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Weekend preview: I’m comin’ Elizabeth!!!

February 9, 2012

The Lowell River Hawks (18-7-0, 13-6-0 HE) vs. the Merrimack Warriors (15-6-5, 11-5-3 HE) and Maine Black Bears (16-8-3, 11-7-2 HE)

7:15 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.
7:15 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.

Lowell is second in Hockey East with 26 points from 19 games. Merrimack is third in Hockey East with 25 points from 19 games. Maine is fifth in Hockey East with 24 points from 20 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 6-4 vs. Vermont, 3-1 vs. Vermont, 5-2 vs. Amherst.
Merrimack — 4-3 at Amherst, 1-4 vs. BU, 4-2 vs. Providence.
Maine — 5-0 vs. Alabama-Huntsville, 4-3 (ot) vs. Alabama-Huntsville, 3-1 at BU.

Prior meetings
Lowell leads Merrimack 67-34-8 and trails Maine 31-74-3, all-time.

Season series
Lowell swept Maine in Orono earlier this year, winning 5-3 and 4-3. It has yet to play Merrimack this year.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Scott Wilson — 24 GP, 13-13-26 (18 GP, 10-9-19 HE)
Riley Wetmore — 25, 8-17-25 (19, 5-7-12)
Derek Arnold — 25, 13-10-23 (19, 10-7-17)
David Vallorani — 25, 9-13-22 (19, 6-11-17)
Matt Ferreira — 24, 8-14-22 (18, 6-9-15)

Merrimack:
Ryan Flanigan — 25 GP, 8-14-22 (18 GP, 5-12-17 HE)
Jesse Todd — 25, 10-11-21 (19, 8-7-15)
Mike Collins — 24, 7-12-19 (17, 6-8-14)
Karl Stollery — 26, 6-13-19 (19, 3-11-14)
Jordan Heywood — 26, 3-12-15 (19, 2-9-11)

Maine:
Spencer Abbott — 27 GP, 15-32-47 (20 GP, 11-18-29 HE)
Brian Flynn — 27, 14-25-39 (20, 9-20-9)
Joey Diamond — 24, 17-13-30 (20, 15-11-26)
Will O’Neill — 27, 1-23-24 (20, 0-15-15)
Matt Mangene — 27, 11-11-22 (20, 7-7-14)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Doug Carr (17-4-0) — 21 GP, 1,274:50, 1.88 GAA/.932 sv% (17 GP, 1,021:49, 2.00/.930 HE)

Merrimack:
Joe Cannata (14-6-5) — 25 GP, 1,517:53, 2.13 GAA/.924 sv% (19 GP, 1,150:33, 2.24/.924 HE)

Maine:
Dan Sullivan (15-5-3) — 23 GP, 1,326:41, 2.71 GAA/.903 sv% (17 GP, 961:57, 2.99/.902 HE)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (25 games) — 89 goals for (3.56/gm), 58 goals against (2.32/gm). Power play 26/125 (20.8%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 78/95 (82.1%, 4 SHGF)
Hockey East (19 games) — 65 goals for (3.42/gm), 47 goals against (2.47/gm). Power play 19/89 (21.3%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 59/72 (81.9%, 3 SHGF)

Merrimack:
Overall (26 games) — 78 goals for (3.00/gm), 55 goals against (2.12/gm). Power play 24/127 (17.7%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 115/141 (81.6%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (19 games) — 53 goals for (2.79/gm), 43 goals against (2.26/gm). Power play 17/82 (20.7%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 86/106 (81.1%, 3 SHGF)

Maine:
Overall (27 games) — 96 goals for (3.56/gm), 78 goals against (2.89/gm). Power play 40/135 (29.6%, 9 SHGA), penalty kill 104/132 (78.8%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (20 games) — 68 goals for (3.40/gm), 63 goals against (3.15/gm). Power play 26/94 (27.7%, 9 SHGA), penalty kill 72/96 (75.0%, 1 SHGF)

Outlook
This is, unequivocally, the biggest weekend of the year (and it will retain that title for about a week before the BU series).

It’s a chance for the River Hawks to create some distance between itself between it and the rest of the pack beneath it, but against two very different teams. Merrimack doesn’t score very much but defends pretty well. Maine scores a ton but doesn’t get very good goaltending. Lowell is really good at doing both those teams, but the question becomes whether it can score enough to rise above the Warriors’ best-in-the-league defense, or defend well enough to quiet Maine’s best-in-the-league attack.

The first opponent of the weekend is Merrimack, one point behind Lowell with the same number of games remaining, for the first game in the season series. Huge? You bet it is. Not only will the game give its winner a crucial two points, it’s also a great way to get a head start on winning the season series. Merrimack’s offense is, to put it concisely, not very good. It’s as good as Northeastern’s. And you saw how that went. If they want to try to play Lowell to a defensive standstill, we’ll happily stack Doug Carr up against Joe Cannata any day of the week, and firmly believe Lowell’s offense is good enough to find the extra crack in the armor before Merrimack’s does.

The opposite problem is true the following night: Maine’s offense is nearly unstoppable, and even Lowell’s stalwart defense had trouble containing it on its home ice. Now, obviously that’s only six goals allowed in two games in Orono, and that’s better than more or less anyone else ever fares, but it still took a pair of incredible late-game surges to beat back the assault, particularly the goals provided by Hockey East’s resident dirtbag Joey Diamond. In fact, Maine’s top line did a good portion of the scoring that weekend, as is their wont, but in the end, the difference proved to be that the goaltending is really quite poor. Lowell can very easily capitalize on that, and the fact that the Black Bears aren’t good at killing penalties.

All of this, though, is easier said than done. We understand that these are three of the best teams in college hockey playing this weekend, but we also think Lowell is the best of the three.

And we say all that without mentioning that, if Lowell can earn three points or more (we’re hoping for “more!”), it will at least be tied for first in the league with a critical series against co-leaders Boston University looming next weekend. That, then, should be the goal: Lowell’s lost one home game all season and keeping it that way won’t be easy this weekend. But we have seen enough of Lowell at home to think that even the best teams in the nation can come to Tsongas Center and go home empty-handed. Are we predicting four points? No, that’s a little too much hubris even for us. But are we expecting Lowell to earn that many? Yes. The River Hawks are more than capable of doing so.

So, if you please, we’d like to see the four points. Thanks in advance.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    February 9, 2012 2:46 pm

    This is the time for the team, and this city, to kick some ass. That place needs to be rocking this weekend, scaring Sullivan to the max. Maine thinks they have a good place to play, I hope the Lowell crowd blows any other arena out of the water over the next two weeks.Go Lowell, and as much as I hate to say these words, I hope Amherst kicks the crap out of BU on Friday, though I’m realistic and know the opposite will probably happen

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