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Tuesday thoughts: Tangled up in blue

January 24, 2012

We will acknowledge, first, that there are a few mitigating factors here for the River Hawks that caused them to lose to the Providence College Friars tonight.

First, they never win in Providence. Ever. It’s just a thing that has always existed and apparently always will. No new coach, it seems, will be able to change that. Second, this was, of course, the third game since Friday for both of these teams, and that kind of turnaround can make for some brutal hockey; both Lowell and Providence seemed to be particularly gassed in the final period. Third, Providence is a well-coached, hard-working team that just got flattened by BU to the tune of 14 goals against and just one for, and that’s going to make a team hungry to prove it’s not anywhere near that bad.

And finally, Lowell is absolutely awful on the road.

We didn’t drag ourselves all the way down to Providence expecting an especially beautiful game. If the third period at Northeastern was any indication, this was a Lowell team content to grind out close games, and if that was their goal, then they accomplished it tonight.

But the way in which the ‘Hawks did it — scoring zero goals despite lengthy stretches on the man advantage that went for naught, never cobbling together anything in the way of sustained pressure for longer than a few shifts, and making a serious of baffling decisions with and without the puck — was exacerbated by the fact that they got precisely (we counted) zero bounces to go their way all night.

That is, we’ll concede, likely a testament to Providence’s approach to games. Again, they are extremely well-coached and for those who watch Bruins broadcasts with any regularity, they certainly defended in “layers.” Few were the times where a River Hawk puck carrier actually had a good one-on-one look against a defender, and their two-man forecheck befuddled the Lowell rush from start to finish. To figure out the number of Grade-A chances the River Hawks earned tonight, you can be a quadruple amputee. No fingers or toes required, they put up the big goose-egg. Providence, to its credit, earned one (when a Lowell defender fell down) and buried it.

Of course, any time you concede a mere 21 shots in a game, 13 of which came in the opening period, you’re doing something right, and most nights, that’s going to be enough to win you games walking away. But before you go thinking that this particular 1-0 game was some sort of goaltending battle, well, stop. Doug Carr made 20 saves, it’s true, and maybe two of them were especially threatening. Meanwhile at the other end of the ice, Alex Beaudry survived a couple of mad goalmouth scrambles, with instances in both the second and third periods leaving Lowell begging for one extra heads-up skater who would have had 24 square feet of net to shoot at if only he’d possessed the wherewithal to be there. But it never happened and Beaudry survived with a 29-save shutout that was far from spectacular.

(There had been some debate headed into this game — between us anyway — as to whether Beaudry would get the start at all. After all, he’d been downright awful this weekend, but in the end it was eventually agreed that the senior, who has so often confounded Lowell at Schneider Arena, would, like the rest of his teammates, at least have something to Nate Leaman. That worked out pretty well for the Friars.)

It is, we must confess, more than a little perplexing how a team can be so lights-out don’t-even-bother-showing-up fantastic at home and so discombobulated on the road. The passes tonight were as they were at Northeastern, which is to say routinely off-target. And the decision-making! Lowell made a couple of nice plays tonight, all of which went for naught, but more often than not tried to finesse where finesse was undue, and force where force wasn’t required.

They started the game timidly and ended up looming in the Providence end for a while, but never really looked especially interested in scoring. The closest they came was in the first period when Steve Buco played a puck about 45 feet over his head off the crossbar and down to Scott Wilson on the opposite side of the crease, but the tap-in was deservedly waved off. And for those scoring at home, Lowell is now 1 for its last 14 on the power play, including a five-minute one tonight stamped out by a Joe Pendenza interference penalty 180 feet from his own net, and two in the last 10 minutes of the game.

There’s no excuse for a team this good to so regularly play this poorly just because it had to get on a bus first then put on some jerseys that are blue instead of white. What happened to the team that swept Maine in Orono? What happened to the one that rebounded constantly at UNH, where a Lowell side hadn’t won in years? What happened to the one that at least hung in there as it did at Northeastern just a few days ago? These are all questions that have to be answered fast. And if someone could have those sent to us posthaste for our perusal, we would be appreciative.

The good news for the River Hawks is that, after Friday’s game at Amherst, which by that time will have been off for a full seven days and therefore will almost certainly win with ease, gives way to a run of six consecutive home games. And what could possibly go wrong then?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Where's Riley when you need him? permalink
    January 24, 2012 11:30 pm

    This was the stretch of the season we were all dreading to come. 5 games in 9 days, 3 of which on the road. If they take 3 against Amherst next weekend (really shouldn’t be that hard), I’ll not be unsatisfied. 7 out of 10 points every 5 games is good for 38 points on the season, which will always get you home ice and give you a good shot at a regular season crown.

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