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Final preview: For you, for me, for Lowell

March 23, 2013

The Lowell River Hawks (25-10-2, 16-9-2 HE) vs. the Boston University Terriers (21-15-2, 15-10-2 HE)

7 p.m. Saturday at TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

Lowell finished first in Hockey East with 34 points from 27 games, and BU finished third in Hockey East with 32 points from 27 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 2-1 vs. Providence, 2-1 (ot) vs. Maine, 4-2 vs. Maine.
BU — 6-3 vs. BC, 5-3 vs. Merrimack, Merrimack 3-0.

Prior meetings
Lowell trails BU 23-68-8, all-time.

Season series
Lowell swept the season series 3-0.

It opened with a 4-3 win at Agganis that was all kinds of wacky, and included four goals in the third period alone. Lowell actually went up 4-1 at one point but BU clawed back into it to make things interesting in the final few minutes before Garrett Noonan’s infamous spearing penalty killed all hope of a comeback.

The series between the two in February was probably the season’s nadir for the Terriers. BU lost 3-0 at home on Friday behind a shutout from Connor Hellebuyck, and then got stomped 3-1 the next night at Tsongas Center, and neither game was even that close. The ease with which Lowell handled these guys was almost disconcerting.

Top scorers
Joe Pendenza — 37 GP, 13-23-36 (27 GP, 9-20-29 HE)
Scott Wilson — 37, 15-18-33 (27, 10-15-25)
Derek Arnold — 37, 11-16-27 (27, 10-10-20)
Riley Wetmore — 37, 15-11-26 (27, 13-8-21)
Josh Holmstrom — 37, 12-12-24 (27, 10-7-17)

Danny O’Regan — 38 GP, 16-22-38 (27 GP, 9-7-16 HE)
Matt Nieto — 38, 18-19-37 (27, 12-7-19)
Evan Rodrigues — 37, 14-20-34 (27, 6-14-20)
Cason Hohmann — 38, 10-24-34 (20, 7-6-13)
Wade Megan — 37, 16-13-29 (25, 4-8-12)

Connor Hellebuyck (17-2-0) — 20 GP, 1,150:12, 1.46 GAA/.946 sv% (13 GP, 738:08, 1.38/.948 HE)
Doug Carr (8-8-1) — 19, 1,052:29, 2.79/.897 (15, 863:12, 3.06/.889)

Sean Maguire (13-7-0) — 20 GP, 1,172:35, 2.61 GAA/.925 sv% (13 GP, 752:47, 2.71/.923 HE)
Matt O’Connor (8-8-2) — 19, 1,110:10, 2.86/.910 (15, 868:19, 2.49/.923)

Team stats
Overall (37 games) — 112 goals for (3.03/gm), 79 goals against (2.14/gm). Power play 31/184 (16.8%, 5 SHGA), penalty kill 129/151 (85.4%, 6 SHGF)
Hockey East (27 games) — 81 goals for (3.00/gm), 63 goals against (2.33/gm). Power play 24/144 (16.7%, 4 SHGA), penalty kill 97/114 (85.1%, 5 SHGF)

Overall (38 games) — 120 goals for (3.16/gm), 109 goals against (2.87/gm). Power play 32/180 (17.8%, 6 SHGA), penalty kill 157/188 (83.5%, 7 SHGF)
Hockey East (27 games) — 82 goals for (3.04/gm), 73 goals against (2.70/gm). Power play 22/123 (17.9%, 5 SHGA), penalty kill 119/140 (85.0%, 5 SHGF)

Lowell’s leaders vs. BU
Joe Pendenza — 9 GP, 5-6-11
Scott Wilson — 6, 5-5-10
Riley Wetmore — 12, 2-5-7
Derek Arnold — 9, 3-3-6
Josh Holmstrom — 9, 0-6-6

Doug Carr (3-2-0) — 5 GP, 301:43, 2.78 GAA/.903 sv%
Connor Hellebuyck (2-0-0) — 2, 118:56, 0.50/.976

