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Weekend preview: Last Chance Saloon

December 7, 2012

The Lowell River Hawks (4-7-1, 2-6-1 Hockey East) vs. the Northeastern Huskies (5-8-1, 3-7-1 Hockey East) and Harvard Crimson (4-3-0, 3-3-0 ECAC)

7 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.
7 p.m. Monday at Bright Center, Cambridge, Mass.

Lowell is ninth in Hockey East with five points from nine games, Northeastern is eighth in Hockey East with seven points from 11 games, and Harvard is tied for eighth in the ECAC with six points from six games.

Last three games
Lowell  — 2-5 vs. UNH, 2-5 at UNH, 3-1 vs. Princeton.
Northeastern — 3-6 vs. Amherst, 1-0 at Amherst, 2-5 vs. St. Lawrence.
Harvard — 0-1 at Colgate, 4-1 at Cornell, 4-0 vs. RPI

Prior meetings
Lowell leads Northeastern 55-40-7 and leads Harvard 1-0-0, all-time.

Season series
Lowell has not played either team this season.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Scott Wilson — 12 GP, 2-8-10 (9 GP, 2-6-8 HE)
Joe Pendenza — 12, 5-4-9 (9, 3-4-7)
Josh Holmstrom — 12, 4-5-9 (9, 3-3-6)
Derek Arnold — 12, 2-4-6 (9, 2-2-4)
Riley Wetmore — 12, 5-0-5 (9, 5-0-5)

Northeastern:
Kevin Roy — 14 GP, 7-6-13 (11 GP, 7-3-10 HE)
Vinny Saponari — 14, 3-8-11 (11, 2-5-7)
Ludwig Karlsson — 14, 5-2-7 (11, 1-2-3)
Braden Pimm — 14, 2-5-7 (11, 1-5-6)
Cody Ferriero — 14, 1-5-6 (11, 1-3-4)

Harvard:
Jimmy Vesey — 7 GP, 5-3-8 (6 GP, 3-2-5 ECAC)
Alex Fallstrom — 7, 2-3-5 (6, 1-1-2)
Tommy O’Regan — 7, 0-5-5 (6, 0-5-5)
Kyle Criscuolo — 7, 3-1-4 (6, 3-1-4)
Marshall Everson — 7, 2-1-3 (6, 1-0-1)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Doug Carr (3-6-1) — 11 GP, 591:40, 2.74 GAA/.902 sv% (9 GP, 522:04, 2.99 GAA/.893 sv% HE)
Connor Hellebuyck (1-1-0) — 3, 130:14, 3.22/.883 (1, 20:00, 3.00/.889)

Northeastern:
Chris Rawlings (3-4-0) — 10 GP, 528:23, 2.38 GAA/.923 sv% (8 GP, 408:26, 2.94 GAA/.912 sv% HE)
Bryan Mountain (0-4-1) — 5, 273:13, 2.85/.918 (4, 213:26, 2.25/.933)

Harvard:
Raphael Girard (4-3-0) — 7 GP, 407:52, 2.06 GAA/.936 sv% (6 GP, 347:52, 2.41 GAA/.926 sv%)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (12 games) — 28 goals for (2.33/gm), 35 goals against (2.92/gm). Power play 5/48 (10.4, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 37/47 (78.7%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (9 games) — 21 goals for (2.33/gm), 28 goals against (3.11/gm). Power play 4/41 (9.8%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 31/39 (79.5%, 1 SHGF)

Northeastern:
Overall (14 games) — 30 goals for (2.14/gm), 40 goals against (2.86/gm). Power play 8/60 (13.3%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 53/64 (82.8%, 2 SHGF)
Hockey East (11 games) — 22 goals for (2.00/gm), 34 goals against (3.09/gm). Power play 6/46 (13.0%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 40/50 (80.0%, 2 SHGF)

Harvard:
Overall (7 games) — 19 goals for (2.71/gm), 15 goals against (2.14/gm). Power play 2/26 (7.7%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 23/25 (92.0%, 1 SHGF)
ECAC (6 games) — 14 goals for (2.33/gm), 15 goals against (2.50/gm). Power play 1/24 (4.17%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 18/20 (90.0%, 1 SHGF)

Outlook
This is easily the most critical weekend (yes, we’re counting Monday as the weekend. So sue us.) for Lowell so far this season. Win two — and man, they really should win two — and enter the long hard winter break with at least the confidence that you’re only a game back of being a .500 hockey team and the knowledge that you have a much easier road through the back end of the schedule.

And the good news is, neither of these teams strike the neutral observer as being anything special. Northeastern, for example, is statistically almost as bad as Lowell despite a softer schedule to this point. Somehow it has less offense than do the River Hawks, and the defense is nearly as bad. There’s really not much separating these teams except for the fact that at least Lowell’s losses have mostly come against really great teams, and Northeastern’s losses came against Amherst, Merrimack, Providence and Vermont, in addition to a non-conference stomping from St. Lawrence.

There is no reason whatsoever that Lowell shouldn’t rain death on Northeastern on Saturday. They are on Amherst’s level of general badness, and they’re playing on the road, where they have won just one of their six games (that against Amherst, and who doesn’t win there?). To properly frame how not-great this team has been, let’s just note here that Bryan Mountain of all the goaltenders in Hockey East has, at times this season, been considered a more viable alternative between the pipes than Chris Rawlings.

Winning this game is absolutely crucial for Lowell, both because it needs the points (obviously) but also because if it can’t prove it can beat bad Hockey East teams with regularity, we might as well all just stop going to games, because we’re not going to see much after break ends.

Harvard, likewise, doesn’t seem, on the surface at least, to be any great titan the likes of what Lowell has largely taken on in the first half. We understand that we approach this with the attitude that Lowell has taken seven points from six games against non-top-three teams, but that the team still struggled mightily in let’s say all but two or three of those games, but the facts are the facts, and Lowell has dispatched its poorer foes at a fairly impressive rate despite its mighty and much-publicized difficulties against the better ones. Harvard, in our book, falls very firmly in the former category, especially given that most of their team stats are skewed by a 5-0 win over Bentley to open the season. Look at the difference between what it’s done on a per-game basis in its six league games versus seven overall. Pretty stark.

Again, Lowell can and very well should win both these games. Of course, we’ve said that a few times this season and haven’t had it work out for us. So who knows?

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