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Friday thoughts: How do you think you’ll get out of this jackpot you’re in?

February 17, 2012

A lot of things went wrong for Lowell tonight. You could tell that just by the scoreline.

Lowell conceded seven goals? Their previous season high was just five, and that wasn’t even a game Doug Carr started. The most Carr’s ever allowed is four, and even then, it only happened once, in a game Lowell had well in hand. Tonight, he allowed six, on just 23 shots, before he got the hook.

However, it was the River Hawks’ defense, which has so often helped to bolster Carr’s credibility within the league, and indeed nationwide, after a woeful freshman campaign, which utterly failed him and the offense tonight. So too did the forwards who couldn’t stop taking dumb, retaliatory penalties. So too did the team’s inability to capitalize on scoring chances. So too did its inability to clamp down at any point in the night and seize what should have been big momentum surges.

But let’s start at the very beginning.

You want to know the types of goals Carr gave up tonight? We’ll go in order: Wade Megan’s opener for BU came just 41 seconds after Mike Budd cracked the ice for the hosts, as he was uncovered for a bang-bang rebound. The second came on the power play, where BU excels in the way that Maine does, and because Lowell’s penalty kill has been hot garbage since the Amherst series. The third was a bad defensive zone giveaway. The fourth was another power play goal, this time after Carr saved the first two shots from within three feet of the crease and no one picked up Chris Connolly on the other side. The fifth was a breakaway goal for a guy leaving the box after the expiration of a penalty. The sixth was a breakaway after a pass to the point got through the feet of Billy Eiserman and Carr made the not-terribly-bright decision to try to come out and play it after first hesitating to do so.

You can maybe hang the first and last goals on him, but he didn’t have a chance on the others because he got no help at all. He stopped at least one or two other Grade-A chances every period and even as the team gave up three power play goals, it was, as you’d probably expect, under siege the whole time. Small consolation, we know. The result was horrific for the sophomore, as his GAA ballooned to 2.01 and his save percentage plummeted to .929. What an awful season.

Let’s move onto the dumb, retaliatory penalties. There were a lot. And boy were they dumb and retaliatory. Not necessarily both at the same time, of course. But few actually possessed neither quality. Riley Wetmore’s slash on Kieran Millan (who by the way turned in a quality performance despite giving up four) late in the first? Dumb. Same is true of Colin Wright’s cross check that led to BU’s fourth goal and second on the man advantage. Scott Wilson’s cross checking call later in the second period after Megan cross checked a Lowell forward in front of the net? Both dumb and retaliatory, as was David Vallorani and Garrett Noonan exchanging slashes on the ensuing faceoff.

Actually, let’s stop and explain exactly why those two in particular were dumb: Lowell was already on a power play and about to go up 5-on-3 because Megan, who we generally liked a lot as of about 7 p.m. tonight but who doused that goodwill in gasoline and set it ablaze, absolutely cleaned out a River Hawk forward from behind. Wilson was defending his teammate, sure, but that shouldn’t be his or anyone’s job. BU takes roughly a million penalties per game, the most in the nation, in fact. And Lowell would have done well to let them continue that trend unabated. So instead of Lowell having a two-man advantage, it instead had its best forward in the box. Then when Vallorani and Noonan started their nonsense, it put Lowell’s most creative forward in the box instead of having all the open ice afforded him by the still-happening original penalty to BU. And then, when Adam Clendenning drilled another River Hawk from behind to give Lowell a 5-on-3 it should have had 15 seconds earlier, two of its best power play specialists were sitting in the box. And instead of Lowell converting on that 1:20-something two-man advantage and clawing its way back into the game, both chances went by the wayside and Clendenning put the real capper on the night by hopping out of the box and scoring on the breakaway. And on that play, there was another dumb penalty, this time by Malcolm Lyles, who slashed the BU defenseman after he had already scored.

