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Saturday thoughts: Same score, worse performance

December 2, 2012

This, too, was always the possibility.

UNH humbled Lowell in its own building but one supposes that you can’t have been too shocked by any of it at this point. Not really. Conceding 10 goals in a weekend to anyone, even if one was into an empty net, and scoring just four, is obviously no way to conduct business, but it does pretty effectively highlight the myriad ways in which the gap in quality between Lowell and UNH, or Lowell and any team with NCAA plans this spring, or indeed Lowell and any team that’s even considering a home ice spot in March, has grown rather chasmic.

The difference between this 5-2 loss and the one the night before was that in the latter, an observer might have felt the game was actually close at points. In this former, even though Lowell went up 1-0 and kept it tied as late as 2-2, you never actually felt like the team was necessarily in it, except for the 11 minutes or so during which it actually led. And even then, you spent that entire time waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Interestingly, unlike Friday’s loss, you can’t point to any one problem and say, “Well, this is where Lowell really stepped in it.” Such a condition, frankly, didn’t exist. UNH was just the better team by far and did well to impose its will on the far lesser opponent it happened to draw three times in the season before December 1.

As with the previous night, we heard a lot of rationalization on the postgame radio show for how tough Lowell’s schedule has been. And that is, to an extent, true. Of its seven losses, six have been to teams ranked in the top three in the nation at the time, or top five currently. Three to UNH, two to BC, one to Denver. That’s an awful bad schedule to draw, to be sure. But the thing to keep in mind about that is that in those six games, Lowell scored just eight goals, and allowed 25, which indicates to us at least that the River Hawks had no business being in the same building as those teams.

As to the game itself, Lowell’s issue was that it had about one good line, and maybe half of another one. Scott Wilson seems to have long ago abandoned whatever it was that was making his play so frustrating to watch, as he, Terrence Wallin and Stephen Buco proved the only group even resembling a potent attacking trio for the majority of the night. Wilson’s plays set up both Lowell goals, including some truly inspired work to create the second one all by himself, and he now has nine points in his last four games, including three assists this weekend. In all, that line alone generated seven of the ‘Hawks’ 24 shots, which one supposes tells you all you need to know about how the other lines did. (And on that note, we continue to be very worried about the health of Riley Wetmore, who finished the night with no shots on goal, and the weekend with just one, and was in addition more or less invisible. Indeed, when Lowell pulled its goaltender, he wasn’t on the ice, but Shayne Thompson was.)

Doug Carr gave up another four goals in this one, and we’re not all that eager to defend him too much. Giving up eight goals in five periods this weekend is bad form no matter how you care to slice it, even if the goals tonight came on a deflection and three (yes, three) screens. Obviously the defense needs to do something —anything — to clear traffic out of the front of the net, but this wasn’t the Doug Carr we bargained for this season. Point to the lack of offense all you want, but a starting goaltender, who used to be among the best in the nation, with a 2.74 GAA doesn’t help anyone all that much either. The one thing you can say about the UNH goals is they all very much felt as though they were a long time coming, and when the various shots finally worked their way past Carr, the feeling was that this was always assured, rather than them coming against the run of play or having been in any way flukes. The red light came on, and all you could do as an observer is say, “Well, that seems just about right to me.”

Lowell also took far too many penalties in this game, but you knew that already. This was especially apparent in the second period, when the team mustered a measly four shots on goal thanks to its having to kill three consecutive power plays for the Wildcats, all of which went for naught. But when you’re ceding that much control to an already-dominant team, you’re essentially running six minutes off the clock of a game that’s already being dominated anyway, and sapping momentum besides.

To sum it all up, and get back to the reason Lowell is now 4-7-1 in 12 games, it’s time to get realistic. Even if you wanted to say that the Lowell team which is 4-1-1 against opponents outside the top three/five was the one we’ll see going forward, and that these guys were victimized by tough schedule-making, the fact of the matter is that when it comes to even being competitive against the top teams in the nation — among which we mostly all thought Lowell would be counted this year — the team has been truly competitive in exactly one, the 1-0 loss to BC. In the others, it has lost 5-1, 6-3, 3-0, 5-2 and now 5-2 again. We understand that the road hasn’t exactly been easy, but if you think this is in any way acceptable, please see yourself out.

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