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Friday thoughts: The baddest loss on the planet

February 24, 2012

There was a time when Mike Tyson could win fights before they even started. All he would need to do was just stand in the corner, eyes full of malice and rage, and just stare at his opponent. That was where he won his fights.

It wasn’t always like that, of course. Early in his career, when Tyson was still pounding the crap out of tomato-can nobodies, he was an incredibly angry young man, and he had something to prove. The bell would ring and he would explode out of the corners, his compact frame a blur of hard lefts and ruinous rights. Tyson didn’t take the time for a feeling-out process; the only feeling was that of his glove smashing into his gobsmacked opponents’ faces at a thousand miles an hour, and the only out was what is a foe was knocked in the first two rounds. Tyson didn’t have room for errors because he left none by design.

And because of that, there was a period in which Tyson would because he was smart enough to just let the idea of Mike Tyson wash over his opponent, the promise of terrifying, devastating eruption giving him the psychological advantage. He switched from white trunks to black, the better to evoke the pall of death, and would stand in the corner, dormant and smoldering, cowled as much by his air of indomitability as the towel over his head.

What we’re trying to say, and what you’re probably figured out by now, is that Lowell’s path this season looks very much like the one trod by Iron Mike some 25 years ago.

They exploded violently out of the corner and KOed opponents with aplomb early in the year, and by mid-December were being viewed as a team that you could stagger if you were lucky, and sometimes even win by decision, but knocking them out cold seemed too big an ask for even the heaviest of heavyweights. Down went the season series against Maine and New Hampshire, Northeastern and Amherst, Vermont and BU. But somewhere along the way, it started to look a little more difficult for Lowell.

The River Hawks weren’t pummeling their opponents any more, and where teams for a brief time came to Tsongas looking defeated in warmups, that aura of invincibility seemed to have been washed away by a 1-2 run over the last three  games. But with that having been said, Lowell had every incentive to charge from the opening bell tonight; home ice could be secured with just one win, and in order to keep pace with league-leading BC and a pack of Terriers nipping at their heels, two points would be required. Instead, Lowell plodded out as though there was no urgency required and was counting the lights before the 10 minute mark.

Every pass missed connections, players opted for what would have been fancy plays had they worked (but of course they didn’t), there was more icing than a cake convention. And Merrimack — desperate, slumping Merrimack — was more than happy to let their guests work themselves into a loss. Goals at 6:50 and 8:08 were all the Warriors needed to salt away an easy W tonight, and the fact that Lowell was held to one shot for the first 14-plus minutes tells you everything you need to know about how well-prepared it was for the game. Two back-to-back and unnecessary penalties late in the period allowed Merrimack to make it 3-0 and the game would have, by any merciful judge, been ruled a TKO. The first goal was the result of a baffling misplay behind the net by Doug Carr, the second a clean-looking shot from the point (granted, we were at the opposite end of the ice), the third a bang-bang play at the goalmouth on the power play. Ugly stuff, and shots through 20 minutes were just as telling at 13-3 to the hosts.

Speaking of back-to-back penalties, though, if you were foolish enough to think Lowell had any kind of ability to hang around in this one, their pair of man advantages at the start of the second would have been enough to dissuade even the homerest of homers. Shawn Bates went off for tripping, and Merrimack killed the penalty without allowing a shot. But as Bates came out of the penalty box, the man coming on for him from the bench played the puck, and that resulted in a too-many-men call about seven seconds later. On that power play, Lowell at least mustered a shot. But it also allowed two.

The River Hawks were lucky to escape the second period only down three, and there was at least some conjecture about the potential for a third-period comeback as long as they could get the first goal of the period. Ryan Flanigan delivered the knockout blow just 22 seconds in, stretching the lead to four and really and truly solidifying Lowell’s place as a fading power in the league. Chad Ruhwedel answered on the power play a little more than six minutes later, but as is Lowell’s wont, the River Hawks conceded again almost immediately, this time on a dizzying giveaway by Tim Corcoran between his own circles, just 1:15 later. Matt Ferreira added the final goal with less than five minutes to go but the game had long since devolved into a laugher.

There was, to put it bluntly, nothing at all to like about this game. Doug Carr was once again painfully average and, even if the loss is not wholly his fault, he should shoulder at least some of the blame given the quality of the first two goals (low). It was not unlike the game a week ago tonight in which Lowell’s opponent cashed in on every one of its opportunities, but in this loss, Lowell did so little to help itself that the uneducated observer would never have mistaken the visitors for a team that’s won 20 god damned games this season.

Just an appalling loss with huge implications, remediated only somewhat by Maine’s losing to Northeastern, and one that piles so much pressure onto a team that is now just 1-3 in its last four games, and has allowed 16 goals in that stretch. If Lowell has any plans on doing anything after, say, the second weekend in March, it needs to get everything clicking again, and it needs to do it in a hurry. The amount of faith we have in its ability to stay on its feet while every opponent rain punches down is dwindling quite quickly.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    February 25, 2012 7:03 am

    It seems like Lowell needs a wakeup call every weekend before they start paying to their full ability. Im sure tonight they are going to come out and win and win decisively, but I’m also just as confident that could be followed by a loss at providence next Friday. I thought maybe they were over that hurdle last week with a big road win, but clearly they aren’t. Fact of the matter is that after March 11(Hopefully 10th), there are no more home games. Sure they may be close to home, but they will by no means be home games.

    All that being said, all this team needs is to get hot. They need to face a below average team and just beat them into the ground to get their swagger back. the next 5-6 games will be the perfect situation to do that. A win tonight and your facing a UNH, Providence, Northeastern or Amherst team on your own rink. That may be just the medicine the doctor ordered. Or at least the homer in me is hoping so.

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