Semifinal thoughts: Give me the blood and let me get away
Putting aside the season in its entirety, which we’ll get to in the coming week, there are two ways to look at Lowell’s 3-2 overtime loss to Yale University.
The glass-half-full crowd would pontificate that Lowell played arguably its worst game of the season and still only lost by a goal, and that in overtime.
The glass-half-empty types would surmise that this game was a wasted opportunity to make the national championship game, given that even 20 percent more effort could have made the difference.
We don’t subscribe to either theory. To us, the glass is still back at the hotel in Pittsburgh, with the rest of the team who couldn’t be bothered to show up.
This was one of (if not the) worst efforts we’ve seen from a Lowell squad since Blaise MacDonald was at the helm back in the five-win season. To say the River Hawks looked lost on the ice would be an insult to children who wander away from their parents at the grocery store and wind up crying to a stranger by the crackers. The weak areas of Lowell’s game were exploited expertly by the Bulldogs. The defense was slow to move the puck out of the zone. Painfully bad decisions were repeatedly made when Lowell skaters had the puck, and it was often just taken from them as a result. Lowell lost almost every battle along the boards. They had no legs, they failed to cover the slot, they were slow to react. We could go on but you get the idea.
Yale struck at 12:55 of the first as its power play was expiring. Lowell had done a good job on the kill up until Mitch Witek corralled the puck below the blue line and fired off a wrister that beat Hellebuyck low glove side. It was a good shot, and although the ice had started to tilt just before the power play, we weren’t at all concerned. Lowell had played from behind before, and done so quite successfully. We were fully expecting the River Hawks to circle the wagons, step up the defensive effort and look for turnovers and transition in the neutral zone.
And all of those things happened. If by “circling the wagons” we meant “circle the net chasing Yale attackers like a kid who’s bad at tag.” Assuming “step up the defensive effort” really means “lazy defense with breakdown after breakdown.” And that “look for turnovers and transition in the neutral zone” meant skating through the neutral zone to finally get off the ice after being pinned down for minutes at a time.
When Joe Houk was called for hooking some 4:04 later, we started to get a sick feeling in our stomach. Lowell had shown none of the resiliency that had previously been a hallmark of the team for most of the season.
While the River Hawks did technically manage to kill the penalty, Yale struck just nine seconds later. In what can only aptly be described as “beyond horrific,” two Lowell players had a shot at getting the puck out of the zone and failed wholly to do so. This is a skill we pray Norm Bazin plans on addressing in the offseason. Lowell’s nonchalant attitude about moving the puck cost them, as Matt Killian skated through the two ‘Hawks like so many pylons that even pylons mock for their immobility, and put the puck out front for Antoine Laganiere to bang home the rebound past an out-of-position Lowell defender at 19:08.
The only positives for Lowell, aside from the still-strong play of Connor Hellebyuck, was a strong stretch in the second. Captain Riley Wetmore, refusing to be put down this way, scored on a rebound shortly after Lowell’s only power play of the game expired at 14:38. Some 14 seconds later, Joe Pendenza scored on a great give-and-go with AJ White to tie the game.
Pendenza’s eight shots, by the way, accounted for 44 percent of Lowell’s total shots on goal for the game. Forwards Scott Wilson, Josh Holmstrom, Terrence Wallin, AJ White, Michael Fallon, Shayne Thompson and Colin Wright combined for zero shots on goal.
If by some weird twist of fate you’re reading this and have not watched the game on DVR yet, we advise you to simply delete the recording after Pendenza’s goal. For the reaming 32:51 of the game you’ll see a Lowell team trying to sit on a 2-2 tie and hopefully (we assume) tire the other team out until they can tap in the game winner. There was nothing resembling offensive-minded hockey in the third period or overtime from Lowell. Outright offensive, sure. But just to the thousands who had paid to watch an actual hockey game.
In the end it was another embarrassing defensive lapse that led to the game-winning goal. Greg Amlong decided that overtime was a perfect opportunity to attempt the “stand like I’m in cement and wave at the incoming player as he zips by me” routine, and Yale forward Andrew Miller made a great move to slip the puck past a sprawling Hellebuyck to seal Lowell’s much-deserved fate. Amlong was adrift for all of it.
And so Lowell players, coaches and fans are left to wonder what could have been. As we stated in the opening, these thoughts about this wretched game we just watched are in no way a final grade on the season. Yet it’s hard to find the words to describe the crushing disappointment at the lackluster effort put forth by Lowell in this, the most important game in its Div. 1 history.
We could wrap our minds around the team getting beaten and outplayed if it came after a gritty, hard-fought effort on the part of the River Hawks. Unfortunately, it wasn’t gritty. They didn’t fight. And there was very little effort. We might never know the reasons why. All we know for sure is the end result. And it sucks.