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Friday thoughts: The David Vallorani Show

December 9, 2011

Things could have gone very, very badly for Lowell tonight.

Just 3:48 into the game, Terrence Wallin elbowed a BC forward’s head into next week and he justifiably got five and a game for doing it. Now granted, Boston College’s power play hasn’t exactly been humming lately, but the Eagles are not the kind of team you go around giving five-minute power plays to willy-nilly. And to make matters worse, it wasn’t as though this was a borderline contributor who got the gate, it was Terrence Wallin, who came into the night with 10 points in the first 13 games of his college career.

Those five minutes could have been a nightmare, and started Lowell on a path to another drubbing like the one it received at Conte Forum in late October. But instead, Lowell did what Lowell has done more or less all season.

It all started when Derek Arnold drew a hooking call down the right wing and negated part of BC’s power play less than a minute after it began, and then, during the ensuing 4-on-4 play, David Vallorani showed the Eagles that this would be his night.

The senior received a very nice pass through the neutral zone from Chad Ruhwedel and concocted some form of wizardry, dangling, shaking two checks in the middle of the ice and beating Brian Billett just 15 seconds into the even-strength play. It was, in a way, exactly what you think Vallorani should do every time he gets on the ice. So much skill, so much speed, so much lethality. It was right up there with Scott Wilson’s strikes in Maine in terms of Goal of the Season status, and only began what would be an incredibly influential and heartening night.

Lowell later killed off the remainder of the Wallin major, then went on two consecutive power plays of its own thanks to successively dumber Eagles penalties, and it was on this second that Vallorani started another picturesque scoring sequence. Harried by a penalty killer, he deftly dumped it off to Matt Ferreira with a blind pass, and Ferreira in turn spotted Derek Arnold camped at the bottom of the opposite circle. Seconds later, the puck was in the back of the net and Lowell was buoyed by a two-goal lead. Honestly though, Vallorani should have had about six points tonight; he was that good. The goal was a wonder to behold, the setup on Arnold’s goal should have earned him more than a secondary assist somehow, but beyond that, the way the game contracted when he had the puck, shrinking almost to a singularity as everyone just stood around waiting to see what he would do, was quite something. He’s had games somewhat like this so far this year, specifically the first one in Mankato, but to see it in person? Wow. And the fact that it came in a league game against no less than No. 3 Boston College? Well, let’s just say we’re very happy indeed for all involved. Vallorani now has goals in three straight (and they’re getting successively prettier), seven points in his last five games. We can’t imagine how he’ll top this performance tomorrow night, but we’re sure looking forward to seeing him try.

The remainder of the first period passed largely without incident, except to say that Dan Furlong got whistled for a penalty with no time left on the clock, and during the resulting power play, Barry Almeida scored a goal that was pretty similar to Johnny Gaudreau’s tally from the first meeting at Tsongas Center between these two teams. And so, just like that, the Eagles were within one and steadily began building their case against Lowell’s lead. But thanks to some very strong defending and even stronger goaltending (as though Doug Carr’s brilliance even needs to be stated any more; it’s just accepted as fact: Carr plays, Carr plays great), Lowell weathered the storm. Well, we suppose “storm” is a relative term. Through two periods, the Eagles had just 17 shots and that included nine in the first period. So while eight shots in a period isn’t a lot per se, BC was certainly far more menacing than were the hosts throughout the middle frame. But one supposes that if eight shots is all the No. 3 team in the country could get out of 20 convincing minutes against a shorthanded River Hawks squad, then that, too, is a good thing indeed. Although we suppose that BC’s ability to loom over the period was helped enormously by Lowell’s insistence on conga-lining into the penalty box from late in the first straight through to the end of the second. The penalty killers got a hell of a workout in the opening 40, that’s for sure.

The third, though, was a lot closer to the first in that Lowell once again resembled its old self. It certainly had regained its form by the time Joe Pendenza’s beauty breakaway goal salted away any hope of a BC comeback at 8:40 of the period, and the remaining minutes were not spent, as they had been in the dying minutes against UNH last week, living in eminent fear of reprisal. Lowell’s control on the game here was supreme, and though BC mustered a few dangerous chances and eventually scored a ping-pong second goal with less than a minute to go and an extra attacker on the ice, the massive crowd of students behind Billett was perfectly justified in chanting “Overrated” at the Eagles with a full three minutes to go in the game.

Tomorrow night’s game with Northeastern of all teams, silly though this may sound, might be Lowell’s most important of the season. It’s easy to get up for the big games against good teams, but what of the ones against teams with three league wins in 12 tries? The Huskies will be up for this one, and any let-up now, after beating BC and sweeping UNH and winning eight of the last nine, would be a crushing disappointment. It’s necessary to enter break with two more points.

Absolutely necessary.

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