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Weekend preview: Begin again

October 11, 2012

The No. 6 Lowell River Hawks (0-0-0) vs. the Vermont Catamounts (0-0-0)

7 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.

Lowell finished second in Hockey East with 35 points from 27 games, Vermont was dead last in Hockey East with seven points from 27 games.

Last three games
Lowell  — 5-2 vs. Toronto (exh).
Vermont — 7-1 vs. Concordia (exh).

Prior meetings
Lowell leads Vermont 15-14-5, all-time.

Season series
These teams haven’t met yet, but Lowell won 2-1 last year.

Top scorers
Lowell (returning from 2011-12):
Riley Wetmore — 38 GP, 14-25-39 (27 GP, 9-18-27 HE)
Scott Wilson — 37, 16-22-38 (26 GP, 12-16-28)
Derek Arnold — 38, 17-17-32 (27, 14-12-26)
Joe Pendenza — 38, 10-19-29 (27, 7-15-22)
Terrence Wallin — 38, 8-17-25 (27, 4-14-18)

Vermont (returning from 2011-12):
Kyle Reynolds — 32 GP, 10-13-23 (25 GP, 8-10-18)
Nick Bruneteau — 34, 2-16-18 (27, 1-12-13)
Colin Markison — 33, 6-8-14 (26, 4-6-10)
Conor Brickley — 23, 9-3-12 (19, 5-3-8)
Mike Montagna — 33, 1-10-11 (26, 1-7-8)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Doug Carr (22-10-1) — 33 GP, 1,971:52, 2.13 GAA/.928 sv% (24 GP, 1,408:02, 2.17/.927 HE)

Vermont:
John Vazzano (0-2-0) — 2, 94:45, 6.33 GAA/.773 sv% (same)*

*note: There is no chance Vazzano plays tomorrow night

Team stats
Lowell (2011-12):
Overall (38 games) — 126 goals for (3.32/gm), 94 goals against (2.47/gm). Power play 37/176 (21.0%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 111/138 (80.4%, 5 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)

Vermont (2011-12):
Overall (34 games) — 73 goals for (2.15/gm), 140 goals against (4.12/gm). Power play 28/180 (15.6%, 5 SHGA), penalty kill 89/127 (70.1%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (27 games) — 54 goals for (2.00/gm), 114 goals against (4.222/gm). Power play 21/146 (14.4%, 4 SHGA), penalty kill 71/104 (68.3%, 3 SHGF)

Outlook
Lowell has all the power in the world to make Vermont suffer tomorrow night and our hope is very obviously that they do so early and often. However, there is some reason to believe that despite the wide talent gap separating these two teams — Lowell standing atop a Himalayan peak, Vermont in one of those funny James Cameron-style spherical submarines at the bottom of the Marianas Trench — this could be closer than it should be.

The first, most obviously, is that these two teams played a relatively close series last season despite the River Hawks finishing with 28 more points than the Catamounts. They played three times, and Lowell, somehow, lost one of them (albeit on the road in overtime and with Matt Ferreira nursing an injury). But the other games, played in Lowell as tomorrow’s will be, weren’t necessarily the blowouts the should have been either. Lowell won both by two goals; Vermont actually led for a little while in the first, and Lowell almost blew a 5-2 lead thanks to a pair of extra-attacker goals before a Josh Holmstrom empty netter put it out of reach with 31 seconds to go.

Too close for comfort, certainly, and evidence that even when a team in Hockey East is the hottest of hot garbage, as Vermont was (you’ll recall they had fewer points than Lowell earned in its Worst Season Ever), it’s not always easy to put them down.

This is something of which the River Hawks will have to be mindful, especially given that Rob Madore, their pitiable senior goaltender, has unfortunately graduated, and the guy they replaced him with — a 6-foot-4 freshman named Brody Hoffman — can’t be as bad as him almost by default. The good news is that Vermont’s most troublesome player, Sebastian Stålberg, has moved on to the pros and will therefore not be able to score three goals and add an assist for his team’s efforts. As you saw above, the offense rests largely on the shoulders of Conor Brickley and Kyle Reynolds, both of whom aren’t all that good.

None of this is to discount the abilities of Lowell’s players to bring pain and suffering in quantity and quality  in all facets of the game, and certainly we’re excited to see the team back in real action again after last week’s appetizer. Scott Wilson? Probably good for a couple points. Doug Carr? Big night. Chad Ruhwedel? Already giving the Catamounts night terrors. The power play? Set to rain hell on poor baby Hoffman.

What better way to get ready for another big season than with a big win over a crap team? Vermont sucks. Go Lowell.

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