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Loose pucks: Comin’ right up

February 28, 2012

Three things that are giving us hope:
1) A certain amount of assurance.

As we mentioned yesterday, Maine seems to insist on helping Lowell back into a home ice spot, splitting both with Amherst at home last week and at Northeastern this past week. And as a result, even Lowell’s single point this weekend was enough to pull them closer to assured playoff games at Tsongas. Now, Lowell needs a mere point against Providence to get there, but boy howdy would it ever be nice to win more than that. Like, maybe, four times that amount. That would be really great.

2) The bounce-back.

When Mike Budd took that awful penalty and Merrimack scored, we figured that was pretty much the game. But that Josh Holmstrom was able to score that late goal and rescue a point from what would have otherwise been a lost weekend showed that this team doesn’t quit even if it hasn’t played especially well in its last five games. A little more jam is needed, of course, but hopefully that’s something to build on.

3) Good news on the injury front.

Jake Suter missed most of the second half of Saturday’s game after taking a shot off the collar bone in the second period, but we have learned he didn’t break anything and is unlikely to miss any time, so that’s quite the relief. Suter has grown into Lowell’s most reliable defensive defenseman in a very short period of time and his being out for this incredibly important weekend would have been a major blow. Hopefully he’ll be blocking shots with the same abandon as before.

Two things that are giving us agita:
1) Friday.

That was maybe Lowell’s worst single-game performance of the season. Nothing at all worked. Not one thing. It was a truly ugly night in a crummy barn we hate. So much regret about ponying up the cash to go there..

2) Pissed-off Providence.

Last time Lowell played Providence, the Friars were coming off a weekend against BU in which they were outscored 14-1. They clearly resented getting flattened like that, and responded with a very strong 1-0 win at their own rink. This past weekend against Boston College, PC was outscored 10-0. That will likely provide a significant amount of motivation for the team to play Lowell very hard once again. Nothing, as we said yesterday, is ever easy.

Stat of the Week
Well it’s the final weekend of the season and Lowell is playing for something quite significant: the first home ice spot the team has enjoyed since 2002. Therefore, we thought it might be nice to have a look at the way the season series in that year shook out compared with this one. That season, Lowell finished fourth with just 27 points from 24 games (1.125 per night), and right now, the River Hawks have 31 from 25 (1.24 per) and can finish with no fewer than 1.148 per game. So how did they get there, and how do these two teams stack up?

vs. BC
Then: 3-0-0
Now: 1-2-0

vs. BU
Then: 1-2-0
Now: 2-1-0

vs. Maine
Then: 0-3-0
Now: 2-1-0

vs. UMass Amherst
Then: 2-0-1
Now: 3-0-0

vs. Merrimack
Then: 2-0-1
Now: 1-1-1

vs. UNH
Then: 1-2-0
Now: 2-1-0

vs. Northeastern
Then: 1-2-0
Now: 2-1-0

vs. Providence
Then: 2-0-1
Now: 0-1-0

So the difference between then and now is that a decade ago, Lowell beat up on some pretty bad teams (BC, Providence, Merrimack and Amherst gave Lowell 21 of its 27 points, and finished sixth-ninth, respectively), and these days they’re beating on everyone fairly indiscriminately. Lowell has won all but two of its eight completed season series, and even in those took five of 12 available points.

Now granted, it took a good amount of its points from the bottom teams in the league this season as well (six from Amherst and four from Vermont, Northeastern, and UNH), but it also pushed around Maine, BU, and, at least in the final game of their series, it’s-gonna-happen league champions BC.

Of course, that 2001-02 season comes with the caveat that it would likely have throttled everyone in the league from top to bottom if not for its three best players absconding to the Olympics mid-season and causing a streak in which Lowell won just one of its next 11 games. All of those games were against Hockey East opponents, and the team still won not only home ice, but also 22 games that year. Pretty amazing if you think about it. That team won 16 games before Jan. 13.

Here goes nothing
The Ice is Life will be at both games this weekend, and if you’re reading this, you should be too. Get out and support the team. It’s the least you can do.

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