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Thursday thoughts: Everybody can change

January 5, 2012

Well the result was the expected one here in Lowell tonight but certainly the road to that result was not.

We saw, shall we say, elements, of the things we expected to see. The Red Stars, playing their fifth game in 10 days and having taken a bus to Lowell from South Bend, Ind., looked more than a little tired. Lowell ran out a couple guys who weren’t going to get much ice time otherwise but played a mostly-full roster due to the game being the only bit of somewhat competitive action they’ll see until Vermont next weekend. The Russians were skilled and, if we may be so bold, a bit enigmatic in their play.

What we certainly did not expect to see was a positively monstrous game from Malcolm Lyles, nor could we have predicted a Russian player, acting in defiance of a hostile crowd, imaginatively using his stick to mime pleasuring himself.

We happily welcomed both.

Lowell came out loaded for bear in this one and certainly took advantage of the aforementioned Russian fatigue in drawing a few penalties and generally playing pretty well. It was the second penalty the River Hawks drew at 8:50 that resulted in a Lowell power play and, six seconds, Lyles’ first goal in a Lowell sweater. He and Scott Wilson continued their strong play, and Wilson doubled the lead 5:15 later. Those two chased Red Stars starter Eugeny Ivannikov from the game, and Lyles, now fully and clearly brimming with confidence, went on to add an assist with 10 seconds remaining in the period to sink the Russians into a deficit so deep it rivaled Red October.

If they gave out Three Stars awards for a single period, Lyles would have taken all of them. He was that good. So influential in everything and he was just making one good decision after another. We were so pleased to see it given how hard on him we’ve been. We really don’t want to be that way but honesty reigns here at TIIL. We’ll say when players are bad and we’ll say when players are good, and tonight, Lyles was very, very good indeed.

Scott Wilson continued his own fine play in the second period and eventually put Lowell up 4-0 just about halfway through.

But then something strange happened. The Red Stars scored three goals in the space of 1:59 and Lowell was very much on its heels. The only thing that saved the game from being leveled, in our estimation, was that this outpouring of goals came very close to the end of the period, and Lowell was saved by the bell, as it were. And it wasn’t even that Lowell played badly for that little stretch. It was, we think, the result of two things. First, up 4-0, Lowell got a little experimental and tried to do things that are generally outside the realm of its traditional systems. Which is fine, up four in a midweek exhibition game with a few alternate players in the lineup (except that it resulted in three goals in less than two minutes). The second thing is that we must acknowledge the Russians’ having pressed incredibly hard for most of the game and come up with nothing to show for it despite the occasionally shaky play of Marc Boulanger in net, who through two periods put 32 shots on goal, though a healthy number of those were from the perimeter.

The second intermission clearly allowed Lowell to smooth out some issues because they were back to playing well, and once again drew a penalty that led to a power play goal, this time from David Vallorani. He, too, played pretty well tonight in our books. But the Red Stars answered less than a minute later and things were back to being iffy. Another Lowell power play went by the boards and clearly the Russians were growing frustrated with the way in which the game was being officiated (not terribly well). The visitors had “earned” just two power plays in the game, both in the first few minutes of the first period. Meanwhile, Lowell had been given six to that point, and those numbers certainly didn’t bear out the way the Russians had played the game.

It was on the next penalty, a clear five-and-a-10 major to Ilya Zelenko for boarding, that things went truly bonkers. Riley Wetmore scored the River Hawks’ sixth and final goal during the resulting power play, and it appeared the Russians decided they’d seen enough of American college hockey.

We had been led to believe the Russians had just one player that spoke English, and that it was not Maxim Kvitchenko. But sometimes, when you’re assessed a ticky-tack tripping minor, a language barrier is pretty easy to bridge when you know a four-letter word that starts with F. Kvitchenko, to his credit, clearly did, and his use of it to the officials got him tossed from the game. That was the second of five game misconducts assessed to the road-weary Red Stars.

The hockey equivalent of Global Thermonuclear War was tipped off by Tyler Brickler, who collided with Red Stars backup Rafael Khakimov as the goalie came way way way out of the net. The ice below the dots quickly took on the look of an equipment clearance at Pure Hockey as the Russians grabbed for any Lowell players they could find and started throwing haymakers that would have made Ivan Drago nod in stoic approval. One tried to pry Colin Wright’s helmet off to better land a few shots. At was around that time that another Russian player picked up a River Hawk’s glove and threw it into the stands, which then prompted the crowd to boo and — rather patriotically, we thought — start chanting “U-S-A” (and ignoring that seven of Lowell players are Canadian). During this time, four Russians got 10-minute misconducts, and Brickler got two minutes for goaltender interference. Unfairly, we’d point out.

Now typically, the masturbatory gestures surrounding Lowell hockey are reserved exclusively for this blog, but we must credit Igor Cherkasov for bringing some serious competition into the mix. During the cleanup, and apparently outside the view of any officials, Cherkasov took a quick skate in front of the student section, stick wedged suggestively between his legs, and made a motion as though he were skiing with one pole. It was all very surreal and, were it not an affront to Lowell hockey, would have been hilarious.

The remaining two minutes or so went without incident, but it was the equivalent of watching the circus pack up its tents and leave town.

We’re not sure that we learned anything watching this game, and we sure don’t know what to make of everything that happened. But it happened. And that’s enough for us.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Mastrangelo permalink
    January 5, 2012 9:03 pm

    That was such a fun game. Loved going over to all the russians kicked out at the end of the third and getting all the fans to give them a round of applause. Good for those third stringers.

  2. Adam permalink
    January 6, 2012 12:28 am

    I was shocked by how many Russian players kept demonstrating that they wanted to perform fellatio on the fans. Is that a Russian tradition that I was unaware of? If so, I know where I’m moving when I’m done with college.

  3. Rich permalink
    January 6, 2012 5:33 am

    I never knew such a small student section could get on a teams nerves so easily. Sitting right next to the student section I thought they were rather calm tonight, which made getting under the Russians skin even funnier. The only thing that would have made the U.S.A. chant funnier is if they started playing clips of Miracle on the screen.

    My favorite moment of the night was looking over at the tunnel and seeing 5 ejected Russian players watching on as we skated out our final power play. Nothing like a team that has had a rough road trip get topped off by a superior team that started a goalie who has barely played and still manhandle you in the game outside of the final 4 minutes of the second period

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