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Lowell Preview

#15 Lowell River Hawks 12-7-2, (Hockey East 6-4-2 T-4th)
vs
#19 UMass Minutemen 12-8-0, (Hockey East 7-6-0 T-4th)  

Official Lowell River Hawk Hockey Site
Ice Is Life Lowell Hockey Blog

If you look at standings this should be a great weekend of hockey.  Both of these teams are currently tied for the final home ice spot in Hockey East, with Lowell getting the tiebreaker edge due to their earlier win over the Minutemen.  Nationally, these teams are neck and neck in the pairwise with UMass one spot ahead of Lowell at 15th.  A sweep either way could have long term effects as the teams march on towards the Hockey East playoffs.  Even a split would have consequences as it gives the River Hawks the tiebreaker, not to mention the Alumni Cup.

Lowell came into the season with high expectations, being picked 2nd in the conference preseason poll and just outside the top ten in the USCHO poll.  Thus far, they’ve had trouble living up to those forecasts.  While at times they’ve been the deep, dominating team that many, including myself, thought they’d be, for the most part they’ve been inconsistent.  Though they’re coming off a 3 point weekend a couple bounces the other way they could’ve come away with zero.  Still, they are very dangerous.  While they’ve held their own on offense averaging 3.33 goals per game their greatest strength is their defense which checks in at a 2.38 goals per game, by far the best in the conference.

Of course the key to that defense is their two seniors in net, Nevin Hamilton and Carter Hutton.  Hutton has had the better numbers thus far with a goals against of 2.16 and save percentage of .926.  Hamilton’s numbers are still strong with a 2.52 goals against and .912 save percentage.  In front of those two is arguably the best defense in the league.   Senior Nick Schaus gets it done on both ends of the ice as this hard-hitting defenseman is currently the 2nd leading blueline scorer in the conference, putting up 20 points.  Jeremy Dehner and Maury Edwards have also have provided offensive punch to go along with their solid defensive play.

What sets Lowell apart from the rest of the conference is their depth and it shows when you look at their scoring stats.  Ten different River Hawks have double digits in points on the season.  Compare this to UMass who only boast six players with 10 or more points.  Offensively Kory Falite is capping off his Lowell career by leading his team in scoring this season with 11 goals and 9 assists.

This weekend will be a big test for the Minutemen who played one of their best all-around games on Sunday against Northeastern.  The Minutemen had an opportunity to take some important points from these River Hawks last month but ended up falling 5-3 in Lowell despite leading the game 2-0.  They can’t let leads like that slip by the wayside.  While Lowell has played inconsistently at times, due to lack of confidence or for some other reason, I doubt they’ll be unprepared to play this weekend.  Recent Lowell teams have certainly upped their games when they’ve played the flagship campus’ squad and it’s made the difference on the scoreboard.   For the Minutemen they’ll need to build on Sunday’s win.  They’ve been reminded what can happen when they come in mentally prepared and everyone on the team is ready to play.  They’ll need to perform just as well if they want to compete with this Lowell team.  Two nights of good efforts could quickly get them back on track for the balance of the Hockey East season.

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The Republican’s preview focuses on the improved penalty kill performance on Sunday.

In the Gazette, Matt Vautour says Chase Langeraap did not practice yesterday and is unlikely to play.

INCH includes this weekend’s series in their Friday Four-cast.

Andrew Merritt of New England Hockey Journal says the Minutemen are a riddle.

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Merrimack has real scoreboards!

James Marcou continues to lead Inside Hockey’s Hobey Watch while the author, Scott McLaughlin, also thinks Casey Wellman’s omission from the Hobey voting list is ridiculous.

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