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Loose pucks: She once was a true love of mine

January 9, 2013

Three things that keep us warm:
1) Five in a row.

While Lowell never made a habit of losing too often early in the season (its losing streaks never once hit three games), it also didn’t do a lot of winning. Prior to this run, the team’s longest winning streak was, like its longest losing streak, a whopping two. It might not shock you to learn that Lowell won five times in a row twice last season but still, regardless of the quality of opponents, it’s hard to argue with success.

2) Now it all actually matters.

We can’t tell you how happy we are to see that Lowell’s done with the dross of college hockey, i.e. non-Hockey East teams. Goodbye Clarkson. Goodbye Bentley. Goodbye Harvard and Princeton. Hello… oh wait, this says “Vermont.” Hello Vermont. You also are not very good.

3) Return of the offense.

Six freakin’ goals. That’s something to crow about. As with the Harvard game, everyone contributed (more or less) and things never looked remotely dangerous for the ‘Hawks. Now, we’re still somewhat concerned that the only teams against which Lowell has posted three goals or more in a game this season are, in reverse order, Clarkson, Bentley, Harvard, Princeton, Amhert, Maine (in a loss), BC (in a blowout), and Colorado College (with an empty netter). But we haven’t seen much from Vermont to convince us that, you know, these guys can necessarily keep the puck out of the back of their net. So, hey, continued success, Lowell offense.

Two things that are cold-blooded:
1) Nervy wins.

After the 3-2 win over Bentley, the last thing we wanted was for Lowell to sweat bullets trailing 1-0 again for the majority of the game, but that’s what happened. This is, we concede, a nit-picky argument since they won the game and then crushed their hosts the next night, but when there’s a five-game winning streak on, there’s not a whole hell of a lot to complain about.

2) The power play.

Lowell’s power play went 1 for 12 on the weekend (and even that one came in garbage time, and really only served to erase a shorthanded goal Clarkson scored before that). Put simply, that’s something that needs to be much, much better if the River Hawks are going to win a lot of games in the second half. If teams are going to put you on the man advantage, let’s not have it be a two-minute exercise in futility and time-wasting.

Stat of the Week
As referenced above, Lowell’s power play has been not-very-good the last several games, but at the same time, its penalty kill has been absolutely outstanding. It’s a common refrain at this point, but the team hasn’t allowed a power play goal in its last six games (Chad Ruhwedel even had a shortie in that stretch), killing off 23 in a row. A pretty impressive stretch, and one that has allowed the team’s PK to soar to 84.1 percent from just 76.3 percent.

Now, you may be wondering the last time Lowell had a penalty kill that effective for that long. And, well, it’s been a while. The last time Lowell successfully killed off every penalty it took in eight consecutive games was a run from Dec. 5, 1998, to Jan. 12, 1999.

The run started with a 4-1 win over Northeastern, in which the Huskies went 0 for 4, and was followed six days later by a 5-3 loss to BU in which the Terriers were blanked on five chances. BU completed the sweep with a 4-3 decision the next night, during which the Terriers went 0 for 3 on the power play. It continued after Winter Break, in a 6-1 win over Army on Jan. 2, when the Black Knights went 0 for 4. The next night, Lowell blanked Minnesota-Duluth on (get this) 10 chances, in a 3-0 win. The next weekend, Lowell took on two visitors from North Country in St. Lawrence and Clarkson on consecutive nights. The Saints went 0 for 6 in a 5-2 loss, and the Golden Knights did the same in a 4-1 shaming. The streak continued in a 7-1 win over Union, which went 0 for 7 on Jan. 12.

That mythic run came to a halt when Lowell tempted fate in a 2-1 win on the road over Yale. The Bulldogs went 1 for 10 that night.

But during that eight-game, Lowell went 45 of 45 on the PK. Later that season it also posted another streak of four straight games without a power play goal allowed, killing off 19 straight. Lowell’s penalty that year ran at 82.7 percent overall (174 for 208) for the year, which doesn’t speak well for the games in which it did allow power play goals.

The things we do for you people
In case you were wondering, yes we did the Lowell PK stats for 1998-99 by hand thanks to USCHO’s box scores. College Hockey Stats and Hockey East’s full-season stats only go back as far as 1999-2000, and USCHO’s start in 2000-01. We are indefensible nerds.

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