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Weekend preview: Fly the friendly skies

October 25, 2012

The No. 11 Lowell River Hawks (1-1-1, 0-0-1 HE) vs. the No. 1 Boston College Eagles (2-1-0, 2-1-0 HE)

7 p.m. Friday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.
4 p.m. Sunday at Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Lowell is fifth in Hockey East with one point from one game, BC is tied for first with four points from three games.

Last three games
Lowell  — 3-1 at Colorado College, 1-5 at Denver, 1-1 vs. Vermont.
BC — 3-0 vs. Northeastern, 5-4 (ot) at Amherst, 1-3 at Northeastern.

Prior meetings
Lowell trails BC 32-58-7, all-time.

Season series
Lowell went 1-2 against BC last season, winning a late home game after being swept in an early-season weekend series.

Top scorers
Josh Holmstrom — 3 GP, 2-1-3 (1 GP, 1-0-0 HE)
Joe Pendenza — 3, 1-0-1 (1, 0-0-0)
Stephen Buco — 3, 1-0-1 (1, 0-0-0)
Ryan McGrath — 3, 1-0-1 (1, 0-0-0)
AJ White — 1, 0-1-1 (0, 0-0-0)

Pat Mullane — 3 GP, 2-4-6 (same HE)
Johnny Gaudreau — 3, 2-3-5 (same)
Steven Whitney — 3, 2-1-3 (same)
Kevin Hayes — 3, 1-2-3 (same)
Patrick Wey — 3, 0-2-2 (same)

Doug Carr (1-0-1) — 3 GP, 134:36, 0.89 GAA/.968 sv% (1 GP, 65:00, 0.92 GAA/.966 sv% HE)
Connor Hellebuyck (0-1-0) — 1, 50:14, 5.97/.821

Parker Milner (2-1-0) — 3 GP, 182:36, 2.30 GAA/.911 sv% (same HE)

Team stats
Overall (3 game) — 5 goal for (1.67/gm), 7 goal against (2.33/gm). Power play 1/6 (16.7%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 9/11 (81.8%, 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)

Overall (3 games) — 9 goals for (3.00/gm), 7 goals against (2.33/gm). Power play 3/12 (25.0%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 17/18 (94.4%, 0 SHGF)
Same HE

And now Lowell enters the teeth of its Hockey East schedule, with the brief jaunt out to Colorado behind it. The River Hawks play six games between now and Thanksgiving, all against league opponents. And none will be tougher than the two this weekend.

Boston College, despite the weak loss at Northeastern to open the season and needing a patented Amherst meltdown to secure an overtime win, is the absolute very best team in Hockey East not called Lowell, and it doesn’t seem a particularly close race between Nos. 1 and 2 in the preseason polls and the sludge filling positions 3-10. This is likely the make-or-break season series for both teams if they want to claim the top spot at the end of the year (that is, if Lowell gets its act together) and therefore any headway made this weekend by either team will go a long way to determining their fate not only in the near future, but come March as well.

Lest we forget, BC finished with 39 league points last year to Lowell’s 35, and one can’t help but think the early-season sweep BC laid on Lowell just a few days after the game in Nashua of which we shan’t speak played a big role in that. If Lowell wins either of those games, for instance (and admittedly, the one at Tsongas Center was a lot closer than the one at the Heights, though that was likely the result of Brian Robbins and not Doug Carr getting the start), then the four-point gap between the two teams at the end of the year is erased. Big “if,” we concede, but that’s a pretty easy and quick way to make up the gap. In that Tsongas game in particular, Lowell’s offense had little jump, which is a similar problem plaguing it so far this season.

And thus, the simplest solution to that issue would, of course, be for Lowell to score goals this weekend. The fact of the matter is that Parker Milner simply isn’t the kind of quality goaltender he’s made out to be because of the hot streak he went on at the end of last season. But we would argue that dropping a player like Doug Carr in the BC crease for that run would result in roughly zero goals conceded for that entire 19-game win streak. That’s how smothering BC was, even when Milner went a little afield, as he did in the first period against Providence in the league semifinals.

The thing is, and we said this in a chat with the bafflingly-named BC Interruption blog earlier this week, is that no result this weekend would come as any great surprise. Could Lowell sweep? Absolutely. Could BC do the same? Sure it could. Could the teams split right down the middle, or either one earn three of a possible four points? Yes.

That’s not a very interesting prediction, but if you think that any one of those outcomes this weekend is impossible, you need your head examined.

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