Weekend preview: Clawing back
The Lowell River Hawks (4-5-1, 2-4-1 ) vs. the No. 2 New Hampshire Wildcats (9-1-2, 6-1-1 HE)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Whittemore Center, Durham, N.H.
7 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.
Lowell is tied for eighth in Hockey East with five points from seven games, UNH is second in Hockey East with 13 points from eight games.
Last three games
Lowell — 3-1 vs. Princeton, 8-2 at Amherst, 0-3 vs. UNH.
Princeton — 6-4 at Denver, 4-4 (ot) at Colorado College, 3-1 at BU.
Lowell trails UNH 32-56-15.
Lowell lost a no-effort game at 3-0 home two weeks ago. We’re sure you remember.
Joe Pendenza — 10 GP, 5-3-8 (7 GP, 3-3-6 HE)
Josh Holmstrom — 10, 4-4-8 (7, 3-2-5)
Scott Wilson — 10, 2-5-7 (7, 2-3-5)
Derek Arnold — 10, 2-4-6 (7, 2-2-5)
Riley Wetmore — 10, 5-0-5 (7, 5-0-5)
Kevin Goumas — 12 GP, 6-14-20 (8 GP, 3-8-11 HE)
Trevor van Riemsdyk — 12, 5-7-12 (8, 2-5-7)
Austin Block — 12, 8-2-10 (8, 6-2-8)
Grayson Downing — 12, 5-4-9 (8, 2-1-3)
Connor Hardowa — 12, 0-9-9 (8, 0-5-5)
Doug Carr (3-4-1) — 9 GP, 492:29, 2.31 GAA/.912 sv% (7 GP, 422:53, 2.55 GAA/.902 sv% HE)
Connor Hellebuyck (1-1-0) — 2, 110:14, 3.27/.882
Casey Desmith (8-1-2) — 12 GP, 680:56, 1.67 GAA/.944 sv% (8 GP, 487:00, 0.86 GAA/.972 sv% HE)
Overall (10 games) — 24 goals for (2.40/gm), 25 goals against (2.50/gm). Power play 5/40 (12.5, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 29/38 (76.3%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (7 games) — 17 goals for (2.43/gm), 18 goals against (2.57/gm). Power play 4/33 (12.1%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 23/30 (76.7%, 1 SHGF)
Overall (12 games) — 42 goals for (3.50/gm), 20 goals against (1.67/gm). Power play 8/44 (18.2%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 40/42 (95.2%, 3 SHGF)
Hockey East (8 games) — 23 goals for (2.88/gm), 7 goals against (0.88/gm). Power play 6/32 (18.8%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 26/27 (96.3%, 1 SHGF)
We have to think that any sane person enters this game saying that the chances of Lowell even getting points aren’t especially good. The River Hawks have been good enough against a mediocre and sub-mediocre opponent, respectively, in their last two games, but after this team got humiliated on home ice two weeks ago by its opponent this weekend, we don’t know what to think.
Clearly the Wildcats, against all expectations, are an absolute firewagon this season and look poised to pass their win total for all of last season a week or two after break at the latest. To give you an idea of how well they’ve played to this point: Casey DeSmith gave up seven goals on 37 shots last weekend against Denver and CC, and his stats dropped to 1.67/.944. How is that even possible? How is it even fair to his opponents?
But what that also tells us, like Lowell’s colossal bumbling of the first few weeks of the season, is that it might not be especially sustainable. No team, for instance, can continue to kill as many penalties in-league as the Wildcats have (they’re 26 of 27 in eight games), and no team can allow fewer than a goal a game in-league for an entire season. It’s been a crazy, crazy run for a team that’s not exactly shooting the lights out against Hockey East opponents (3.5 goals a game is fine but not world-beating).
So what are we saying, that Lowell’s going to be the team to break through and drag DeSmith’s stats back to the mean singlehandedly? Not really. We saw this team struggle to score against Maine and Princeton, neither of which can really defend especially well, so a team that excels at it, like UNH, isn’t likely to have too much trouble. But the fact is that the Wildcats scored 10 last weekend, and hasn’t put up fewer than three since Nov. 2 despite the fact that the offense isn’t, in our estimation, that great.
We suppose what we’re getting at is that if Lowell can in any way limit UNH’s goalscoring — hint: It starts with the PK! — then it at least has a chance to get points from this weekend. We’re not betting on it, obviously, but it’s possible in theory. This is a River Hawks side that looks to be rounding into something resembling a form, and while we’re still fearful of what the games this weekend will bring, we’re not as convinced that Lowell loses out here as we were two weeks ago.