Lowell Preview

Lowell River Hawks 2-11-2 (2-9-0) 10th Hockey East


Massachusetts Minutemen 2-6-3 (1-3-3) T-8th Hockey East

Two very similar teams will face off tomorrow afternoon as a young Lowell team comes into the Mullins to kick off the 2010-11 edition of the rivalry between these two schools.  Lowell will be looking to gain points from a team just above them in the Hockey East standings while UMass looks to continue its recent success and take advantage of the games in hand it has over Lowell thus far.

Like UMass, Lowell is young and it has shown in their results.  Lowell has won just two games so far this year, one in overtime to Providence and the other over 1-win Vermont.  They also can lay claim to a couple of ties over Atlantic Hockey’s Niagara and RIT.  The River Hawks are currently mired in a six game losing streak.

Lowell has looked bad on both sides of the ice.  Statistically they have the 5th worst offense in the country which isn’t good, but when you combine it with the 6th worst goals given up it’s just plain disastrous.  Lowell has already given up 8 goals in a game twice this season, one each to Maine and Minnesota State.  The Hawks are giving up a half goal more than the Minutemen at this point in the season.  If there is a lone bright spot to their season it’s the fact that they have not taken a lot of penalties.  In fact they’ve taken the lowest amount in the country after only Air Force.  Even when they have gone a man down their penalty kill has been a respectable 85.2%.  Their power play has been middle of the pack at 16.9%.

The first period tomorrow should be interesting to watch as both teams have gotten off to slow starts to start the game.  In fact Lowell has been outscored 6 to 20 in the opening period so far this season.  In terms of scoring the Hawks are led by Riley Wetmore who is following up a strong freshman season with 6 goals and 6 assists so far as a sophomore.  They’ve also gotten good production in the form of five goals from Joe Pendenza, who I was impressed with last year when I saw him play in juniors as a teammate to Colin Shea.  The Lowell coaching staff is likely happy with what the 2 goals and 6 assists they’ve gotten out of freshman defenseman Chad Ruhwedel.

Defenseman Maury Edwards, who if you remember was an All-American as a sophomore, is following up a disappointing junior season with a horrible senior season.  Through 15 games he has just 3 points and has a +/- of -13.  Probably not the leadership the team expected out of him.  Gone is the two headed goaltending monster of Carter Hutton and Nevin Hamilton and in is the freshman tandem of Doug Carr and Marc Boulanger.  Carr was recruited by UMass but chose Lowell for the promise of playing time and he’s certainly seen his share of action between the pipes.  Looking at his 2-9-0 record may disguise the fact that he has had some very solid games and has been able to survive the season so far with a goals against of 3.33 and save % of .902.  Boulanger hasn’t been as lucky and comes into tomorrow’s game with a 4.25 GAA and save percentage of .868.

For UMass the challenge will be to keep doing what they’ve been doing despite the week layoff.  Those things that have carried them through the this three game streak has been penalty killing and goaltending.  On the penalty kill side of things UMass has killed 13 of their opponents last 15 attempts during the three games in question.  At the same time Paul Dainton has stopped 112 of the last 118 shots.  That’s a save percentage of .949.  While their shot total has actually decreased recently the shots they are getting are better looks and they’ve done an adequate job of keeping the puck in the zone for quality possessions.  Helping them gain the puck has been increased pressure on the forecheck which has been pretty successful.

Offensively UMass has gotten contribution from two key groups; freshmen and defensemen.  And of course freshman defensemen.  Some of this has been by design, which Coach Cahoon alluded to in this week’s radio show, to try to generate more offense from the point and get guys in front of the net for whatever results.  But I think some of the increase for the freshmen has just been confidence.  The team has appeared looser before and during the games and minor mistakes are no longer being accompanied by lowered heads.  This team has now had enough practices and games where they’re getting comfortable with each other and believing in their teammates.  But at the same time they’re starting to believe in themselves as well.  There is less hesitancy to shoot and pinch in for an offensive chance.

Hopefully that self-confidence will not turn into overconfidence.  This team still only has two wins to their name, the same as the team coming into Amherst tomorrow.  And I think if we’ve learned anything about Blaise MacDonald led Lowell teams over the years is that they tend to get up to play the flagship.  Whatever the motivation is, Lowell comes to play almost everytime against the Minutemen.  Despite their number of wins, their number of freshman, or the odd start time, I expect them to do the same tomorrow.

Beer The Triangle
Since I plan on doing the cross-state thing tomorrow heading first out to Amherst for hockey and then back out to Boston for basketball, I probably won’t relax with a beer until following the hoops game against Boston College.  That will likely be at the Boston Beer Works Canal Street location.  Beer Works, all locations, are a little strange because it’s possible to have amazing or awful beer all in one sitting.  It’s like craft beer lottery.  Luckily the food is always goods.  If I remember last December they had a White Christmas wee heavy which I’m hoping to enjoy one of tomorrow.


Congratulations to Mike Pereira who was one of the runners-up to the national Rookie of the Month for November.


The USHL site shows Justin Braun with the puck from his first NHL goal.


There’s word tonight that a bus full of UMass Ski and Board Club members flipped over on I-91 in Vermont with dozens of injuries reported.  Hopes and thoughts are certainly with them.