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Weekend preview: The Battle of Pelennor Fields

January 26, 2012

The Lowell River Hawks (14-7-0, 9-6-0 HE) vs. the UMass Amherst Minutemen (9-11-2, 7-7-1 HE)

7 p.m. Friday at Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass.
7 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.

Lowell is fifth in Hockey East with 18 points from 15 games. Amherst is seventh in Hockey East with 14 points from 15 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 0-1 at Providence. 3-2 (ot) at Northeastern, 4-0 vs. Northeastern.
Amherst — 4-3 vs. Vermont, 4-0 vs. Boston College, 3-2 (ot) vs. Vermont.

Prior meetings
Lowell leads Amherst 32-22-6, all-time.

Season series
Lowell trounced Amherst 4-0 at Tsongas Center on Nov. 18, and frankly it could have been a lot uglier than that.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Scott Wilson — 20 GP, 11-9-20 (13 GP, 8-5-13 HE)
Matt Ferreira — 20, 7-13-20 (13, 5-8-13)
David Vallorani — 21, 8-10-18 (14, 5-8-13)
Riley Wetmore — 21, 7-11-18 (14, 4-6-10)
Chad Ruhwedel — 20, 2-16-18 (13, 2-10-12)

Amherst:
TJ Syner — 22 GP, 11-16-27 (15 GP, 8-9-17 HE)
Conor Sheary — 22, 8-17-25 (15, 5-12-17)
Michael Pereira — 21, 9-11-20 (14, 4-6-10)
Danny Hobbs — 19, 9-9-18 (13, 7-4-11)
Branden Gracel — 22, 4-10-14 (15, 2-6-8)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Doug Carr (13-4-0) — 17 GP, 1,034:52, 1.80 GAA/.934 sv% (13 GP, 781:51, 1.92/.932 HE)

Amherst:
Kevin Boyle (5-3-4) — 12 GP, 664:13, 3.07 GAA/.896 sv% (7 GP, 359:44, 3.34/.883 HE)
Jeff Teglia (1-4-1) — 7, 373:28, 3.05/.896 (6, 333:28, 2.70/.907)
Steve Mastalerz (3-1-0) — 6, 308:09, 2.73/.915 (4, 229:14, 3.14/.911)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (21 games) — 71 goals for (3.38/gm), 49 goals against (2.33/gm). Power play 21/108 (19.4%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 69/81 (85.2%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (15 games) — 47 goals for (3.13/gm), 38 goals against (2.53/gm). Power play 14/72 (19.4%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 50/58 (86.2%, 2 SHGF)

Amherst:
Overall (22 games) — 72 goals for (3.27/gm), 69 goals against (3.14/gm). Power play 18/113 (15.9%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 80/108 (74.1%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (15 games) — 44 goals for (2.93/gm), 48 goals against (3.20/gm). Power play 12/84 (14.3%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 56/73 (76.7%, 1 SHGF)

Outlook
This is going to be a war.

Both teams enter with a steely resolve to be terrible on the road, and dominant at home. But the problem is both teams badly need all four points.

If you thought Lowell was bad on the road this year — and believe us, it is — Amherst will see your 4-5-0 in Hockey East play and raise you 0-6-2. That’s bad (and in their one non-league road game, they also lost). It’s so bad, in fact, that we’re starting to think Lowell’s 4-0 drubbing of the Minutemen back in November is the rule, rather than the exception. Amherst has given up 35 goals in eight games, and scored just 21. Somehow that is worse than 24 for and 29 against, which boggles the mind.

And where Lowell has made the Tsongas Center a fortress since the 4-2 loss to Boston College, going 5-0-0 since with 21 goals and allowing just four, Amherst didn’t even falter out of the gate. The Mullins Center has been a veritable Minas Tirith in its imperviousness to attacks from all enemies. The Minutemen are 4-0-2 in Hockey East play at their home rink this season (7-0-3 overall), with near-Lowellian 20-11 goal differential. And these aren’t bad teams they’re running over either: Boston College went there twice and left with a pair of losses, 8-2 on aggregate; BU backed into a 2-2 tie, and Maine drew the hosts by the same score despite leading 2-0 through the first period.

Make no mistake, Lowell will have its work cut out for it on Friday night even gaining a foothold, especially because it will be the team’s fourth game in eight days compared with Amherst’s first since the previous Friday. Amherst isn’t going to have an easier time coming to Lowell, where they already got drilled, and trying to earn points.

The goal for Lowell should be three points at least this weekend, but four would be much better.

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