Oh, and since we brought up that we now officially dislike Wade Megan, we may as well explain why: We’re not sure exactly who did it, but at about 9:45 of the third period, a River Hawk forward dumped Megan into the area between the two benches with a hard, clean check that got the crowd pretty well fired up. Megan, obviously embarrassed by having gotten laid out thusly, climbed back onto the ice and very clearly looked for someone on whom he could return the favor. That person happened to be Derek Arnold. But Arnold saw him coming — Megan skating from more than half the neutral zone away and striding hard and fast — and tried to bail, so Megan stuck his leg out as far as he possibly could and caught the River Hawk knee-to-knee. Clear intent to injure and he could have done some severe damage. Thankfully he didn’t, but Arnold didn’t take kindly to the cheapshot and responded by letting a couple fists fly. Chad Ruhwedel did as well. When the combatants had been separated, Megan somehow only got two for kneeing and nothing else, despite having given as well as he got, and both Arnold and Ruhwedel were tagged for roughing. Another dumb, retaliatory penalty (two of them, in fact!), another BU power play, another BU power play goal, though this time against Marc Boulanger. But it’s a shame about Megan. He really tried to hurt someone and in the end, was rewarded for it.

All this goes without mentioning the Lowell offense, which was often very good. To be sure, four goals on 42 shots is a good enough night at the office to ensure a Lowell win in all but three of its previous contests, and those 42 attempts included at least two-dozen chances of extremely high quality. We mentioned that Millan had a good night, and that much is true, but he also gave up a lot of rebounds, the resultant shots of which all too often skittered wide, ended up hitting bodies and generally not going into the back of the net. Only one of Lowell’s goals — its first, incidentally — was one of those second-chance efforts. The other three were on admittedly very nice plays, particularly on the setup from Wilson on Riley Wetmore’s third-period goal, but as with the loss to Maine, we simply didn’t see as much urgency as there could have been given the quality of the first chances Lowell generated more or less from start to finish.

And finally, we come to the River Hawks’ alarming inability to prevent BU from scoring immediately after they did. It took less than a minute after the first goal. And while Lowell scored in quick succession at the end of the second and beginning of the third, BU answered less than two minutes after Wetmore made it 5-3 to create the illusion, however brief, that this would be a contentious third period. Then after Matt Ferreira scored to make it 6-4, it took Matt Nieto all of 3:38 to re-extend the Terriers’ lead to three, where it stayed until the final whistle.

Now Lowell slips into a tie for third, and rather unhappily. The next five games are now more or less must-wins, but we said that about Maine and we said that about tonight, and various problems plagued them in both. More troubling, the problems against Maine were not the problems against BU, at least, not the major ones. There may not be a quick fix apart from the kind of amorphous “Get back to playing Lowell hockey.” Whatever that means any more. This is only the second time this season Lowell has dropped two in a row in Hockey East,

Despite all this negativity, though, we must say here that we’re pretty hopeful for tomorrow night. BU, despite pumping in seven freakin’ goals, didn’t show us that they were particularly disciplined, and Millan didn’t show us that he was particularly impenetrable. It seems very unlikely indeed that Carr gives up anything resembling six goals again. If Lowell can actually respond well to the pressure, we at least like the chances to salvage a split.

Anything less would be disastrous, of course, but hopefully they’ll be out for blood tomorrow night.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    February 18, 2012 5:25 am

    My thought watching that game last night was that Lowell showed their age. What I mean by that is they knew how big the stage was, and wanted to make highlight reel plays (mostly hits) rather than the right play. I said to my wife as we were watching “you can’t take risks to make the big plays against this team they will burn you every time”. And the 7 goals sure proved that. I didn’t think Milan was quite as good as your giving him credit for, I thought BU did a much better job collapsing in front of their goalie, and then still being able to break out of the zone once they had possession. Add back to that Dougie having an off night (not terrible but not good enough) and it didn’t end well.

    On another note, I thought the officials lost control of that game. I was sitting right near where Vallorani and Noonan were acting like children, and I didn’t think it looked much different than what we see a lot in the face-off circle. Throw in favoring the pretty girl Megan getting the refs blessing to injure, and we have the officials becoming part of the game. Now on that Megan hit I absolutely thought that we didn’t deserve a power play because we retaliated, but giving BU a power play was just dumb by the officials.

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