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Friday thoughts: No time for losers

December 31, 2011

The fairest thing to say about the UConn tournament is that Lowell should have won it with ease.

We again must point out that Lowell entered the weekend with 10 wins, and the other three teams had nine between them. And, after the games were played, Lowell had scored 11 goals to the other teams’ combined 12, which would be upsetting except Lowell didn’t have a game with the tournament’s unequivocal worst team, Army. But with that having been said, we will also say that Lowell played pretty poorly on Friday in the tournament’s championship game, and still won 4-3 in overtime.

There was a stretch of about 15 or 20 minutes that ran from about two-thirds of the way through the first period into about the middle part of the second in which the River Hawks showed they were more or less wasting their time playing in this tournament, as though the previous night’s 7-2 win wasn’t evidence enough, but in the game’s other 40 or 45 minutes, they seemed totally unprepared for what UConn threw at them, which was simple enough. The Huskies hit EVERYTHING. Everything, a lot, and more often than not it was clean as a whistle. Lowell was obviously bewildered and frustrated by this — typically, its opponents just find it impossible to play that style — but when the game settled down for that all-too-brief stretch, things got ugly in a hurry.

The first goal was perhaps the game’s most appropriate, as it simply involved Scott Wilson going hard to the net and taking a good two or three whacks at it until it trickled through UConn goalie Garrett Bartus. It came after a lengthy run of Lowell possession that was what the entire weekend should have looked like but for UConn’s dogged insistence on sticking to their ultra-aggressive system. David Vallorani then opened the Lowell lead even wider about three and a half minutes later with the first of his two goals on the night, and the ‘Hawks entered the first intermission looking like they were ready to drive a stake into the Huskies’ hopes early in the second.

As it happened, they nearly did, with Terrence Wallin burying a laughably easy wraparound past Bartus with less than six minutes to go in the period after controlling play for the vast majority of it. At that point, shots in the period were 9-4 to Lowell and it had done a good job of stifling anything resembling a quality scoring chance for much of the weekend, but it was as though giving up the third goal stirred something in the Huskies. The River Hawks conceded the first goal 4:16 after Wallin scored, cutting their lead to 3-1, and that’s how the period ended. “Whatever,” they must have thought. “What’s one goal from UConn at this point in the game?” And that would have been fair. The hosts hadn’t played particularly well and, having only put two past Army the night before, probably didn’t look or feel like much of a threat to do much more damage than that.

But the problem was that UConn entered the first period with a power play and had at least some momentum, which they used to pretty decent effect, scoring less than a minute after it expired. Now it was 3-2 but again, one had to feel like Lowell could put a saddle on the game and ride it into the sunset no matter how obstinate the opponent was being. This is, after all, Lowell: a team that took no guff from the toughest Hockey East had to offer and certainly had to have a bit of bloodlust to see the Huskies crushed in their own building following October’s disastrous contest.

Then the strangest thing happened. UConn’s second goal, it should be noted, was scored by Cody Sharib on a partial break and on a delayed penalty as Stephen Buco hooked him in an effort to prevent the goal. Then, even though a goal had been scored, the Atlantic Hockey officials showed why they have never graduated to a league people don’t consider a laughingstock, as they made Buco serve the penalty anyway. UConn scored on a lucky bounce off a Lowell shin pad 11 seconds later. That was the way the score stayed until overtime began, and if anyone had the nervier time in regulation’s final minutes, it was Lowell.

But once overtime began, things got a lot easier for the River Hawks. Throughout the game, the Huskies slowly deviated from their plan of hitting Lowell had and clean and began to meander into borderline territory, and it was in the sudden death period (which, oddly, was scheduled for 20 minutes instead of the traditional 5) that it became truly dirty. The Huskies began overtime shorthanded, then committed two more penalties as play wore on, and those power plays were all Lowell needed to build a momentum that eventually proved game-winning. The decisive goal came as Derek Arnold and Vallorani broke in on a 2-on-1, the former the puck carrier and shooter, the latter the guy who knocked home the rebound to the relief and jubilation of hit teammates.

We would also be remiss in not mentioning that Lowell got absolutely slaughtered on the draw for the vast majority of this game, in any zone, and that played a huge role in the team’s inability to create positive possession. Prior to the overtime period, in which Lowell won 14 of 22 faceoffs, the Huskies sidled up to the dot 61 times and emerged with the puck 36 of them (59 percent). It was really ugly, and only made acceptable by Lowell’s overtime period of better control.

All in all, players, coaches and fans alike can’t be too unhappy with a pair of wins and 11 goals in two games, but this also wasn’t Lowell’s best hockey. Call it playing to the competition’s level if you want, but the River Hawks will have to be better when they restart their Hockey East schedule in two weeks.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    December 31, 2011 12:25 pm

    The NCAA rule is that you serve the penalty even if a goal is scored on the delayed penalty.

  2. Scott permalink
    December 31, 2011 1:46 pm

    A penalty scored on a delayed call does still have to be served. This was an NCAA rule change last year.

    • RHHB permalink
      December 31, 2011 2:19 pm

      Oh we had no idea of that because we intentionally ignore all things that are really stupid.

    • Bucky permalink
      January 1, 2012 6:05 pm

      For the rule scoring folks at home;

      Rule 4-9-b from the 2010-2012 NCAA Rule Book:

      “If a goal is scored on the delayed penalty by the non-offending team, the first minor penalty shall be imposed as well as any other infractions regardless if a goal is scored. If any other penalties are committed on the same play or after the appropriate on-ice official has stopped play, the offending players shall be penalized.”

      As far as the full overtime period, this is allowed under rule 6.57. Too lengthy and too many cross-references to post but this allow tournaments like the Beanpot to keep playing if the championship is tied after regulation. A lot of the smaller tournaments have in the contract that teams will play one 20-minute OT followed by a shootout.

      I have concerns about Lowell when we face-off against physical teams like a UConn. It’s something to watch over the course of the second half.

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