scored 31 goals in the last eight games, and allowed just 17. That will, as all Lowell opponents during that stretch have found out to their chagrin, win you a lot of hockey games.

But perhaps the more interesting matchup of the weekend comes Saturday in Boston. Northeastern is, to put it simply, a bad Hockey East team. But it seems to be an extremely good out-of-conference team. While it has just three wins and eight points from 12 (TWELVE?) league games, it’s 3-0-0 against nonconference opponents, all on the road, all highly-ranked. In fact, those were its last three games, which they won by a combined score of 15-4 against Michigan (once) and Notre Dame (twice). Now, can Lowell drub these clowns? Of course. Two of its three Hockey East wins came against titans Vermont and Providence. The other against marginally good team UNH, though that was on the road, so it barely counts.

Of course, Lowell should be looking to clobber both opponents. Where it concerns BC, it’s a matter of pride. Where it concerns Northeastern, it’s a matter of having to win the winnable games. We’ll take three points or more, please.

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