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Friday thoughts: We’ll take the mulligan

March 9, 2013

We are of two very distinct but somewhat intersecting minds about what exactly went so wrong in Lowell’s baffling loss to Providence in the penultimate game of the regular season.

On the one hand, it must be said that Lowell didn’t get a single bounce in the entirety of that 60-minute game to go its way. Not one. And maybe that’s to be expected after more than three months of getting a healthy 95 percent of all bounces across 20 games to go their way, which they almost certainly did in trying to come back from the dead and succeeding masterfully. Games like this happen. This was two lucky goals away from being the exact same result as Merrimack; and anyone watching this game who thought Providence played well enough to win by three wasn’t watching the same game we were.

On the other, Lowell did absolutely nothing whatsoever to put themselves in a position to win this hockey game. The stats say they outshot and outpossessed Providence for the bulk of the game, but watching it you had to chalk that up as being largely due to score effects; Providence scored far earlier than most Lowell opponents do, and the River Hawks spent a good portion of the night chasing the game against a good defensive team backstopped by a great goaltender. That’s not an enviable position in which to find oneself, but moreover, the number of actual scoring chances Lowell generated was paltry at best, particularly at even strength despite dominating the game when the teams were even-up.

One quick thing to note about this game is just how much better Lowell was at even strength despite what the scoreboard said. Providence had two goals at 5-on-5 to Lowell’s none, but if you look at the amount of time Lowell actually had the puck compared with the Friars (as indicated by shots attempted), it’s not even close. The River Hawks entered the first intermission down 1-0 thanks to a rather fluky goal on which Paul de Jersey took a hard shot from the wing that, uncharacteristically for Connor Hellebuyck, kicked out into the slot. Chad Ruhwedel did everything right on the play to tie up Ross Mauermann, who seems to like nothing more than scoring big goals against Lowell (4-1-5 in eight games), but the puck still went in off a skate, rolling slowly and agonizingly past Hellebuyck.

But during that first period, Providence attempted just 12 shots at even strength to Lowell’s 17, and the gap only widened as the game went on. It must be said that in general teams that are behind tend to generate more chances because they’re pressing while the other team is likely to play more conservatively in an attempt to hang onto the lead, but that doesn’t mean Providence didn’t strike when it saw the opportunity.

Mark Jankowski’s rocket shot off Hellebuyck’s left shoulder early on in the second presented them with one. Again, Hellebuyck isn’t traditionally one to give up a lot of rebounds, and when he does on occasion the defense has typically been there to sweep it out of danger with relative ease. Zack Kamrass didn’t do that this time. Kamrass, in fact, didn’t do anything this time, and allowed Kevin Hart to sweep the puck into the net with a sort of desperate golf swing from the outside while the Lowell defender just looked at him and lazily poked a stick in his general direction. Not a good rebound to give up, but no compete from the guy who was supposed to be covering the other player on the 2-on-2, and that kind of typified the night. Still, though, Providence attempted just nine shots at even strength in the period to Lowell’s 14, though for the Friars that eight of those were on net, while Lowell had six go wide or into a Friar’s equipment.

Tom Parisi added a goal on the power play to make it academic early in the third, not too long after Lowell had its best chances of the night on a power play of its own, only to see them turned aside by Jon Gillies, who made a number of difficult saves but was never tested at anywhere near the level seen in the first meeting between these two teams. And still Lowell pressed. They put 11 shots on goal in the final period at even strength, had another eight go wide, and three more blocked, and a good number of those came from relatively close to the net.

In all, even-strength shot attempts finished at 53 for Lowell (12 blocked, 14 wide, 27 on net) and just 29 for Providence (two blocked, six wide, 21 on goal), which tells you just about all you need to know about the game: 1. Lowell was chasing from pretty early on, 2. Providence got lucky to not allow any goals, and 3. Lowell played exceptionally well defensively despite giving up the most goals since the 6-3 win over Amherst.

Perhaps you make your own luck. Perhaps Lowell did that one thing better than almost any of its opponents since the start of December. Perhaps it didn’t do that so much in this game. It’s too bad, but you can’t expect to get those bounces forever. Three months of great luck finally caught up with the River Hawks, but we can’t sit here and say they necessarily played badly. They just didn’t play well enough, and there’s a big qualitative difference there.

The funny thing (or sad thing, depending on how you care to view it) about the idea that Lowell simply didn’t get any bounces against the Friars is that across the league, it got just about every bounce it needed. UNH lost, BC tied. A win in this game for Lowell would have meant the regular-season title was theirs outright. But that’s fine; now they get to do it all over again at Providence on Saturday, and once again a win means everything is theirs. Let’s just hope they get it right this time.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 9, 2013 3:58 pm

    Last week @ Merrimack, and again last night, Lowell suffered some key defensive blocks carried out by Shea on behalf of Team Pinstripe. Someone give that man some roller skates and a new vocation.

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