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Saturday thoughts: I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way

March 25, 2012

The sad truth of that matter is that for every team in the country loses its last game.

Sure, there are a few who don’t make the playoffs at all, or win a consolation game but don’t qualify for the NCAA tournament. But the number of teams who actually get to win their last game remains an extremely small one. Lowell found that out the hard way last night in a tough loss to Union — of all the teams in the world — in which they took too long to get their feet under them.

After the lightning-quick start that put Lowell out in front of Miami by two before anyone had a chance to think about what was happening, perhaps we expected too much of Lowell to establish its own game that quickly, and to the credit of the Dutchmen, they did a great job of preventing that. Joe Pendenza had the chance to put Lowell up very early on, but Troy Grosenick, Union’s top-flight, Hobey Baker-candidate goaltender, made a game-saving stop to clear the puck off the line after he fell down making the initial save, but that wound up being Lowell’s best chance for a long, long stretch.

Instead, Union actually took Lowell’s tack from the night previous and struck first, in agonizing fashion for the River Hawks. A bad giveaway by Colin Wright behind the Lowell net just three minutes into the game led to an easy one-time goal for Daniel Ciampini and just like that, we knew that the road here would be long and hard. Union, as we had seen in showing up for the early game the day before, acts very much like a snake when its opponent has the puck: everything tightens, tightens, tightens until there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do but surrender yourself to a terribly unpleasant, unavoidable truth. And given that the boa constrictor approach to defense took hold early on, Lowell was in rather dire straits for the majority of the game.

That it stayed only 1-0 through to the end of the first period is something that should be surprising. The River Hawks were very clearly unbalanced by the Dutchmen, who are wanting for skill in a lot of ways, but very much Lowell’s equal in terms of hard work and the all-important sticking to the system. Shots through 20 minutes were 18-9, a position in which Lowell rarely found itself this season, and honestly could have been a lot worse than that. And this is despite Lowell having two power plays during the period to Union’s one. The man advantage, though, was pretty dreadful, managing just one shot.

Union stretched the lead to two on a nice goal by Jeremy Welsh, who was their best skater all weekend, to make it 2-0 midway through the second period, but Terrence Wallin scored his first goal since Feb. 4 to cut into that lead and give Lowell some hope at 14:06. The joy, however, was not to last. A holding call against Riley Wetmore put Union on another power play before the end of the period, and Josh Jooris ensured that his team would enter the dressing room with the two-goal lead intact, and that’s when we began fretting in earnest.

Grosenick is not one to go around giving up three goals in a game, and Lowell is not one to score two goals in a final period in a game in which they’ve been outhit and outshot by a substantial margin (in this case, shots through 40 were 30-13 in Union’s favor, which we don’t think we have to tell you, simply isn’t very good). And though Matt Ferreira got a gift goal to bring Lowell back within one on a brutal giveaway by Welsh early in the period, and though Lowell got straight-up boned on Union’s empty-net goal because there was a player offside, it just seemed, pretty much from the outset, never to be.

And none of this is to say the team didn’t compete well against Union. It simply was prevented from playing its type of game fairly masterfully by a bigger, more composed team. We know Lowell has struggled against teams like that all season — see also, Providence two weeks ago — and this was no different. It’s tough to keep in perspective when the season ends like that, and when the team loses four good seniors, that’s not easy either. But the only way to view this season is as a resounding success.

So no, Lowell didn’t make the Frozen Four this season. But let’s try to keep things in perspective here. This was a tough loss in a season full of amazing wins. This was a loss in the Regional final slightly more than a year after winning just five. This was a team that won 24 games a season after losing 25. It’s okay to be upset that the team lost last night, but really, in the grand scheme of things, everything after, say, 10 wins was gravy.

We aren’t happy with the loss, but we’re thrilled with everything else.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    March 26, 2012 5:21 am

    I give Union a lot of credit. I loved how they played, as much as it pained me to see Lowell lose. Lowell is built to beat the BU’s and Miami’s of the world. Let them try and show off while we work hard and win where its important. The long term success of this team is going to be learning to beat teams that have the advantage in size and play a similar game. Union is a much larger version of Lowell. Great goalie, solid D (Even though Lowell didn’t always have the best D this weekend, they were solid this season), and balanced offense. I don’t know what it will take to make that adjustment, but I think that will be the difference between a potential national title and another regional loss next year.

    On a side note, I don’t know if you guys heard any of Barry Melrose on a replay or anything, but he was horrific. At one point Saturday he even said Lowell didn’t even deserve to be in the game against Union. Add him to the Lowell hate list.

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