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Weekend preview: Rocky Mountain High

October 18, 2012

The No. 10 Lowell River Hawks (0-0-1) vs. the No. 7 Denver Pioneers (0-0-0) and the No. 19 Colorado College Tigers (2-0-0)

9:35 p.m. at Magness Arena Denver, Colo.
9:05 p.m. at Colorado Springs World Arena, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Lowell is tied for third in Hockey East with one point from one game, Denver and CC, like all WCHA teams, have not played league games yet.

Last three games
Lowell  — 1-1 vs. Vermont, 5-2 vs. Toronto (exh).
Denver — 2-2 vs. UBC (exh).
CC — 5-4 vs. Clarkson, 5-4 vs. Clarkson, 3-1 vs. UBC (exh).

Prior meetings
Lowell trails Denver 2-7-0, and Colorado College 3-7-0, all-time.

Season series
Lowell hasn’t played either of these teams in years. The last meeting against Denver came in 2006, with the host Pios emerging 2-1 winners. Lowell’s last clash with CC was a weekend split in Colorado Springs, with Lowell losing 6-4, then winning 4-1.

Top scorers
Josh Holmstrom — 1 GP, 1-0-1 (1 GP, 1-0-0 HE)
Michael Fallon — 1, 0-1-1 (1, 0-1-1)
Joe Pendenza — 1, 0-0-0 (1, 0-0-0)
Scott Wilson — 1, 0-0-0 (1, 0-0-0)
Terrence Wallin — 1, 0-0-0 (1, 0-0-0)

Denver (returning from 2011-12):
Nick Shore — 43 GP, 13-28-41 (28 GP, 9-18-27 WCHA)
Joey LaLeggia — 43, 11-27-38 (28, 8-20-28)
Shawn Ostrow — 43, 11-10-21 (28, 7-7-14)
Ty Loney — 36, 10-11-21 (21, 5-6-11)
Chris Knowlton — 30, 12-7-19 (23, 10-6-16)

Archie Skalbeck — 2 GP, 3-0-3 (0 GP, 0-0-0 WCHA)
William Rapuzzi — 2, 2-1-3 (0, 0-0-0)
Rylan Schwartz — 2, 1-2-3 (0, 0-0-0)
Eamonn McDermott — 2, 0-3-3 (0, 0-0-0)
Scott Winkler — 2, 1-1-2 (0, 0-0-0)

Doug Carr (0-0-1) — 1 GP, 65:00, 0.92 GAA/.966 sv% (same HE)

Denver (from 2011-12):
Sam Brittain (8-4-0) — 12 GP, 735:57, 2.36 GAA/.932 sv% (8 GP, 469:25, 2.68/.921 HE)

Joe Howe (1-0-0) — 1 GP, 60:00, 4.00 GAA/.810 sv% (no league stats)
Josh Thorimbert (1-0-0) — 1, 60:00, 4.00 GAA/.840 sv% (no league stats)

Team stats
Overall (1 game) — 1 goal for (1.00/gm), 1 goal against (1.00/gm). Power play 0/2 (0.0%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 5/5 (100.0%, 0 SHGF)
Hockey East (1 game) — 1 goal for (1.00/gm), 1 goal against (1.00/gm). Power play 0/2 (0.0%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 5/5 (100.0%, 0 SHGF)

Denver (2011-12):
Overall (43 games) — 139 goals for (3.23/gm), 111 goals against (2.58/gm). Power play 38/177 (21.5%, 6 SHGA), penalty kill 152/184 (82.6%, 3 SHGF)
WCHA (28 games) — 96 goals for (3.43/gm), 79 goals against (2.82/gm). Power play 28/116 (24.1%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 102/126 (81.0%, 3 SHGF)

Overall (2 games) — 10 goals for (5.00/gm), 8 goals against (4.00/gm). Power play 1/7 (14.3%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 6/6 (100.0%, 2 SHGF)
WCHA (0 games) — no stats

With games like this, it’s always hard to tell how things will shake out. Lowell almost never sees Denver or Colorado College (or any other WCHA teams, for that matter), and a cursory look at the various stats available online tells us only so much about what to expect from this weekend’s opponents.

We must confess to not being intimately familiar with most of the players on either Colorado College or Denver, but we will note that one thing we found very interesting in reading up on the latter — which also happens to be Lowell’s first opponent — is that the team is more or less crossing all its fingers and toes that Friday’s likely starter, junior netminder Sam Brittain, will be able to stay healthy this year. Due to injuries, he’s played but 45 games in his two seasons at Denver, and all but 12 of those were when he was a freshman, and won the team’s Defensive Player of the Year award. With a 2.28/.921 line in that season, it’s easy to see why. The Denver Post called the team’s defensive and goaltending situation arguably the best in the country, because apparently Doug Carr doesn’t count.

The question for Denver seems to be who steps in to provide all the offense the Pios flashed last year. Gone are Drew Shore and Jason Zucker, who provided 44 goals and 99 points by themselves last year. The answer, based solely on that same Denver Post article, which is entitled “DU hockey stressing defense this season” seems to be that George Gwozdecky is running up the white flag and saying, “I guess we have to cut down that 2.58 goals allowed per game if we want to compete this season.” That seems reasonable, as they would have only been fourth in Hockey East with that kind of total. Denver therefore doesn’t appear likely to shoot the lights out on Carr, but they could prove enough of a staunch defensive foe that the sputtering offense seen last week could rear its head once again. Hopefully, Scott Wilson (playing against that gutless punk Joey LaLeggia, the player by whom in whose favor he got screwed in the national Rookie of the Year voting last season) and Co. will be able to set everything right once again.

The opposite problem seems more likely in Colorado Springs the next night, as CC not only bled goals against Clarkson, but also scored more of them. We must say we’re never impressed by a goaltending tandem that has a combined save percentage of .826 and total GAA of 4.00, no matter how many wins they have. So the issue for Lowell, playing on CC’s Olympic-sized rink, will apparently be depressing goals (particularly shorties, of which the Tigers already have two) rather than necessarily pouring everything into the attack.

Two very different opponents, played very far away and very high up. Should be interesting. Lowell cannot under any circumstances afford to come home with less than a split. Starting the season at 0-2-1 or 0-1-2 is no way for a national title contender (if that’s what we’re to believe this team is) to behave, no matter what the Lowell Sun says.

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