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Quarterfinal preview: Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station

March 7, 2012

The Lowell River Hawks (22-10-1, 17-9-1 HE) vs. the Providence Friars (12-18-4, 10-14-3 HE)

7 p.m. Thursday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.
7 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.
7 p.m. Sunday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass. (if necessary) (not necessary)

Lowell finished second in Hockey East with 35 points from 27 games, and Providence finished seventh in Hockey East with 23 points from 27 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 4-2 vs. Providence, 5-1 at Providence, 2-2 (ot) vs. Merrimack
Providence — 2-4 at Lowell, 1-5 vs. Lowell, 0-7 at BC

Prior meetings
Lowell trails Providence 40-48-10, all-time.

Season series
Lowell beat Providence 2-1.

The first game was one of Lowell’s worst performances of the year, and one of only two times it was shut out. On Jan. 24, Lowell went down to Providence just three days after playing on the road against Northeastern, winning in overtime, and got blindsided 1-0 by a truly terrible hockey team.

Lowell rebounded pretty well from that loss.

In its next meeting, when Lowell needed a win to guarantee home ice, the River Hawks went back down to Schneider Arena, where they hadn’t won since 2006, and walloped their hosts 5-1 behind a stellar performance from Riley Wetmore.

The next night, in the regular season finale, the Friars fared little better, losing 4-2 even with Doug Carr watching from the bench. This time, it was Joe Pendenza who paced the relentless Lowell attack, scoring two goals and assisting on another.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Scott Wilson — 32 GP, 15-20-35 (26 GP, 12-16-28)
Riley Wetmore — 33, 12-23-35 (27, 9-18-27 HE)
Derek Arnold — 33, 17-15-32 (27, 14-12-26)
Matt Ferreira — 32, 11-18-29 (25, 9-13-22)
Joe Pendenza — 33, 10-17-27 (27, 7-15-22)

Providence:
Ross Mauermann — 34 GP, 9-14-23 (27 GP, 8-11-19 HE)
Matt Bergland — 34, 5-16-21 (27, 3-15-18)
Tim Schaller — 22, 14-6-20 (16, 11-5-16)
Derek Army — 34, 10-10-20 (27, 6-8-14)
Stefan Demopoulos — 29, 7-9-16 (24, 6-8-14)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Doug Carr (20-7-1) — 28 GP, 1,661:03, 2.06 GAA/.928 sv% (24 GP, 1,408:02, 2.17/.927 HE)

Providence:
Alex Beaudry (11-17-4) — 33 GP, 1,766:18, 3.13 GAA/.891 sv% (27 GP, 1,434:25, 3.05/.892 HE)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (33 games) — 114 goals for (3.45/gm), 79 goals against (2.39/gm). Power play 34/156 (21.8%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 100/125 (80.0%, 4 SHGF)
Hockey East (27 games) — 90 goals for (3.33/gm), 68 goals against (2.52/gm). Power play 27/120 (22.5%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 81/102 (79.4%, 3 SHGF)

Providence:
Overall (34 games) — 84 goals for (2.47/gm), 112 goals against (3.29/gm). Power play 25/163 (21.8%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 135/169 (79.9%, 8 SHGF)
Hockey East (27 games) — 68 goals for (2.52/gm), 89 goals against (3.30/gm). Power play 21/124 (16.9%, 1 SHGA), 107/132 (81.1%, 7 SHGF)

Lowell’s leaders vs. Providence
David Vallorani — 12 GP, 3-8-11
Joe Pendenza — 6, 7-3-10
Riley Wetmore — 9, 6-3-9
Mike Budd — 10, 1-7-8
Chad Ruhwedel — 6, 1-5-6

Doug Carr (3-1-1) — 5 GP, 304:10 minutes, 2.17 GAA/.928, 1 SHO

Lowell’s playoff leaders
David Vallorani — 7, 1-3-4
Riley Wetmore — 3, 0-2-2
Matt Ferreira — 3, 0-0-0
Colin Wright — 3, 1-0-1
Mike Budd — 7, 0-1-1

N/A

Outlook
So this is what hosting the playoffs feels like. It’s been a full 10 years since it happened last, and so it’s easy to forget what it’s like to feel absolutely sure that a Lowell team is going to positively flatten its first-round opponents in the friendly confines of Tsongas Center.

Having seen the troubles we’ve seen in the past week for the Providence Friars, we’re pretty confident that Lowell can and should win this series more or less walking away. Yes, there is the niggling detail that Providence beat Lowell 1-0 earlier this season, and this is somehow being held up by doubters that Lowell is a vulnerable team in this series, even if it just means the series gets extended an extra game.

Let’s be clear: Lowell is in no way vulnerable to this Providence team. It’s a sub-average Hockey East team that just happens to be playing its worst hockey of the season. The Friars have won just two games since Jan. 29, allowing 39 goals in 11 games. As we’re sure we don’t have to remind you, Lowell poured in nine of them in two games just a few days ago.

Oh, but there’s the rumor that high-scoring forward Tim Schaller will be back in the lineup for this weekend, and if we were Nate Leaman and just saw our team count the lights on back-to-back nights by the opponents we knew we had to face in the playoffs the next week, we’d be saying all kinds of wacky stuff like that too, as a means of distracting from the fact that “holy hell we’re about to get demolished.”

And even if it’s not all smoke and mirrors, let’s think about this: If Schaller comes back — regardless of Providence looking like “a different team” with him the lineup — how much does it matter? Does Schaller automatically transform Providence into some kind of juggernaut because he put up 20 points in 22 games? Does he make Alex Beaudry not suck? The answer to these questions, obviously, is no. The team is certainly better with him in the lineup (10-9-3 vs. 2-9-1), but they still allowed 65 goals in his 22 games, close to three a night, despite most of those coming against the bottom half of Hockey East.

If this is Providence’s one chance to beat Lowell (and that’s certainly how it’s being framed by just about everyone) it can’t be a very good one. Schaller played just five games out of his team’s 12 against the top four teams in Hockey East, and managed a meager 1-2-3 line (an assist against BU on 10/14 and a 1-1-2 line against Maine on 2/10) in those games. He missed, then, seven dates against top teams (all versus Lowell, two each against BC and BU) and didn’t score in three more (vs. BC, and at Maine twice). If he’s this team’s only hope — a modern-day Obi Wan Kenobi, as it were — the Death Star (Lowell) is definitely going to blow up Yavin IV (Providence) with shocking ease. We just hope he doesn’t show up all blue and see-through to haunt Lowell throughout the remainder of its playoff run.

We simply can’t see how one player makes this much of a difference in bringing down a team it just gutted, unless that player is vintage Bobby Orr. In which case, he played major junior and he shouldn’t have any eligibility anyway.

The fact is that Lowell’s too good at every position for any Providence line to do any particularly large amount of damage, or any pairing to prevent it from scoring more or less at will. This is simply a case of a very good team taking on a very bad one.

Lowell will see you at the Garden nine days from now.

Go ‘Hawks go.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    March 8, 2012 9:38 am

    I hope this team leaves no doubt, and in doing so all but wraps up a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney. From one of probably the 4 worst teams in the country to a #1 seed? Sounds great. Lets fry the friars!

  2. Rich permalink
    March 8, 2012 7:47 pm

    How does hansens crew get to officiate a playoff game?! Lowell didn’t play well on theirr own but that was about as bad as an officiating job as I have ever seen. There was no kick on that goal!

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