Lowell’s playoff leaders
Riley Wetmore — 11, 2-6-8
Scott Wilson — 8, 4-3-7
Zack Kamrass — 6, 1-3-4
Josh Holmstrom — 8, 3-0-3
Joe Pendenza — 8, 1-3-4

Connor Hellebuyck (3-0-0) — 3 GP, 181:50, 1.32/.950
Doug Carr (2-3-0) — 5, 303:49, 2.57/.929

We think it’s fair to say that the BU team Lowell flattened about a month ago in two deeply embarrassing games for anyone unfortunate enough to have been in attendance is dead and buried. Those two games were the denouement of a brutal February stretch for the Terriers, and now they’re on a nice little winning streak that most recently includes knocking off their archrivals on a grand stage despite being outplayed for the vast majority of the first two periods.

Which is interesting to say the least. BU was drowning in that game, and a combination of dumb luck, obvious skill, and Parker Milner completely crapping the bed. That BC was ever up 2-0 in the game was a stroke of unimaginable luck, because it should have been far uglier than that. Moreover, that BU clawed back to lead 3-2 headed into the third period was laughable, because none of the plays that led to goals should have happened. Let’s put it this way, and leave the analysis for people who actually care about either of these teams: Shots ended 47-27 BC, but goals were 6-3, and it wasn’t as if Sean Maguire really did a lot to earn his stripes in the game.

But that brings us to the prospect of what will happen tomorrow night, in this rematch from the 2009 title game, of which the only people involved who remember what it was like are Jack Parker and his assistants. No one else yet remains. That result may feel like it was just yesterday, and we might still feel personally hard done by, but four seasons may as well have been four centuries for the leaps and bounds Lowell has made since. The simple fact is Lowell is better than BU. They proved it in three games earlier this season head-to-head, they proved it in 24 against all other league opponents. BU is a nice but extremely flawed team, to put things nicely. Their top line of Matt Nieto, Danny O’Regan, and Evan Rodrigues is obviously playing the lights-out-est of lights-out hockey, but beyond that, well, there isn’t much there. Then there’s Sean Maguire in net, and despite looking like a runaway Thanksgiving Day Parade float in his absurdly large pads, he’s conceded six goals in his last two games.

Why’s that a problem? Because there are a number of River Hawks who feast on Terrier defenses like no other. Scott Wilson, for example, has five goals and five assists in just six games against the Terriers in his career, and also happens to be white hot right now as Lowell continues its deep run into the postseason. Joe Pendenza, likewise, has 5-6-11 in nine games against BU, and likewise is playing very good hockey right now. Then there’s Riley Wetmore, then there’s Derek Arnold, then there’s Josh Holmstrom, and we could go on. Lowell’s deeper up front than BU. Period. It’s also got better defensemen than Boston College does, so it doesn’t seem to us that the Nieto-O’Regan-Rodrigues line is going to run roughshod over, say, Chad Ruhwedel and Christian Folin (Lowell has last change in this one, after all) as it did against its most recent ultra-tough competition — BC, Merrimack twice, Northeastern twice, Vermont twice, and Merrimack for one more. If Ruhwedel could box up Johnny Gaudreau as convincingly as he did in the most recent meeting between Lowell and BC, Matt Nieto doesn’t seem like a particularly tough bronco to get saddled up and ridden into the ground.

Then there’s always Connor Hellebuyck, who allowed one goal on 41 shots in his two appearances against BU this year. He is almost certainly the best goaltender in Hockey East at this point, and it may be a stretch to start assuming he’ll allow more than, say, two even if he has a bad night.

BU might have the desire to win one for the Gipper with Jack Parker coaching his last-ever Hockey East game, but that road runs through the best team in Hockey East, and that’s one hell of a dangerous path to try to take.

One Comment leave one →
  1. John Wayne Swayze permalink
    March 23, 2013 8:49 pm

    UML retiring Jack Parker might be the most beautiful thing to ever happen in life.

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