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Friday thoughts: Love and honor, dead and buried

March 23, 2012

The right combination of words to describe tonight’s game are eluding us, so please, bear with us as we work through a bevy of thoughts an emotions after one of the greatest games in the history of Lowell hockey.

Anticipation. The quasi-queasy cocktail of nervous energy, anxiety and clock-watching that started taking root around 8 this morning. No matter how much faith you have in a team (complete and absolute) or how many times your attempt to delude yourself that this is just another game, the weight and ramifications of this game turned those 8 a.m. butterflies into squad of Zero fighters by the time Union (more on them later) and Michigan State took the ice around 3 p.m.

Excitement. Lowell was proudly represented by a large contingent of students, season ticket holders and alumni. The River Hawk faithful were easily the most boisterous group in attendance and they made their presence known early and often. They were rewarded for their efforts when, just 1:34 into the game, Josh Holmstrom batted in a post-clanger from Terrence Wallin past Connor Knapp to give the River Hawks a 1-0 lead, despite the horrific WCHA officiating crew reviewing the goal for six minutes like the Zapruder film, in an effort to screw Lowell over. Most likely as a personal favor to Joe Bertagna. For the rest of the period the play was up and down, and while Miami of Ohio had their share of possession, they were limited to just six shots on net and one never got the feeling that Lowell wasn’t in complete control.

Determination. When Matt Feriera knocked the loose rebound into the twine, after Joe Pendenza showcased his blazing speed and drove hard to the net, it looked like Lowell would have a two-goal advantage, and more importantly, complete control of the game. However a second video review went against Lowell. Now, some fans might have questioned if the swing in momentum would harm the River Hawks, but we don’t care for the naysayers. When Chad Ruhwedel was called for tripping at 14:08 of the first period, Miami had an open window, however brief, to even the game up despite the run of play. Fifty seconds in to the power play, Colin Wright made the RedHawks pay for sloppy possession. Chipping the puck ahead of the careless point man, Wright calmly glided in on Knapp and nonchalantly wristed a shot five-hole to give Lowell a 2-0 lead for real.

Sacrifice. Miami of Ohio being held to six shots in the first period is a great stat. The River Hawks outblocking the RedHawks 9-2 in the first is a much more telling one. Make no mistake about it, Miami of Ohio is a large, physical team which knows how to use that size to its advantage. Lowell never got the memo. The River Hawks got in shooting lanes, battled on the boards and seem to relish getting in thebloody nose areas with the bigger Miami of Ohio squad. The didn’t always win the battles, especially in the third period, but Lowell demonstrated the sheer force of will necessary to compete with larger teams and negate that advantage to the best of their ability.

Agony. That cold, hollow feeling in your stomach as you watch a game begin to slip away. However, it didn’t start out that way. Lowell increased its lead in the second, a period it thoroughly dominated, when Riley Wetmore put a David Vallorani pass off the post and in at the 2:21 mark of the second period and that held up through to the end of the period. But with just 20 minutes of hockey standing between Lowell and a date against Union for a spot in the Frozen Four, mistakes began to cost the River Hawks. Unable to clear a loose puck from the defensive zone, ReHawk senior forward Trent Vogelhuber put a shot past Doug Carr to cut the deficit to two. Fourteen seconds later an awe-inspiringly bad turnover at the offensive blue line by normally-steadfast Zack Kamrass led to a breakaway attempt by freshman sensation Austin Czarnik, who put in a backhander to make it a one-goal game. Coach Bazin chose not to use his timeout, presumably because the TV breaks gave him time to settle the guys down while holding on to the timeout for later in the game. It didn’t work. Six minutes later Miami of Ohio completed the comeback, Lowell’s inability to clear the puck cleanly rearing its ugly head yet again as a neutral-zone turnover led to an odd man rush and the equalizer.

Hope. The majority of Lowell fans had gone eerily silent, lost in their own “what-if?” worlds where three-goal leads didn’t evaporate in the span of nine minutes. The students continued to cheer in the face of adversity, and the band played on, however, it was clear that the vibrant energy that had nested in section 107 had fizzled out, perhaps understandably. One particular Miami of Ohio knuckledragger got his jollies in taunting the Lowell fans from a section over; pointing and hollering and holding up three figures, to accent the obvious. But the players didn’t succumb to the stress. They tapped Carr on his pads and dug their heels in for what was sure to be a rough-and-tumble, back-and-forth final 10 minutes. Then the worst-case scenario became a stark reality: Jake Suter, a man whose shins have taken more pucks than the end boards, cleaned out a Miami of Ohio player on an obvious hit from behind and was given five, 10 and the gate for his efforts with just 3:35 left to play. If the Lowell fans had been despondent before, they were suicidal now. But the team didn’t falter and Carr, whom Lowell has been hitched to like a family on the Oregon Trail, showed why he was the best player in the building today. He made several actually-unbelievable stops, and was aided by the unselfish shot blocking that has become a River Hawk trademark. Lowell scratched and clawed and made it to the end of regulation unscathed. With only 1:24 left to kill on Suter’s major, a small ray of hope began to shine amongst the Lowell fans. No one dared mention it, but if Lowell could find a way to kill the remaining buck-and-change on a fresh sheet, it was anyone’s game.

Jubilation. And that’s just what they did. Miami of Ohio managed only a couple of attempts to get a shot off before Lowell killed the Suter major. None of them went on net, though onenrangnperilously off the crossbar. Back to full strength, the River Hawks morphed from a team on the run to a team you’d rather not get in front of, thank you very much. Gone was the inability to clear. Gone the missed connections. And 2:13 seconds into the extra frame, Captain Riley Wetmore, the personification of everything good about Lowell hockey, came through with the biggest goal of his career. Derek Arnold’s drive off a Vallorani feed was stopped by Knapp, but there was Wetmore to push it past the Miami of Ohio goalie at the far corner of the net and the world exploded. The Miami of Ohio fan, so fond of taunting the Lowell faithful not so long earlier, made a beeline for the exit. Lowell celebrated, and their die-hard fans celebrated the moment with them.

The celebration is shortlived, as tomorrow Lowell continues its streak of “most important games in the history of the program” with the East Regional Final against the Dutchmen of Union College. Union defeated Michigan State 3-1 in a slow, plodding affair that had neither fans of Lowell or fans of Miami of Ohio terribly concerned. Union has been a great story this season, unfortunately they now find themselves smack dab in the middle of Lowell’s route to the Frozen Four. If getting between a mother bear and her cubs in the most dangerous situation you can encounter, this is 1B. It’s sad that Union’s run has to end like this, but the 2011-2012 Union College Dutchmen will always have a place in the annals of Lowell history as another team crushed underfoot; a means to an end.

Lowell Forever, Forever Lowell.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    March 24, 2012 5:25 am

    Once Miami hit that crossbar in OT, I just thought back to the Providence OT game and knew we were going to win. But what a range of emotions in that game. From thinking we can’t be beat after the second period, to thinking we don’t even deserve to win midway through the third, to an unreal performance by Dougie, to pure bliss when Riley showed why he is the captain. When Lowell plays like they can, not many teams can beat them.

    The only thing that makes me nervous about Union is that Grosenick is someone who can steal a game. He’s no Dougie, but he is talented enough to imitate him for a game. That being said, I think Lowell is better in just about every area, and if they play like they did most of last night, this one is ours!

  2. Monty permalink
    March 24, 2012 6:29 am

    You guys did a great job of capturing the emotions on this one…

  3. March 24, 2012 1:49 pm

    I wanted to play miami, now we wont get the chance. Jackasses.

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