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Friday thoughts: An eventful night

February 3, 2012

It must be said that the rather tenacious game played by Lowell tonight, one which resulted in a 3-1 win over Vermont and thus helped to heal some of the scars left over from last month’s disastrous trip to Burlington, was almost one of the least interesting things that happened tonight.

A win, you see, was very much expected, though Vermont perhaps made it a bit closer than it needed to be. But at Tsongas Center tonight, Lowell also had to contend with a Stanley Cup champion signing free autographs well after the first puck dropped, a Zamboni breakdown and a shattered pane of glass for the fans’ attentions, and those who were able to avert their gazes from some of the more bread-and-circus aspects of the evening were rewarded quite richly with yet another dominant home win for a team who has seen such affairs become almost rote.

The most important aspect of the game for Lowell tonight was the sheer ridiculousness of the line comprised of Scott Wilson and Derek Arnold flanking Riley Wetmore. One supposes that it should have occurred to someone a long time ago that these three together would result in some beautiful music, but it took the offensive debacle in Providence to make it plain. In the three games since, the troika of high-powered Lowell scoring has produced four goals (one each from Wetmore and Wilson tonight, and two from Arnold last Saturday against Amherst) and a whopping nine assists. Whatever chemistry they’re currently using to cook this kind of production up is nearly good enough to earn them the nickname Heisenberg, but for their lack of fashionable hats.

The passing on both Wetmore’s goal and Wilson’s were remarkable, with each tic-tac-toe ping-ponging puck going exactly where it needed to to first open the Vermont defense and expose the weak underbelly. On Wetmore’s tally, his first since mid-November if you can believe it and which stood up as the game-winner, the junior captain and his sensational freshman linemate played catch with the puck while three Vermont defenders looked on in abject terror. “What,” they must have thought as the River Hawks edged closer to their goal by the second, “are we supposed to do in the face of this?” The answer, clearly, didn’t involve pressuring either player, as the passing worked to broaden Wetmore’s space for a shot that poor Alex Vazzano didn’t have a chance on.

Then, somehow, the interplay between the three forwards improved on Wilson’s insurance marker. From the time the puck entered the zone on Wetmore’s tape, you don’t even get past “three, one-thousand” before it’s been passed across the slot three times and fired into the back of the net, Vazzano having twisted himself into a pretzel trying to keep up with the play. There wasn’t a defender within 10 feet of Wilson when he got the return from Arnold. That’s lethality of the highest order and something that we’ve longed to see. We should also note that it was a very strong play to get the puck up the ice from Malcolm Lyles, who had himself a hell of a game tonight, that got the play started.

Which reminds us, by the way, that more or less every one of the River Hawks were fairly effective tonight. While Lowell’s top line certainly starred, it was a one of those “total team effort” wins. Only two finished the game without at least a shot on goal So many blocked shots, so many put on Vazzano in every situation. A well-disciplined, hart-hitting game that saw both teams concede just two power plays, and strong penalty killing from Lowell in particular carry those shorthanded situations (Vermont’s, as you might guess from the game’s 41-26 shot total in the host’s favor, was more lucky than good to have not given up a power play goal).

Of course, it’s noteworthy that Lowell also gave up the game’s first goal, on a sharp redirection from Nick Bruneteau that changed directions at roughly a 90-degree angle, which is just about the only way teams are beating Doug Carr (another 25 saves tonight ho hum) with any regularity these days. But that goal seemed only to awaken a dormant dragon in the River Hawks and, more or less from that point on, the game was all theirs except for a few brief, uneventful stretches here and there.

Lowell’s response to the Vermont goal, an important equalizer midway through the second period, came as the result of another precocious play by Lowell’s other excellent freshman, Terrence Wallin, who is having a strong run of things since the lines got reshuffled himself. He brought the puck around the net, drew two defenders, swiveled and fired a centering pass that Matt Ferreira put on net, and allowed Joe Pendenza to pop home the rebound. It may go down as just a secondary assist, but it was, in fact, the whole play. Much like the reconfigured Wetmore line, Wallin has enjoyed success in amounts his opponents must find unsettling in the three games post-Providence, scoring one goal and assisting on four more. His linemates, who have combined for three goals and two assists in that time, seem to be enjoying their current lot in life as well.

We say all this, obviously, with the acknowledgment that Vermont isn’t a very good hockey team. They clearly brought their A-game to Tsongas Center tonight but if that’s the best they can accomplish on the road, well then, that’s about as good as we expected them to be. They asked no quarter of the River Hawks and none was given, from a physical standpoint, but the River Hawks simply attacked in waves like they always do in their home rink and eventually eroded what looked, in the early goings, like it could have at least been a promising performance. Lowell’s top line saw to it that this would not be, however. And so they return to action again tomorrow night. Same teams, same venue, and, hopefully, same result.

Actually, maybe Lowell will make it a little harder on their guests. Again, they mustn’t how embarrassing it was to lose to a team this obviously poor.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    February 4, 2012 5:40 am

    I think its important to point out the only reason Lowell was held to 3 goals was due to some spectacular saves by the Vermont goalie. Though some of our shots were routine saves, some were saves that shows promise for that kid. Watching that game if that was Milan back there it could have been another 7-1 rout. I doubt Vermont will get that quality goal tending two nights in a row, so hopefully Lowell can show everyone at NESN why they are morons for ignoring this team. Maybe they can earn some flex game TV time.

  2. Bucky permalink
    February 4, 2012 7:51 am

    Yes, I would agree that Vazzano looks pretty good last night all things considered. He came up with some good saves that prevented a rout.

    According to NESN’s “Flex-Game” schedule, they are all Saturday games, where we face BU, Merrimack, and Providence. If Lowell can take care of business over the next two or three games, the UML@BU is a virtual certainty, if not already. Besides, it would be five weeks (excluding Beanpot) was not a team on the HE Game of the Week and you know that can’t happen ;)

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